Fort Washington: How It Works

By on July 8, 2015

Our Battle for Fort Washington series is a great opportunity for both beginners and veterans to learn about bicycle racing or just have a good time riding in circles with friends. These are a few notes on how it works. Remember that all of the details are on the main race webpage and the event flyer.

Rain

Road cycling races are generally held rain or shine, up to the point where conditions would be unsafe due to limited visibility, slick roads, or other concerns. However, as this is “just” a training series, we will cancel if it is actively raining at race time. In addition, if it rains heavily earlier in the day, the bottom section of the course may have too much standing water and we’ll also have to cancel. However, if the roads are just wet or any precipitation is only a sprinkle, it’s game on. If there is any question about conditions we’ll post updates to our Facebook page and Twitter feed (no account needed to see these).

Equipment

You must have a US DOT or CPSC certified helmet to participate. That’s essentially any cycling helmet sold in the United States. We will also not permit any older-style time trial helmets with an extended rear cone, they’re a hazard in a crash with other people and have limited ability to look around.

Road and cyclocross bikes are permitted in the actual race fields, though you’ll want to put skinny, slick tires on a CX bike to keep up. The full definition of what’s permitted is in the USA Cycling rulebook, but the key criteria are:

  • Must have a freehub/freewheel (i.e., you can coast along);
  • Must have handbrakes for both the front and rear wheels;
  • Time trial handlebars and clip-on aero extensions are not permitted;
  • Disc brakes are permitted.

You simply cannot do this kind of riding safely in a group on a time trial or fixed gear bicycle.

Joe Wentzell from Breakaway Bikes coaches one of the three clinic drill lines.

Joe Wentzell from Breakaway Bikes coaches one of the three clinic drill lines.

License

All of our participants must have a USA Cycling license, either an annual license good for the calendar year ($70), or a 1-day license good for just one day of events ($10). Either may be purchased on-site, but we strongly encourage you to purchase annual licenses directly via USAC’s website. Note that immediately upon purchasing one you may download an app or a PDF to prove your license, so you may do this even at the last minute. You may also purchase a 1-day license online via the Ft Washington entry on USAC’s Pennsylvania Event Calendar, but may not do so on the same day as the event so they’re just as easy to buy on-site. A credit card number can be put on an annual license application, but you must pay by cash or check for a 1-day.

Registration

Nearly all races have a registration fee, and many use an online pre-registration system in addition to on-site sales. The Battle for Fort Washington does not have any such fee, but if you will be participating or just want to enable grassroots developmental cycling in this region, you can support it via our crowdfunding campaign.

Getting There

The Park is an easy 16 mile ride from Center City. We recommend coordinating via our Facebook page to find others to ride with. Bring lights for the way back as it will be dark out by then.

If you drive to the event, please remember that there is a strict 15MPH speed limit on all of the park’s roads. We ask that you please respect our hosts’ rules as well as the many cyclists that will be on the roads, even on the short stretch between parking and the entrance/exit.

Check-In

All riders must check-in and sign a waiver at their first event of the series and pick up a race number, so budget some extra time to do so.

Scoring worksheets from The Battle for Ft Washington, week 1.

Scoring worksheets from The Battle for Ft Washington, week 1.

Race

For each of our three fields we’ll call the group up shortly beforehand, record a list of race numbers, give a few brief instructions, and launch the race!

Each field will open with a neutral start: Everybody rides together, at tempo but not flat-out or racing full speed and trying to break away, to acclimate to the course and each other. In the B and Women’s fields this will be a couple laps, lead by our amazing coaches, to ensure newcomers get a friendly start. In the A field this will only be a lap or two and self-policed.

After those neutral laps, the officials will give the sign to start racing. From that point riders may push the pace, attack the field and attempt to break away, and otherwise race as normal. Note that this is a rolling start, the field does not come to a stop after the neutral laps end.

However, unlike a normal race, any riders that get dropped (left behind by the main group of other riders) will get another chance. At the top of the rise on the start/finish stretch, we’ll be pulling dropped riders and giving them a chance to jump back into the field when it comes around again. Listen to the instructions and advice of our coaches and volunteers on how to do this safely and with the best chance to latch back on. Many riders will find after doing this that they’re actually prepared to race with the group and just need to learn how to survive the fast opening laps of a race. Others will continue to gain fitness and skills as they attempt to rejoin the group. Our coaches will be riding with the race throughout and helping dropped riders jump back in, giving guidance and tips to help new riders learn the skills necessary to stay with the group.

Victory!

The Battle for Fort Washington is held as a points race. Throughout each race there will be sprints every couple laps, announced by the officials at the start/finish line. The top four finishers of each sprint score points, and it is the accumulation of those points which determines the race results, not the final sprint alone. However, the final sprint is worth double points and can be critical to claiming the win.

That finale will come after a number of laps determined by the officials. Each race is scheduled for a fixed duration, not a set number of laps. After the neutral start, the officials will time a few laps, calculate the number of laps to fill out the duration, and start showing lap cards counting down. Once it hits “1”, there’ll be one more sprint the next time around and then the race is all done. All racers should continue riding forward on course until they are absolutely sure it is safe to pull off the road—you never want to stop or turn suddenly when there are still people sprinting behind you!

As it is just a (free) training race, our Fort Washington series is about the racing experience and education rather than prizes. However, we do have water bottles and other goodies for our winners.

Summer Make Good!

Again, the night’s schedule, location, and other details are all on the main race webpage and the event flyer. We can also use everyone’s help to keep this and other great cycling events going via our crowdfunding campaign. Finally, stay tuned to our Facebook page and Twitter feed for weather and other updates. Right now the sun’s shining bright, so hopefully we’ll see you out there!

The B Race after one neutral lap, Fort Washington 2014/08/06.

The B Race after one neutral lap, Fort Washington 2014/08/06.