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Points Race
by Dave Teall

Wasted Away in Margaritaville
Or Everything You Wanted to Know About a Points Race but Didn’t Ask the Drunk Sitting next to You.

Who's Sprinting for First?

Steve McGregor, Will McLaughlin, and Brad Watkins broke away early and then promptly lapped the field at the July 23 ['99?] points race. This caused some confusion back in the peloton concerning whether we were sprinting only for fourth-place points. Barely hanging on in the back, I heard a few novice riders question whether we were and a few of the veterans answer that we were not. The vets were, of course, correct.While fourth place was all the winner of the field sprint could hope to gather while the trio was out front, as soon as they lapped us we were all in the same battle for first through fourth-place points.

Then a few days later a light bulb turned on. Many Wheelmen have never held the handy rulebook which the Federation generously includes in the price of membership. Even our USCF-ers may not have perused its pages. Nor have more than a few encountered a points race anywhere other than Westwinds Business Center, formerly known as Oak Openings Industrial Park. In light of my epiphany I thought the following might serve useful.

A Points Race Primer

There's a simple hierarchy for scoring a points race, and it's worth committing to memory:



1st. LAPS... The rider who gains more laps on the field than any other rider, regardless of his or her point total, wins the race. Even though it's called a points race, a single lap up trumps a zillion points. It is therefore at least theoretically possible to win a points race without scoring a single point. Laps can be gained and/or lost. If a rider with points falls back and gets lapped by the field, his points are used only to separate him from other riders who were also lapped by the field.

2nd. POINTS... Riders who finish on the same lap are sorted out using whatever point system the race director chooses to employ (usually something like 5, 3, 2, 1). If all riders in the race are on the same lap, point totals determine the winner. If in the same case a rider who finished with the most points got dropped off the back near the end of the race, if that points leader managed to finish without getting lapped, even though the field was breathing down his neck, he is the winner of the race.

3rd. FINAL-LAP PLACEMENT.. Finally, for the riders who score zero points, it is the order of finish on the final lap that sorts out the remaining zero-point places. If a rider is tied with another rider for points, and they are both on the same lap, that tie is broken on the final finish as well.

Even though this is easier than determining which teams do not make the NHL playoffs, it's not that easy to keep track of everything when racers scatter all around the course. And if you think it's hard for the racers, try on the official's shoes. If there's a breakaway followed by two chase groups, the rest of the field, and then scattered riders off the back, the official must designate the lead group, determine who is in the field, when the field is lapped, and sort out everything else between, including the gained and lost laps of each rider.

This difficult task might be made easier if everybody knew, understood, and used the following terms: main group, lead group, gained lap(s), and lost lap(s). And since it's not likely that it could ever remain quiet enough on the starting line for interested parties to hear the race director instruct us all on the nomenclature, it's probably best known beforehand.

MAIN GROUP... The main group is the nucleus around which the rest of the race revolves. Lost laps and gained laps have to be lost and gained from somewhere. That somewhere is the main group. A descriptive definition, it's usually clear which riders comprise the main group. In the rare case in which this is not clear, the official must step in and designate which group is the main group. It’s nice if this can be communicated to the racers. Easily done with a public address system on a track like Major Taylor; not exactly so for volunteer officials at Westwinds.

LEAD GROUP... Any rider or riders who advance ahead of the main group are leading the race for points sprints. He, she, or they become the lead group. They remain so called until the lead group is caught by the main group or the lead group catches (laps) the main group. Riders in the lead group gain points on sprint laps until such time as they return to the main group, one way or the other.

GAINED LAP... A gained lap is a lap gained on the main group. When it becomes imminent that the lead group will lap the main group, the official may declare a gained lap at any time. The lead group does not have to make physical contact with the main group. At that time the lead group and main group become one in the same. All riders are eligible for points, unless, of course, there is another chase group that was in front of the main group but behind the lead group. In this case the chase group becomes the new lead group as soon as the former lead group is declared "in the main group."

LOST LAP... A lost lap is a lap lost on the main group. When it becomes imminent that the main group will lap a rider who has lost contact with the main group, the official will declare a lost lap. That rider may continue to ride with the field and is eligible for points even though he is a lap or more down. (Remember the scoring hierarchy.)

N.B., Gained laps can be lost; lost laps can be gained back.

Schema Grande

Often on the track I have seen breakaways hang off the back just before lapping the field, soaking up as many sprint points as possible. The break lay 100 meters or less off the back, but clearly only pacing the field, not attempting to catch when it could easily do so. In such cases the official steps in and announces over the p.a. that the breakaway has officially lapped the field, and so-and-so and so-and-so have each gained one lap. Their scheme exposed, the breakaway conspirators curse the officials and chase back on.

I heard of an even grander scheme later that evening of July 23, after the points race, at Loma Linda. Remember, this was the race where McGregor, McLaughlin, and Watkins broke away early, creating the confusion which caused the author to ramble on up to this point.

Just before the Three Amigos lapped the field, I thought about dropping off the back. I could've gotten between the field and the breakaway, and if I’d timed this to coincide with a points sprint, I'd capture first-place points. Then I'd hop on the break and ride it back up to the field.

Now the author of this scheme thought it was foolproof. I told him that it just wasn't so and that in talking to me he was in fact talking to the Rule Book (a statement I would not have made having drunk two less margaritas). But he was not at all impressed by my slurred statement of superiority. Nor did the few weak nods of support I managed to elicit from the rest of the table convince him of any flaw in his design.

Mea Culpa

You now see that this entire article has been an attempt to amend my inebriated arrogance from "I am the rule book" to "I kinda understand how this thing works. Let me explain it to you." If I've done my job well, you have already found the flaw in Schema Grande.

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