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Before entering a road race proper, it is a good idea to test your ability in a closed circuit race. This a guaranteed traffic free environment with the whole ‘road’ being at the riders’ disposal. Races are generally last from 45 to 90 minutes which is softer start than a road race which is often minimum two hours of hard non-stop racing. One hour usually makes for a better taster session ;-)

One thing that characterises closed circuit racing is that events can often accept up to 100 riders or more and therefore it is not always necessary to enter in advance. You can decide on the day having checked the weather forecast that you would like to go racing and pay your entry fee on the line as you hand over your racing license to the signing-on official. Fees ranges from £10 to £20.

Chelmsford is relatively near to several closed circuits used for cycle racing, the distances varying from 17 to 53 miles. The closest is North Weald Airfield where TLI (The League International) arranges a summer league each year. Racing takes place on the airfield’s runway and its transportation roads each Tuesday, usually beginning in May and finishing in August. The circuit is about 3.6km long and is a fun way to learn how to race because if you get blown out the back, you will be allowed a lap out so you can join the main group again as it comes round for the next lap. The league arranges races all over the UK as well as abroad. You do not need a British Cycling race license but you will have to join TLI which is not affiliated to the British Cycling Federation. Membership costs and event entry fees are low compared to most BC events.

Another closed circuit venue is the Ford Dunton Test Track near Laindon. The Ford Cycling Club arranges a very popular Go-Race summer series there. Go-Races are for 4th category riders only which is the category that beginners have to start road racing in. Go-Races only require a BC bronze race license which comes free with a BC membership. Riders do not gain BC points toward promotion to higher race categories but don't let that spoil your fun.

A firm favourite with everyone is Redbridge Cycling Centre (aka Hog Hill) by Hainault Forest Country Park. It is a 2km long closed circuit providing safe criterium style racing, usually twice a week during the summer season. The circuit is flat except for the one big hill leading up to the finish so if you like climbing this may be the circuit for you.

Then there is Lee Valley Velopark in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park by Stratford. Another trouble free closed circuit perfectly surfaced, floodlit, and skirting the Olympic Velodrome. The course is 1 mile long, almost pan flat and very fast. Apart from one tight hairpin bend it is possible to pedal all the way round at close 30mph. Both the closed circuit and the velodrome can be tried and tested for a small charge. An induction course is required in order to use the already hallowed wooden boards of the Velodrome.

If you do not mind travelling a bit further then the Cyclopark in Gravesend might be your thing. It is a well designed closed circuit with climbs, sharp corners and hairpins. It is technical and fast which makes for exciting, fun and hard racing for the determined criterium racer. Since Chelmer Cycling Club is not affiliated to SERRL (South East Road Racing League), you have will to do so yourself. You can do that via the website of RiderHQ where you can also enter on-line for the races at the Cyclopark.

You can also travel the opposite direction up to Trinity Park in Ipswich. The distance may sound daunting at the end of working day but the route being on dual carriageway all the way makes for a minimum travel time of only 50 minutes, the same as for the Cyclopark.

The Hillingdon Cycle Circuit near Heathrow sounds even further away but the M25 can cut the travel time to 75min or less – or a lot more if traffic is of the dense rush hour kind. It is an old, well established circuit and a firm favourite for many a road racer.

A little closer is Crystal Palace Park in London but count on minimum travel time to be 65 minutes as you have to make your way through South London. This is very popular venue that has hosted regular cycle racing for a long time. It is about 1km long, quite flat on narrow tarmaced park lanes and is host to 11 corners and bends. This makes it a surprisingly tough little race course.

As you venture further afield from Chelmsford, you will find other closed circuits.