Are you in?
The message goes out in September: Track at Lee Valley in December. Are you in?
A flurry or replies from the team and soon enough the date is locked in. Two groups will be bombing around the velodrome to welcome in the new year and impeding decade.
It’s a cracking way to have a go at track cycling. Whether you’re an experienced champion, or an absolute novice, you’re more than welcome to join in the fun. There are regularly a few family and friends joining to make it a blast of a social event too.
Kicking off on a Friday evening gives everyone a chance to let their hair down. We enter the arena we are taken aback by the sheer size of the stadium. The circuit covers 250 metres and is made of plush Siberean pine, and with the roof covering 4 levels, the place is enormous. Like most cycling events, whether it’s a road, CX, MTB or trails event, the velodrome is also open to the public. And just like most cycling events, once you’ve enjoyed the spectacle of seeing the pros at it, it’s only natural that you would want a go too.
The only difference is, we have the whole place to ourselves.
The organisers recommend getting to the venue early. After all, there’s the need to register, change, and getting acquainted with kit and skills required to keep rubber side down. It remains fun if we’re all paying careful attention to the housekeeping instructions.
We are asked to sign in and to put on our road shoes. If we don’t have a pair handy, we can borrow a pair and a helmet too. We are then helped with finding the all important track bike. The difference is noticeable : this is a different setup altogether – single speed, but no brakes. Your brakes are your legs.
Practice as they say, makes perfect. And there was plenty of this. Up and down the boards; group riding; individual efforts and slowing down are all packed in the training session.
The cardio workout is so high that it makes you wonder will you have anything left in the tank for the Hot Lap. What Hot Lap?
The mission, if we choose to accept it, is to individually ride a full lap at the fastest time possible. The winner takes all. Well, the kudos, a grin and happy tale to share, for sure.
Each Baroudeur lines up ready to go. Getting organised saves time and helps riders ready themselves for the task at hand. For the audience time moves quickly, but for the Baroudeur battling with the clock time stands still.
Experienced track riders advise friends to bank high. The force of gravity will help catapult the rider as they hurtle pass the start line. The bell rings piercing the 6,000 seater stadium.
Fellow spectators cheer as a Baroudeur swoops pass us. Followed by ‘oooh’ and ‘aaah’ as the rider hurtles out of earshot. Depending on how well the rider is doing denotes the intonation of each ‘oooh’ and ‘aaah.’
Alas, there are no track records set this evening. Povilas’ record from the year before lives on.
With all the drama of the Hot Lap out of the way, the organisers welcome us back to the pine boards. We get to ride as a group once again. It’s a moment to congratulate each other, practice what we’ve learnt, and perhaps consider would we take track in addition to all the other cycling we already do.
Hmmm, let’s sleep on it.
All too soon the time is up. We applaud our instructors and line up for the customary team photo. Moments like these are few and far between, so why not. Besides, it doesn’t take much coaxing for the smiles to appear. It’s been a fun session, but now we’re thirsty and very hungry.
Thank you, Glen ‘Chronos’, Bs and friends for making it a great way to celebrate the year. Time for one more lap?
Awards Night 2016 – was so good, we can’t remember what happened.