A 2 hour Indoor Velodrome session in mid June on one of the hottest days of the year, a day before the Etape Eryri, what sort of Idiot would book something like that. Well I guess the sort of Idiot sitting here writing this.
Needless to say compared with my previous velodrome outing of 35+ riders, hands in the air to join this session were a bit thin on the ground. The club velodrome sessions at the world class facility in Manchester are typically oversubscribed 5 fold, so when the available sessions are Emailed out to organisers, you can almost hear the frantic hammering of keyboards across the North of the UK to secure the best slots. With a lower than normal Melyd show of hands, enter the sessions saviour, Sally Cunliffe who rallied round brilliantly and recruited some extras from outside the club making the session a definite go !
So at 2:30pm 13 riders met up at the reception area of the rather smart new look Velodrome reception area.
Some first timers had already peeped through into the track area and had the expected “the banking doesn’t look that steep on the telly” sort of expression going on. Soon enough though paperwork was completed, cycling kit donned and then the normal “getting to know you” time as the first timers familiarise themselves with the track bikes and the nervous realisation of…yes there really are no brakes…no, you really cannot stop pedalling (if you want to stay on the bike)..and of course the other less obvious pitfalls of fixed wheel bikes, like when pushing a track-bike the pedals will inevitably come round and crack you on the shins (something I really should have learnt myself by now!).
At 3 o’clock the Melyd session was a go and riders with previous track experience were allowed to start lapping the track freely, inevitably an impromptu through and off group formed with Darren, Dave Tudor, David Wynne, Anthony and myself. All these lads have many more road miles in their legs than me, and it soon started to feel apparent that the short sharp anaerobic efforts needed for my mountain biking didn’t really transfer that well to the measured efforts needed to hang on to a chain gang when Darren and Dave Tudor were putting the big turns in on the front…Ouch. What started out as 5, soon became 4, then 3 with just Darren, Dave and an increasingly crimson coloured me left, finally the pressure valve finally blew in my legs leaving Darren and Dave to duke it out for bragging rights…Welcome back to the world of track riding Dan.
Whilst this “light warmup” session was underway the track débutantes were getting their briefing from the designated track coach. The track coaches for these club velodrome sessions seem to come with two very different styles, the “I’d like to put the fear of God into all the beginners and spend the first 25 mins talking” type, and then the opposing “just get up there on the track and get on with it” type. Luckily our coach this time was the latter, and by 3:15pm everyone was up high on the same boards and banks of this track where the greats of the sport like Wiggins, Hoy, Pendleton, Cavendish have all spent so much time pedalling round.
With varying levels of confidence the entire group now spent some time riding at their own pace round the track, with only Donna’s occasional shrieks of delight or fear (hard to say which :) reminiscent of a badly angled brake pad to break the whirring of chains and creaking of wooden boards.
The main bulk of these sessions is taken up with structured through and off and pursuit catch exercises, which are demanding of fitness and also give a great experience of close quarter riding which everyone always seems to get a real buzz from.
With the structured part of the session done the usual format is to finish off with a competetive element to the session, sometimes a 20 lap scratch type race, but more often a one lap (250 metre) time trial with flying start, lucky for me the shorter sprint challenge was chosen by the coach. At last I thought, a chance for me to level the playing field against the super strong endurance engines of Darren and Dave, history in the club suggests that the mountain bikers do pretty well in shorter formats.
Our names were noted down by the coach and entered onto a start sheet. Unlucky for Darren he found himself lining up first off having never done a flying 250 before! Knowing he would be one of quickest, I don’t mind admitting I felt better watching him approach the start line on his flying start already down low on the track instead of the proven technique of attacking the start line having come down the banking on the final corner gaining extra speed into the first turn, ha ha a schoolboy error, I smugly thought to myself :) Despite this Darren posted a great time.
Step up the other big challenger Dave, and a moment to break the competitive tension with the days comedy moment, the call to the start-line by our fairly elderly track coach for Dave Tudor went a bit like this
COACH: Ok next to go is Steve.
DAVE: My names Dave.
COACH: No it cant be, it says here Steve.
DAVE: No really its Dave, is it possible that you could have misheard me and written it down wrong, as opposed to me forgetting my own name?
And then an awkward pause, where you could almost believe the coach was thinking “Okay Steve, we’ll agree to disagree”
Trigger and Rodney all over again :)
To his credit Dave/Steve put this behind him and using the off the top of the banking start, he set the time to beat.
Finally my turn to go, and with some moutain bike fitness on my side, yet secretely hoping that my 42 year old legs dont receive the pain signals from my brain until the lap was over, I started my run from the highest point possible on the track, and set the quickest time of the group for the win.
Whilst all regrouping and recovering from this effort, I heard the words that I was dreading… “can we all have another go”, surely theres no time to go for another run, I rather optimistically hoped, coach looks at his watch, “yep we have time, lets go again”.
Then the reality hit, Daves probably 25 years younger than me. 42 year old legs dont recover like they used to without industrial sized dosages of Sanatogen, a radox bath and an early night after John Cravens Countryfile. This combined with the fact that Darren had watched us all go after his first run using the off the bank technique and he certainly wasn’t going to get sucker punched like that a second time. I started to believe my reign as track sprint champ going to last 5 mins, not 5 months?
Needless to say Darren improved by over a second but just fell a fraction short of my first lap time (possibly conscious of not putting everything in and destroying his legs for the Etape Eryri he was planning on riding the following day)..one down, one to go..despite my shock at having to go again, I managed to improve slightly, but with Dave/Steve looking mighty swift on his second lap, I knew it was going to be decided by fractions. And so it was to be, Dave beating my time by a small margin, on his last run, Top work fella.
Despite everyone classing the second run as a bonus run and not counting toward the result, I knew the younger man had beaten my time fair and square, and looked fresh enough to go again 5 times over, where all I could consider was some cod liver oil, and a nice nap.
A short cool down session followed, and the 2hr sessions was over in what felt much shorter time than it was.
Everyone yet again mightily enjoyed the session. For those more experienced in track riding there is so much opportunity to get some valuable track time, to keep those fixed wheel skills going, plus get an amazing intensity workout, and for first timers a friendly, no pressure introduction to velodrome cycling that ensures everyone heads back on the M56 from Manchester still grinning and planning the next session.
The session for me was a great opportunity to catch up with the road guys again after 2 years of almost exclusive mountain bike, also to meet some guys and girls I haven’t had the chance to before, and an opportunity for me as an ordinary club cyclist to ride the same world class venue as my cycling heroes, albeit without the stands full of roaring crowds :)
I will attempt to secure another booking for the winter, as I know this Summer date clashed with peoples other riding and work commitments, which may explain the lower than normal take-up, but I am sure if I can bag that elusive 2hr weekend, or early evening slot for Dec/Jan, we’ll be packing the Velodrome with Melyd colours again.
Final two mentions, first to Sally, who without her efforts rallying around to fill the final places that without may have put the session in doubt, (thanks Sally you made the job of organising the session a lot easier) and secondly to Donna, whom I hadnt met before, yet who’s screams whilst riding the 45 degree banked corners early in the session took me back to the days of working at funfairs etc in my youth……
Scream if you wanna go faster :)
— words, and track session organised by Dan Liddle.