Yesterday I rode at the velodrome for the first time ever and had an absolute blast. It was arranged by Nick our Churchwarden (and you thought Churchwardens were dull?) who also invited his brother-in-law Kieran as well as David, a regular from our 8 o’clock morning service (and I thought the book of common prayer crew were dull!) and Ken, a guy with a bit of form who lives on Church Lane in the shadow of St. Mary’s. I had a bit of a chat with David and though he was now in his 60s he still liked to ride, and in his day did 5 and 10 mile time trials and was once a champion cyclecross rider. Ken was in his early 50s, a half Ironman vet who likes the bike bit best and does Pyrenees stages of the Tour de France on his holiday.
We went to the Velodrome at Sportcity on the East side of Manchester for a taster session. Nick and Ken went on to the track straight away, immediately after 4 teenagers from the Olympic Development programme had finished their session. Newbies Kieran, David and myself had 10 minutes of instruction and safety stuff to go through. As was explained, fixed wheel riding is the most natural there is and it only took a couple of laps and the first experience of braking via the crank to feel and believe what we had been told.
I couldn’t wait to go back out there and join Nick and Ken who had already joined together to share the effort of some quicker laps. The bank doesn’t seem as steep as it actually is when you are riding it. The trick is to attack the bends and push through them and then to ease off the effort along the straights. I enjoyed the rush of coming off the bend and in that excitement tended to carry on accelerating and then on the next bend pushed harder still until I was going at a franetic pace for someone who had only been riding out there for 5 minutes. I stayed high to avoid the more cautious new riders but being unfamiliar with the concept of braking via the crank, whenever I encountered traffic I tended to push harder to pass it rather than easing off until a larger gap appeared. I thought I was going to attract the attention of our tutor but he didn’t say anything. After a while I started observing the track etiquette that everyone else was following and tried to stay just above the upper blue line rather than going high on the banks and weaving through towards the red line on the straights.
After stopping for some much needed water I set off again and picked up the tail of Nick and Ken. I stayed with them for 3 or 4 laps but when I was offered the lead I accelerated too hard and lost them almost immediately. I teamed with another guy who seemed to be the quickest out of the 14 of us but after 7 or 8 laps alternating the lead I lost him too. I realised that nobody had yet gone past me in the entire session and I decided I’d like to keep it that way. I moderated my pace slightly to something sustainable and stuck to the blue line. My legs and lungs were starting to labour but I was determined to be the last to be brought in. With 5 minutes to go the track was definately quieter and I pushed a bit harder with the finish line in sight. The hour long taster was definately enough and next time, properly hydrated and fuelled I will push much harder. Not bad for under £10 with an extra £4 for shoe hire, that’s probably cheaper than an hour’s 10 pin bowling and far far far more fun.