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Part 1: So You Want to Run a Track Event?

Other articles & resources in this series can be found here.

For anyone considering to organise their first track event it’s often difficult to know where to start. Which format, how to make it fun, making it safe, calculating results, and more – there’s a heck of a lot to consider. Although this is true, the basics of putting on an event are fairly straight forward and with a bit of organisation, running an event can be a real buzz as you watch it unfold on race day.

This is the first of several articles which will help explain the key technical aspects of organising and directing a successful club, state, or national level track event. The articles will be more technical in nature as they are intended to be used by people who are serious about race directing. I have yet to see any technical guide – other than the Commissaire work books and UCI technical regulations – which come close to covering the key aspects of building a track cycling event.

Many of the ideas here have been gained through my own experience as a racer, an event organiser of the Melbourne Omnium events, and from my time at Cycling Victoria as the Event Manager. However, these articles are not just reflections on my own experiences. They have also had input from numerous other race directors, Commissaires and riders who have helped with valuable input and suggestions.

Although not exhaustive, the articles cover many of the basic technical aspects of event organisation in terms of the rules and process whilst providing a few practical ideas on how approach building your own event. They are also not just specific to track events in Australia. The information contained within this series is broad enough so that they should be relevant to race directors anywhere. The principles will be the same.

There is no substitute for experience (I am finding I have a lot to learn) but with a bit of background, an organiser will be able to run a track event no matter what the level or the location of the event – from a club event at your local velodrome to an international level event at a UCI sanctioned velodrome. Get it right, and everyone will have more fun and you’ll walk away happier knowing that everyone enjoyed the event.

Level of Event

Club events are run by a club (or members of a club) for riders who are generally at the club level. Sometimes the event is just for the riders of the organising club and other times a select number of other clubs may be invited to participate. Although events at this level need the same attention to safety and risk management, they are far less stringent in terms of the organisation and operation of the event. As long as they are safe, fair and fun these events are fairly simple to organise.

Combine events are really just club level events with the only difference being that they are organised by more than one club. They tend to have more riders in attendance however like club level events they are focused on club level riders.

Open state level events add a new layer of complexity for the event organiser. Events at this level are often well attended and because they are open to all riders they are usually far more competitive. These events may include races that may form part of the selection criteria for state squads so the stakes are usually higher. As a result each event must meet minimum organisational and operational requirements. Events at this level will need to be sanctioned by a sanctioning body such as a state or national association.

Championship state level events are the pinnacle of state level competition. Not only are they used to determine state champions, they are used to select state teams and training squads. Racing must be strictly run according to the rules, and the level of Commissaires required is often high – especially for the timed events. From an organisational perspective, implementing the correct procedures and systems to handle the rules is important. Often, the complexity of these events sees the local state association left to run these types of events. For event directors these events are not easy to run.

National level events have similar requirements to the championship state level events. They are complex to coordinate, timing and results must be exact, and the tolerance for error is extremely low. Due to the importance of these events they are only be handled by the most experienced race directors. Usually these events are run by the national or state associations.

UCI ranked events are the most difficult and not covered in this article. They require unwavering adherence to the rules and a wide range of highly qualified event staff. As a result, these events often are expensive to run but they tend to attract top racers from home and sometimes abroad.

From an organisational perspective nearly all race directors start with the most basic club level event and work upwards. As confidence and experience builds open state level events provide significant scope to deliver amazing events. Practically any rider can participate in these events and the program can be structured however the race director pleases. This is usually the goal for most race directors.

A Word about Sanctioning and Insurance

Before I go further it goes without saying, wherever you are, that sanctioning is important. The sanctioning body (usually your state or national cycling body) will be the entity who approves your insurance so it is important to fulfil this requirement. The sanctioning body will be able to detail what information they require but rest assured, for track cycling events this sanctioning process is usually straightforward.

As for rider insurance, all riders must be insured before they can participate. This is either through their race license, through a temporary license provided by the sanctioning body or through a specialised third party insurance provided by the race organiser.

Consider the issues in the case of a fatal accident involving uninsured riders participating in your event. To name just a few (of many) issues that may arise, having uninsured riders may render your event insurance invalid, it may open you up to litigation, the family of the uninsured riders may face financial ruin. The list goes on and the consequences can be diabolical for all parties involved.

The bottom line is, do it by the book and get sanctioned whilst ensuring that all riders maintain the appropriate race insurance (usually provided with their race license). You ignore this advice at your own risk.

Dave Morgan - Race Commissaire

The Race Director

The Event Director has the most important role in the organisational team for an event as hey are responsible for organising all aspects of the event whilst working in with multiple stakeholders.

It is important to make it clear from the outset that as an organiser, you need to remember that the various participants involved in the event should be given the opportunity to be confident in the safe operation of the event. Above all, safety must be a priority throughout the planning of the track event. In addition to your duty of care to the riders, if they don’t feel safe, they probably won’t have fun.

You also might like to consider inclusiveness and how you will approach the participation of women, juniors, masters and novices. For many this will sound like politically correct mumbo jumbo. In reality encouraging participation can make an event and it should be considered. Events become more scaleable with more participants, there are more people involved thus creating a better atmosphere, it creates goodwill in the community, and most importantly it encourages more people to participate in cycling. These are all big positives for a race director.

Before we get into it, it would be worth breaking down the event into several broad themes that you will need to consider. This mental model is the easiest way to get started with understanding the organisational requirements of your event.

  1. The race director, sactioning & the level of the event: Know your role and what level of event you want to run.
  2. Event planning & management: Format, types of riders, revenues, costs, promotion, venue, date
  3. Event Staff & Equipment: Commissaires, volunteers, start gates, motorbikes, numbers, etc.
  4. Event Timekeeping: Working out who actually won the event.
  5. Risk Management & Safety: CRITICAL, CRITICAL, CRITICAL

This all seems pretty straightforward so this series of articles will break down each theme into these basic elements. In this first article we will discuss Event Planning & Management as it forms the foundation from which an event is built from. In later articles we will cover each theme in more detail so that by the end of the series you will have a basic foundation from which to build an event.

So there you have it – part one of the series. We’ve discussed a number of the basic ideas that go into an event. In the next article of the series, Event Planning & Management is discussed.

If you have any questions please ask them use the comments section below.

Other articles & resources in this series can be found here.

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