Week 2 at the velodrome
I arrived early, as they asked last week, so I’d have time to put my pedals on my bike and get a few laps in to warm up.
One of the coaches offered to lead me around and I peppered her with questions and concerns.
“I’m worried about running into someone.”
- You have to learn how to quickly slow down and speed up, without stopping.
“Do I have to lean?”
- If you are moving at a decent, steady speed, you don’t have to do much.
“Last week my pedals hit the ground.”
That’s a bit scary, but you were probably moving too slow. Also your pedals are big, so there’s less clearance. But look at my feet, see how much clearance I have when I corner.”
- Get on the drops.
Look ahead. When you’re on the road and going through a corner, you’re not looking at the stop sign you’re looking 20m past it right? I hope so…
Learning a new skill like riding a track bike very fast around a steep concrete velodrome is like learning the rules to a new game. At least for me, I’m quickly trying to find some basic principles, some guardrails, paint a border around all the things I need to know.
For track, you can use this basic framework with starting, rolling and stopping. A simple rule for each.
Starting = Bum on seat before you clip in, and pedals in a good push off position. Rolling = Don’t stop pedaling, and go fast. Stopping = Learn to back pedal or use the track to slow down.
Today we did some more drills, riding side by side, taking turns at the front and following each others wheels, all which feel extremely precarious to me but I’m sure look tame from a spectators angle.
We end each session with a different sort of race, last week being the quintessential time trial. For the time trial, I made a mistake and didn’t come to a stop before my lap so I was DQ’d and I followed my rebellious pattern this week. It was a scratch race, with about 6-7 riders in each group. You do 6 laps, first person over the line at the end wins. The first group was much more tactical (they had some better riders), and there was a lot of changing positions, looking around, and a final sprint where someone from the back came around to win. My group started off a lot slower. I realize writing this, I’m pretty bad at formulating a strategy on the fly. So the first few laps I’m near the back. I don’t feel comfortable riding too high on the bank so I’m wondering how I can move to the front. On the next lap, I decide to ride around to the front, but after getting up some speed I start sprinting. So I sprint my guts out for 3 laps, just hoping I can keep up enough speed.
I glance back a few times and don’t see anybody close, I know there’s two very strong riders who will eventually get me, and of course, 1/4 length before the line, one swoops down almost apologetically and wins.
Afterwards a few people congratulate me for an impressive breakaway performance, and ‘attacking at a perfect time’. I suppose a -non-thinking- move can be seen as strategic (in business, life)… actual strategy only emerges after you have to make those moves (and win) again and again.