Jumping at the chance for my son Dan and me to ride at the Calshot velodrome, we headed down to Southampton to join up with Sutton Cycling Club. Dan was with a group for experienced tack riders whilst I joined the beginners as it was my first time.
Riding a fixed wheel track bike with no brakes was a new experience that I quickly picked up. The most difficult part was riding in close proximity to others, which is usually avoided when mountain biking. The steep sides of the track are at a 45º slope going up about 20 feet high. It appears quite scary when looking down the slope from the spectator gallery, but when riding round the top it’s really exhilarating. I treated it as a massive berm.
Completing a ‘flying lap’ Dan managed 11.41s where I just pipped him with 11.34s. It won’t be long before he’s overtaking me on the sprints.
The adults had a 30 lap race. I’d never ridden in a close proximity race before, let alone on a track. The 7 of us set off on a rolling start where the first 10 laps were a bit messy as we rotated round taking in turns for the lead. The pace was moderate where I knew I could go faster. As soon as I reached the front of the group I applied the pressure stepping up the pace quite significantly. It wasn’t long before I could see the tail end of the group where I then lapped about 3 of them. Conscious that someone was coming up onto my tail, I tried to up the pace a bit more but my legs were beginning to feel the pressure. Had I broken away too early? He caught up with me with about 10 laps to go taking advantage of my slipstream. As I pulled up the bank he reluctantly took the lead so I could rest behind him for a lap or two. With the final lap in sight I applied extra power to ride up the bank and accelerate past him. Tucking myself in front, I hugged the black line round the final bend where he was now trying to overtake me on the outside. A final burst of power saw me take the finish line just ahead, giving me 1st place.
It was a fantastic race to ride and apparently also to watch. I’d never come first before in a race and was delighted to receive a medal to add to my very small collection.
The adrenaline was certainly buzzing during the race and it was a great day out. There’s a lot more in the way of tactics and ride positioning with track racing, however I also get a buzz out of a fast flowing single track descent. Both disciplines require a very different skill set, which in some ways may compliment each other.