Course / Venue guides and reviews - what to expect, where

AlainRAlainR Posts: 88
edited 8 June in Amateur race
As a rookie racer this year, it's my first time attending a lot of races in the UK and as part of my mental and physical prep I like to have an idea as to what to expect from the various race venues. It also helps me to work out which venues are likely to suit me and which are worth travelling for.

As such, as I race different venues / courses / tracks, I'll be writing a summary of my findings in the hope that others can benefit too. Ive only raced a couple of venues so far but with varying pack sizes, weather conditions and categories of racing they've proved to be slightly different week on week.

Please feel free to add your reviews of other venues that you've experienced too. It doesn't need to be closed circuit. Velodrome, road course, TT etc would all be good!

Ludgershall, Wiltshire

Ludgershall is based on a REME test track. It's a circa 1 mile long closed circuit loop with pretty much two straights and two corners, save for a slight s-bend entering the final corner. It's surrounded mostly by fairly dense trees, which can be great for sheltering from the wind, however more often than not the wind howls into the final corner and then pushes you nicely down the main straight.

The course is pretty narrow at times and racing lines can squeeze the group up at times, which can prove interesting give that there is no run off as the boundaries are set by an immediate abundance of trees. The track surface is pretty uneven and is made up of various sections of Tarmac and concrete slabs with narrow ruts in between. These ruts and bumps can be rather interesting in the corners as you find your bike twitching about. In the wet, it can be very twitchy indeed.

The course is very slightly undulating, but only by a few meters, so is more of a false flat so tends to follow the typical pattern of power, corner, power, corner...

More than 30-35 people in the pack make for a fairly tight race with little room to maneuver. I've had a few enjoyable races here though.

Ludgershall.jpg

Mountbatten, Portsmouth

This is pretty much an outdoor, Tarmac velodrome at the sports centre that is very much oval in shape. It's a short circuit with slight banking in the main corners and not too much surrounding it to protect it from the elements.

I've only raced here once but found it to be a good rolling course that sat at a much more constant speed due to the lack of need to slow for corners. This means that you need to be able to maintain a good constant speed but still have the legs to jump, with little to no recovery.

Mountbatten.jpg

Thruxton

A nice wide, sweeping race track (it's a motorsport venue) with a good surface. The first half sweeps gently down hill, through a few corners before climbing up towards the final chicane and into the start / finish straight. The corners can be interesting as despite the width of the track, everyone seems to want to clip the apex and swing back out. This is especially noticeable in the chicane.

Each lap is about 2.3 miles long with ~20m of elevation gain but it's very open and often windy. A very nice track to race on, so long as you don't get squeezed to hard on the corners.

Thruxton.jpg

Llandow (15 miles west of Cardiff)

A small motor racing circuit about 0.9m in length. The course is an oval with one 'proper' chicane that can be bypassed and another chicane that generally gets ridden straight if the bunch is strung out. The course gets run either way - clockwise gives a fairly long straight with a slight uphill finish whilst anti-clockwise the finish is quite close to the final bend and usually the first one into the bend wins (I think they usually bypass the chicane on the final lap when running that way but could be wrong!). The course is exposed and there is almost always a nasty wind.

Llandow.jpg

Maindy

A 460m concrete velodrome that has some 'road races' run on it.

Maindy.jpg

Tameside Cycle Track

Short (half a mile) twisty circuit including a hairpin. Narrow. Almost completely flat and quite quick on a good surface. Grass run off.

Milton Keynes Bowl

http://maps.google.co.uk/maps?hl=en&ll= ... 4&t=h&z=16 (not sure how to embed the map image.

Generally a good tarmac surface, used as a service road for a concert venue. There's a few configurations used. The kidney shaped circuit (0.6m) tends to be flat out the whole way with nothing to slow up for. It's raced in both directions, one direction has a short sharper (but not too sharp) incline, the other direction has a longer gentle drag. The finish line is always at the top of the climbs.

The other configurations happen when they "open the gates", which usually fills me with dread. One way you go out of gates at the bottom of the longer hill, 4 x 90 degree turns, on usually dodgy surface (leaves, twigs, bumpy, gritty/gravelly) on footpaths and across car park.

The other configuration the course goes out a gate at the top of the hill. I prefer this to the other, it's a good tarmac surface (usually used for motorbike tuition). This section is usually pretty quick as it involves a gentle downhill, then has a couple of tight twists before going back through another set of gates and back on to the main circuit.

