Friday, 4 January 2013

A visit to the Velodrome

Waiting my turn
Something that I meant to get around to last year, but never actually did, was get a go in the velodrome. During the first part of the year I always seemed to be too busy, or doing something else, and then once the olympics had come, been and gone, everyone and their aunt was going there for a taster session.

Imagine my surprise when I was given a taster session for Christmas! Brilliant, my chance to pedal the boards and see what its like. It always seems like a good idea to have some kind of back up plan in terms of wet weather training in case it really is too nasty and gnarly to do anything outside as the turbo trainer can get just a little dull.

Thankfully it was not a gorgeous day when we went to the Velodrome. Anything but. It was claggy, foggy and a general miasma of mist had graced the land, so we were only too happy to wander into the building, have a cup of coffee and await my go at cycling around in circles.
It was a pleasurable surprise to meet a friend there who is currently working with British Cycling - and would have a grandstand view of me pelting around the track.

Ready to go
Amongst the various advice I had been given by others who have more experience in velodromes, the better pieces were these...
"don't stop pedalling"
"don't fall off, it hurts just as much as falling off on the road"
"don't go and look down the banking before you start"
"go straight, turn left. Go straight. Turn left."

I changed into my biking clothes, got my hired shoes, and went to find my bike, a fixed wheel, brakeless machine, which doesn't actually scare me all that much. Having spent an awful lot of my commuting time in London on a single speed, and having ridden a fixie a couple of times before I was fairly sure of what was going on. It was the banking at either end of the oval that concerned me a bit - (which, incidentally, I didn't look down before I got on the track).

We were given a safety briefing, and then watched as we went around the track once or twice, and then pretty much let loose to do what we wanted. I thought that 15 people on the track was going to be quite crowded, but it was anything but. At times it felt like I was the only person going around. To begin with I was a little leery of going up the banking, but by the time I'd been around a few times I gained the confidence to work my way up the sides.
I had a fabulous time, zooming around in circles (or rather, ovals), but the only minor disappointment was the lack of interest the staff seemed to have in what any of us were doing. I would like to have gained the infamous "blue slip" which enables a rider to continue on in the accreditation scheme, but was never actually able to talk to a coach about what it entailed or how I could get one - they were too busy chatting to each other and telling riders off for drinking water in the wrong place.
I'm sure they get fairly weary of doing taster sessions and watching idiots ride around in circles for an hour, but a bit more interest in us would have been nice.

I spent a lot of the time practicing going around on the Blue line, and peeling up the sides and back down to the blue again, and also following other people - trying to keep an even speed all the way around. The last 10 mins I just decided to go round as much as possible as hard as I could so as to get a bit more exercise out of it which was good fun.
Having done a taster session, I will be going back, and hopefully get my blue slip. Though progress through the sessions appears to mean that you can then get involved in other more structured sessions, but none of them seem to be at particularly convenient times, so it may be best for me to just go and take my velodrome time in during other taster sessions, which seems a little odd.

Anyway, I had a great time, and the swish of going around the track will call me back before long.

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