A scene from the 2010 Good Friday Road Race, an HCC tradition.

Founded in 1881, the Hamilton Cycling Club is an amateur club in Hamilton, Ontario with more than 130 members. We are active in road racing, mountain biking, time trials, hill climbs, track cycling, cyclocross… and having fun. We run weekly club events and also work hard to host top-quality regional events such as the Good Friday Road Race (an Ontario Cup series event). HCC is the place to come if you want to learn to ride, to ride faster and to enjoy the wonderful sport of cycling.

What types of races do you run?
HCC events have traditionally included road races, such as the Good Friday Road Race, criteriums (short-circuit races – need to find a new circuit in a quiet new industrial mall!), time trials (solo races against the clock), as well as hill climbs done with a road bike. But we also organize track cycling training sessions and some track events, previously at the Forest City Velodrome in London, Ontario but hopefully at the new Velodrome in Milton THIS fall!  And we are rapidly working on our advocacy and support for mountain biking events,  HCC’s “mountain” group have built some great trails at Christie – see http://hamiltoncycling.com/oldsite/trails/ thanks to an infusion of new blood on the HCC executive.

A road race is usually on a loop, and rarely point to point. Distances range from 40km – 160km depending upon your racing category, and the race entered. So for a 48km road race on 6km loop or circuit there would be 8 laps. Most road races are designed to occur with a hill or two, which helps create a “selection” or break in the pack. Average speed at our races usually run 35 -40kph. Bike-handling skills in a pack are essential. Group rides are key to gaining this confidence. HCC’s club road races are Australian Pursuit which breaks the starting line into different categories leaving at staggered times slowest riders to fastest with first across the line winning.

A criterium is a road race run on a 2km or shorter loop or circuit. Quite often they are run in a downtown city block. As a result there are lots of laps and four or more corners to deal with on each lap! The corners stretch the bunch like an elastic band and woe betide he or she who gets dropped or gets to the tail of the bunch. Criteriums are usually fast (40kph with sprints to 60kph) and call for excellent bike handling skills. Distances are usually under 80km.

A time trial is a race “against yourself.” Each rider is on their own. The objective is to see in how little time you can complete the course. We run 15km, 20km and 40km time trials.  Riders set off at one minute intervals. Riders cannot ride near another rider except to pass. Courses are usually relatively flat and designed on an out & back basis. Our very best riders exceed 40kph average – however quite a few come out just for the exercise and probably do around 30kph or less. Do note that our Safari TT course is actually a hilly TT course!

Track cycling events are run on a banked track measured in metres not kilometres! At the very least participants need a bike with a fixed gear i.e. sans brakes. Preferably they will use a track bike. Track racing is ALL about positioning – the advantage usually but not always going to the rider that comes off the lead wheel. Riders use the banking to swoop pass etc.

Cyclocross events are essentially short-loop races on grass or mud, a mix of mountain and road cycling. Courses are set up to test bike handling and strength-endurance. A typical course is short, about 1-3km, on grass with obstacles that force a dismount such as narrow passages, boxes to jump, hills, etc. Traditionally cyclocross has its own lightweight version of a road bike with a raised bottom bracket, cantilever brakes etc. However many participants now enter using lightweight mountain bikes.

What do I need to do to race?
Test yourself, but be warned: cycling is a tough sport and it takes time to compete at the highest levels. To start, join HCC, riding with our group rides and in club races. The fields are smaller than sanctioned events and hence less intimidating. Stick with it, ask questions, train! Find a discipline that suits your ability, and equipment. Once you feel comfortable, apply for an Ontario Cycling Association license. This lets you enter sanctioned races (such as our Good Friday Road Race) in Ontario and beyond. You will ride in your own category (i.e. seniors, juniors, masters.) Details are on the website of the OCA.