Ilton, Somerset


http://g.co/maps/z9sb9

A semi-active Fleet Air Arm airfield (RNAS Merryfield), races run in both directions around the access road. Overall length is nat's over 3 miles. Surface is in good condition, wide and predominantly flat, so average speeds are typically high. Due to the width and the lack of any serious corners, it doesn't really have the usually corner-sprint-regroup action that you get on twistier circuits. In quite an exposed location, so it's pretty common to have a head/cross wind blowing, making things difficult over sections of the course.

Link to Strava segment for the course: http://app.strava.com/segments/770190

Darley Moor


Motorbike racing circuit in a semi extinct rural location. Pleasantly surrounded by a light aircraft and microlight runway and sheep farm to the centre of the circuit. Good Tarmac surface wide enough for an 80 bunch engines to sit pulling Lenny Henry faces at each other when being scared of doing a turn on the front. Occasional Chicanes are spiced up with tub and rim busting rumble strips and the width of the circuit allows adeaqute room for the landing of the Derbyshire Air ambulance after the invetiable bunch sprint crash. Has its own microclimate so winter and summer clothing is essential.

Hogg Hill

http://g.co/maps/u9s8n

Just in case no one has been there! Purpose built bike circuit, various configurations can be used. Bends are sweeping and can mostly be taken at speed, good tarmacced surface and wide. There is a hill that's short but sharp which can break things up a bit.

Hillingdon

http://g.co/maps/hq63f

Another one that's popular. Purpose built bike circuit. Again fast bends, good tarmacced surface and wide. A very gentle rise that's hardly noticeable. The circuit is raced in both directions.

East Bedford open road circuit.

http://ridewithgps.com/routes/994437

This circuit is used for a few races each year. HQ is usually in the village of Cople with the start neutralised until through Cardington, or starting from the village of Old Warden with the start neutralised until just outside the village. A lap is 11.3 miles. Surface is like any typical country lanes, need to be wary by the side of the road for potholes, but it's not too bad. Grit/gravel can accumulate on some of the bends. Have to be careful of cars parked on the road in the village of Old Warden. Two hills, one is fairly gentle and over in a minute or two. The other is a bit steeper and longer, the finish line is at the top.
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Posts

  • Tarmac velodrome at the sports centre that is very much oval in shape

    You'll find most velodromes are oval shaped, works best like that!
  • AlainRAlainR Posts: 88
    Thanks for the info. Helpful.

    Mountbatten doesn't have the typical 4 corners (180 degree turn) and 2 straights as the back straight is constantly curved. Cheers for the feedback though.
  • GiantMikeGiantMike Posts: 3,139
    Tameside Cycle Track

    Short (half a mile) twisty circuit including a hairpin. Narrow. Almost completely flat and quite quick on a good surface. Grass run off.
    my power improvement experiment blog

    Rule number 100: It's your bike and your money and your time; do what you like with it and ignore other peoples' rules. Except this one.
  • hammeritehammerite Posts: 3,408
    Good idea for a thread. I'll add to it. Could it be useful if people added either a Google map satellite link, or for on road an actual course map?
  • ProssPross Posts: 21,049
    Llandow (15 miles west of Cardiff

    A small motor racing circuit about 0.9m in length. The course is an oval with one 'proper' chicane that can be bypassed and another chicane that generally gets ridden straight if the bunch is strung out. The course gets run either way - clockwise gives a fairly long straight with a slight uphill finish whilst anti-clockwise the finish is quite close to the final bend and usually the first one into the bend wins (I think they usually bypass the chicane on the final lap when running that way but could be wrong!). The course is exposed and there is almost always a nasty wind.

    Maindy

    A 460m concrete velodrome that has some 'road races' run on it.
  • AlainRAlainR Posts: 88
    Pross wrote:
    Llandow (15 miles west of Cardiff

    A small motor racing circuit about 0.9m in length. The course is an oval with one 'proper' chicane that can be bypassed and another chicane that generally gets ridden straight if the bunch is strung out. The course gets run either way - clockwise gives a fairly long straight with a slight uphill finish whilst anti-clockwise the finish is quite close to the final bend and usually the first one into the bend wins (I think they usually bypass the chicane on the final lap when running that way but could be wrong!). The course is exposed and there is almost always a nasty wind.

    Maindy

    A 460m concrete velodrome that has some 'road races' run on it.

    Cheers - I've added them to the initial post with map images :)
  • hammeritehammerite Posts: 3,408
    edited March 2012
    Milton Keynes Bowl

    http://maps.google.co.uk/maps?hl=en&ll=52.018619,-0.758078&spn=0.00923,0.022724&t=h&z=16 (not sure how to embed the map image.

