Track Racing Take 2 and a million other things!
The last week has been really fun and packed full of all kinds of riding, racing and travelling.
To kick things off, last Tuesday I returned to Newport Velodrome for my second attempt at racing their track league. I wrote a blog post about my previous visit which was the first time I’d ever raced track, and it was an extremely negative post, but you know, that’s how I felt after a really tough and disheartening evening. I think honesty is always the best policy on blogs such as mine, and hopefully helps other women realise that the people they read about go through the same things as they do. It can be easy to get the wrong impression from social media.
The point of going to these track races is certainly not to win anything as at my level at this moment in time, racing against men including my husband and Cat2 racers, I have no chance at all so my aim is simply to learn, have fun and increase my fitness. It was not fun the week before but I was determined not to form an opinion based on one experience, so I went back with an open mind, just hoping to hold on a little longer and improve..
I changed my gearing to 90 gear inches, noticeably heavier than the previous week’s 86 gear inches and made sure that when we rolled onto the track I didn’t just go out in last place – last week I’d been feeling so timid that I’d always start at the back which made things way more difficult than they needed to be. I also made sure not to just stick to the black line on the inside of the track as I found out the hard way that it doesn’t make it easier because it gives you the shortest lap to ride, it actually means you get totally boxed in and can’t move around when you need to.
As soon as we started racing I realised this week was going to be much more fun! The gearing and tactics made all the difference, and rather than being dropped immediately I was actually able to race all of the races to the end apart from the elimination race, and I even stayed in that longer than the previous week.
It was still very tough as racing track is such an intense experience. It’s pretty bonkers really – you have to make split second decisions whilst whizzing around a steep track at very high speed in ultra close proximity to other riders, and all that whilst hardly being able to breathe or pedal. The lack of oxygen makes thinking much more difficult than it normally is, so it’s hard to focus on tactics, particularly when you have none to begin with!
The next day we were back in Devon where I’d organised a chain gang at Torbay Velopark for members of Mid Devon CC. It was a really great chance to meet new riders and see some friendly faces whilst practicing group riding, and myself and Dave made good use of our British Cycling coaching qualifications sharing a few tips and helping some of the riders with their cornering. Our mid-pace chain gang is running every Wednesday at 7.30 at the Velopark, so please feel free to come and join us and see if it’s for you – you don’t need to join the club until you’ve been a few times. The Velopark Facebook page has all the details.
On Saturday we headed up to Bristol to visit our friends and go to the Tunnel Sprints organised by Das Rad Klub. After checking out some of the bands at Dean Lane Hardcore all-dayer, we got some great veggie food at Roll For The Soul then headed down the cycle path towards Bath to meet everyone. It was such a fun evening, racing head to head down a 250km stretch with the winner progressing to the next round. In the end, I was knocked out by the eventual winner, a track racer on the Team GB development squad, so I didn’t feel too bad about that. Dave fared less well as he put down so much power when he started that he pulled his wheel forward in the dropout and was immediately eliminated, poor sod! Too many watts!!!
On Sunday we drove to London where I’d organised a ride for Fred Perry to celebrate the release of their lovely cycling patches. Read more about that here.
Last night I skipped track league as there was a women’s race at Westpoint in Exeter, and as there are relatively few women’s races I didn’t want to miss it. It was a beautifully sunny evening and the turnout was much better than the last race I did and so was the riding, with us all taking turns to go for sprints and some interesting tactics. I felt proud to be able to hold my own amongst the more experienced Cat2 and Cat3 racers as I wasn’t feeling too sure about how I’d do before I got there. In the end, I didn’t really have enough in the legs in the sprint for the line but I felt pretty chuffed at how I did nonetheless as I’ve never really considered myself that athletic, coming from a background of lifestyle sports such as BMX, skateboarding and snowboarding where fitness came secondary to drinking, rather than racing, in which I’ve only dabbled in this year.
Photo: Ryan Maynard Eames
Which brings me to this week and a whole load more fun. This Saturday I’ll be up in London at Wagfest, a day of talks, demos, chats and cake organised by London Bike Kitchen and taking place at the Oakley Residence pop-up store on Exmouth Market. Mid afternoon, I’m chairing a panel discussing women’s racing which should make for some interesting debate, so please come down and join us – entry is by donation.