My First Track Race
One of my previous posts about the hurdles facing female cyclists was sparked by my own personal experiences down here in my neck of the woods. I’ve heard some feedback from women with thriving scenes in their area (London), which is fantastic, but it it’s not replicated everywhere so when I decided I wanted to try racing track I realised I’d have to race men or not race at all, as there isn’t a single women’s race for me to enter anywhere near where I live.
My nearest velodrome is still a four hour round trip and in another country (Wales), so making the decision to try something I’d probably suck at wasn’t an easy one – I’m short of time and money and honestly wasn’t sure it would be worth travelling all that way to have my arse kicked and be wildly intimidated. But yesterday I just so happened to be in Wales so I threw caution to the wind and signed up to do my first race. Newport Velodrome’s Summer Track League is ideal for new racers – it’s split into two groups and the B group is for newcomers, juniors and people looking to improve their racing.
I felt a bit nervous when I signed on, but the people running the show were super nice and friendly, as were the other riders so that helped enormously. We were given a full briefing before each race to make sure we understood what we were going to do, then it was straight on to the racing. I had no idea how I’d fare in a race made up of nine men and six teenage boys and no women, but there was only one way to find out.
The first race was a 14 lap scratch race, which means the first person over the line wins. I did terribly. It was awfully, awfully hard and all I managed to do was hold on for a few laps before I blew up and got dropped, so I barely got to even race properly – I just lost everyone and spent the rest of the ‘race’ riding around on my own. Coming off the track, my throat felt red hot and I tried not to panic when I felt my chest constricting and limiting my breathing. As baptisms go, it was more than fiery and I felt really disheartened and bewildered.
BUT, I’d signed up for all six races so I went back for more! The next few races were an 8 lap Hare and Hounds, an elimination race with one out every other lap, a 5 lap dash, a Course de Primes with 9 laps, and finally a 32 lap points race, and whilst I badly wanted to enjoy it, I have to confess I’m not really sure I did; psychologically, it was very tough sucking so badly and having to keep putting yourself out there knowing you’re going to spectacularly fail. It all just made me wonder why I was there when there are other things I’m actually fairly good at. Was it all really worth it? Then there was the physical pain…
So all in all, it was crap! My gearing was too spinny, my tactics were non existent and my fitness was way off the mark. On the plus side, the other riders, coaches and commissaries were really, really nice and that helped a great deal. And in the final race, I actually got the chance to work with other riders and muscle my way into the action every now and again, because the longer format gave me more opportunity to do so – I could sit high on the banking for a break and then nip back in when I felt like it.
So will I go back? Yes. I’m going to change my gearing to something heavier and give it another bash next week. If there’s fun lurking somewhere in the pain, I’m hoping to tease it out week by week. It can only get easier, right?