    Generally a good tarmaced surface, used as a service road for a concert venue. There's a few configurations used. The kidney shaped circuit (0.6m) tends to be flat out the whole way with nothing to slow up for. It's raced in both directions, one direction has a short sharper (but not too sharp) incline, the other direction has a longer gentle drag. The finish line is always at the top of the climbs.

    The other configurations happen when they "open the gates", which usually fills me with dread. One way you go out of gates at the bottom of the longer hill, 4 x 90 degree turns, on usually dodgy surface (leaves, twigs, bumpy, gritty/gravelly) on footpaths and across car park.

    The other configuration the course goes out a gate at the top of the hill. I prefer this to the other, it's a good tarmacced surface (usually used for motorbike tuition). This section is usually pretty quick as it involves a gentle downhill, then has a couple of tight twists before going back through another set of gates and back on to the main circuit.
  • DavidJBDavidJB Posts: 2,019
    Mods this should be stickied!
  • CakeLovinBeastCakeLovinBeast Posts: 312
    edited March 2012
    Ilton, Somerset

    http://g.co/maps/z9sb9

    A semi-active Fleet Air Arm airfield (RNAS Merryfield), races run in both directions around the access road. Overall length is nat's over 3 miles. Surface is in good condition, wide and predominantly flat, so average speeds are typically high. Due to the width and the lack of any serious corners, it doesn't really have the usually corner-sprint-regroup action that you get on twistier circuits. In quite an exposed location, so it's pretty common to have a head/cross wind blowing, making things difficult over sections of the course.

    Link to Strava segment for the course: http://app.strava.com/segments/770190
    Twitter: @FunkyMrMagic
  • ProssPross Posts: 21,049
    Ilton, Somerset

    http://g.co/maps/z9sb9

    A semi-active Fleet Air Arm airfield (RNAS Merryfield), races run in both directions around the access road. Surface is in good condition, wide and predominantly flat, so average speeds are typically high. Due to the width and the lack of any serious corners, it doesn't really have the usually corner-sprint-regroup action that you get on twistier circuits. In quite an exposed location, so it's pretty common to have a head/cross wind blowing, making things difficult over sections of the course.

    Link to Strava segment for the course: http://app.strava.com/segments/770190

    Is that the same place as Yeovilton?
  • I honestly don't know, I've only *just* started racing. I had a quick look on the map, and whilst it's in the same general area, I think there's probably enough distance between the two for it to be a different venue.
    Twitter: @FunkyMrMagic
  • Darley Moor

    Motorbike racing circuit in a semi extinct rural location. Pleasantly surrounded by a light aircraft and microlight runway and sheep farm to the centre of the circuit. Good Tarmac surface wide enough for an 80 bunch engines to sit pulling Lenny Henry faces at each other when being scared of doing a turn on the front. Occasional Chicanes are spiced up with tub and rim busting rumble strips and the width of the circuit allows adeaqute room for the landing of the Derbyshire Air ambulance after the invetiable bunch sprint crash. Has its own microclimate so winter and summer clothing is essential.
  • HerbsmanHerbsman Posts: 2,029
    Sweet thread. Will add info for Stourport later.
    CAPTAIN BUCKFAST'S CYCLING TIPS - GUARANTEED TO WORK! 1 OUT OF 10 RACING CYCLISTS AGREE!
  • hammeritehammerite Posts: 3,408
    Hogg Hill - http://g.co/maps/u9s8n Just in case no one has been there! Purpose built bike circuit, various configurations can be used. Bends are sweeping and can mostly be taken at speed, good tarmacced surface and wide. There is a hill that's short but sharp which can break things up a bit.

    Hillingdon - http://g.co/maps/hq63f Another one that's popular. Purpose built bike circuit. Again fast bends, good tarmacced surface and wide. A very gentle rise that's hardly noticeable. The circuit is raced in both directions.
  • ProssPross Posts: 21,049
    I honestly don't know, I've only *just* started racing. I had a quick look on the map, and whilst it's in the same general area, I think there's probably enough distance between the two for it to be a different venue.

    I'll be doing a few at Merryfield this season I think. Just been looking at the calendar and they have quite a few 4th cat only races I fancy trying.
  • hammeritehammerite Posts: 3,408
    East Bedford open road circuit. http://ridewithgps.com/routes/994437 this circuit is used for a few races each year. HQ is usually in the village of Cople with the start neutralised until through Cardington, or starting from the village of Old Warden with the start neutralised until just outside the village. A lap is 11.3 miles. Surface is like any typical country lanes, need to be wary by the side of the road for potholes, but it's not too bad. Grit/gravel can accumulate on some of the bends. Have to be careful of cars parked on the road in the village of Old Warden. Two hills, one is fairly gentle and over in a minute or two. The other is a bit steeper and longer, the finish line is at the top.
  • AlainRAlainR Posts: 88
    Cheers for the entries guys - I'll try and update the 1st post as we go so they're all up at the top :)
  • danowatdanowat Posts: 2,877
    Best course description I've read.....

    BS19 TT course > http://www.timetriallingforum.co.uk/ind ... ntry925008
  • hammeritehammerite Posts: 3,408
    Cranfield circuit - open road. Tarmac surface is pretty good, the turn towards Cranfield is a bit rutted in places. 2.2 miles, 3 roads one flat, one downhill the other uphill. The uphill isn't bad at all, quite gentle gradient for about half a mile, but given the circuit is short you go up it a lot of times. It's quite exposed so you feel the wind quite a bit (usually pushing you up the hill), meaning a headwind into the finish line. http://ridewithgps.com/routes/1029465
  • SurfrSurfr Posts: 243
    Pembrey Circuit - 1.45 mile motor racing circuit. Wide throughout and decent surface for the most part. Tends to suffer from a prevailing South Westerly and is exposed due to proximity of coast. Often see breaks getting away here, but not always. On occasion of a bunch gallop, the wide finish straight allows for safe sprinting, if a nightmare for the finish line judges! Generally a safe course which doesn't seem to suffer from multiple crashes like some other tighter circuits. The main hairpin at the end of the start finish straight) if running clockwise) is probably the main area of concern but again the width helps.
    6874078226_202abc3654_o.png
    Typical 3/4th cat http://connect.garmin.com/activity/92469268
    Shrewsbury Sundorne Circuit
    A purpose built cycle track of 0.64 miles in length. This circuit is tight and contains 2 major hairpins. The worst of which is over 180 degrees and is followed by a lazy esses configuration. This is where the vast majority of people exit onto the grass after being pushed wide or by overcooking it themselves. The esses following the hairpin have claimed a few wheels too, as the bunch straightlines through them and the edges of the pack can get squashed out or get jumpy at the prospect. The back straight after the initial left hand hairpin can get a little greasy due to overhanging trees keeping the track a bit green with vegetation/moss on the surface, but I've never seen anyone suffer from it too badly. Careful breaking into the main hairpin as it comes at the end of the 'downhill' straight too. Great for spectators as the start/finish line is next to the car park and you can walk around the inside of the track to cheer on riders. I've only ever seen racing in an anti-clockwise direction here.
    6874078538_669bb9b02b_o.png

    Typical 3/4th Cat race http://connect.garmin.com/activity/93194827
  • Pross wrote:
    I honestly don't know, I've only *just* started racing. I had a quick look on the map, and whilst it's in the same general area, I think there's probably enough distance between the two for it to be a different venue.

    I'll be doing a few at Merryfield this season I think. Just been looking at the calendar and they have quite a few 4th cat only races I fancy trying.
    Definitely worth giving it a go - it's a good circuit, though the fact that it's flat, pothole-free, and not very twisty means that the fittest riders are always going to have the advantage!
    Twitter: @FunkyMrMagic
  • DavidJBDavidJB Posts: 2,019
    bump! Needs to be stickyed!
  • AlainRAlainR Posts: 88
    Anyone got any info on Castle Coombe? :)
  • wjcrombiewjcrombie Posts: 43
    For Anyone racing BC eastern Region races, the below link will be useful.

    http://britishcyclingeasternregion.co.uk/

    If you click on the 2012 Events link you get all the races for 2012 and the courses they will be held on.

    If you click on the Road Race courses link, you get the descrition of the course and a link to on an online map with course profile as well.

    As would be expected, most of the courses are pretty flat....
  • ProssPross Posts: 21,049
    Stourport

    SSC%20Aerial%2004.jpg

    1.4km cycle specific track which can be run either way and has a couple of cut throughs to enable a shorter track. The track is 6m wide with a very good surface and contains two 180 degree hairpins. The course rises up on the approach to the hairpin at the far end from the club house and then drops down into the bend before rising back up out of it again (going either direction) meaning those not near the front will have an uphill sprint every 2 minutes or so to stay in contact. The hairpin near the clubhouse is nearly as tight but flat. There are 3 other bends of note. The far end of the course is reasonably sheltered by banks but the clubhouse end is more exposed. Good clubhouse and changing facilities and the scenery is quite good when the athletics club are training ;)
  • Darley Moor

    Motorbike racing circuit in a semi extinct rural location. Pleasantly surrounded by a light aircraft and microlight runway and sheep farm to the centre of the circuit. Good Tarmac surface wide enough for an 80 bunch engines to sit pulling Lenny Henry faces at each other when being scared of doing a turn on the front. Occasional Chicanes are spiced up with tub and rim busting rumble strips and the width of the circuit allows adeaqute room for the landing of the Derbyshire Air ambulance after the invetiable bunch sprint crash. Has its own microclimate so winter and summer clothing is essential.

    Hahahaha A+

    Darley Moor is censored horrendous.
    "A cyclist has nothing to lose but his chain"

    PTP Runner Up 2015
  • Jez monJez mon Posts: 3,809
    AlainR wrote:
    Anyone got any info on Castle Coombe? :)

    msn_castle_combe_circuit_470x350.jpg

    Fast course, wide but can get tight at the chicanes, much like Thruxton, although with more gradual corners. When I was last there (5 years ago :oops: ) there were lots of marbles off line in the bends. I should suspect that it can get very windy, but I can't recall that much when I've been riding there. Unlike thruxton, the last chicane is a fair bit away from the final straight, so possibly you could say it is more forgiving of poor positioning within the bunch.

    I would add a note about the wind to the thruxton review. I have been there when the wind was so strong, the downhill straight was little ring stuff (4th Cat race though), and you had to lean the bike over on one of the straights into the wind (I was a 55kg whippet though!)

    Other circuits that could do with a review, Chertsey and Goodwood (do races still happen there!?)
    You live and learn. At any rate, you live
  • DavidJBDavidJB Posts: 2,019
    Jez mon wrote:
    AlainR wrote:
    Anyone got any info on Castle Coombe? :)

    msn_castle_combe_circuit_470x350.jpg

    Fast course, wide but can get tight at the chicanes, much like Thruxton, although with more gradual corners. When I was last there (5 years ago :oops: ) there were lots of marbles off line in the bends. I should suspect that it can get very windy, but I can't recall that much when I've been riding there. Unlike thruxton, the last chicane is a fair bit away from the final straight, so possibly you could say it is more forgiving of poor positioning within the bunch.

    I would add a note about the wind to the thruxton review. I have been there when the wind was so strong, the downhill straight was little ring stuff (4th Cat race though), and you had to lean the bike over on one of the straights into the wind (I was a 55kg whippet though!)

    Other circuits that could do with a review, Chertsey and Goodwood (do races still happen there!?)

    CC is VERY windy.
  • pherseyphersey Posts: 30
    edited August 2012
    :idea: Crystal Palace

    The circuit is technically demanding, which means that you need to ride at the front (first 10 - 15 riders) for the whole race, and particularly at the start. Riders are normally dropped because they go too slow around the corners and lose wheels. Normally raced anti-clockwise, but occasionally clockwise. The description is for racing anti-clockwise.

    Following the start there is a tricky left hand hairpin under a willow tree – need to sprint out of the corner to the next right hand hairpin, which has a downhill exit. It’s then downhill to a blind left hand bend with an overhanging trees on the inside. Can be taken without braking if leading, but need confidence.

    The next corner is an off-camber left-hander, which is quite fast, but easy to hit a pedal if you're overly ambitious. Then there is a small rise – not much of a hill, but enough to wear you out. Finally, it is downhill round a sweeping left hand bend to the finish. Each lap is about 1.2 km. In my view, the toughest circuit in London.

    https://maps.google.co.uk/maps?saddr=Un ... sz=19&z=17
  • Jonny7cJonny7c Posts: 35
    Tockwith

    1 mile (ish) circuit on fairly fresh tarmac. Generally sweeping bends with one sharper turn either at the end or start of the finishing straight depending on whether being run clockwise or anti clockwise. Set in open countryside so can be windy. Wide track so plenty of room. One 'chicane' which can be a bit dicey if others cut the corners. Quite enjoyable (but a bit dull) circuit. Operator is currently hacing licence issues so latest race series was unfortunatley cancelled.

    Barkston Heath

    Old air field with a variety of surfaces, concrete, tarmac and the odd metal drainage strip. Awful 90 degree left hander just before finishing sprint. there's no run off so if you get it wrong you either end up in a spiky bush or over a hefty kerb into some nasty looking cobbles. Only done it once and doubt I'll do it again.

    Tameside

    Purpose built circuit. Great surface and a plenty of corners. Sit too near the back and you'll spend all night sprinting out of the bends just to stay with the group. Quite narrow so can be quite difficult to move through the field safely. Hairpin bend is fine if you're near the front as the camber lets you take it at a decent pace. Again if you're near the back it's very slow and a full on sprint to get back in the bunch. There can be 40 odd riders in the races there so you need to stay near the front throughout really to have a chance. Strong breaks can stay away due to the twisty nature of the track.
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