It’s no secret that one of my goals this year is to start track racing. I bought my #pocketrocket at the beginning of the year and joined Reading Velodrome on a Thursday evening for structured training and accreditation from British Cycling coaches.
Four weeks later, after cycling in circles in some very questionable weather (think snow, ice and -2 wind chills), I was officially ready to race at Reading Track league and officially had my first BC race license in my hand riding under Rollapaluza CC (who else would I become a member of but the kings of spin!!)
This is the moment I’d been waiting for. But I can’t say I wasn’t a little nervous. I’d been able to witness the ‘pros’ (well, that’s what I call them given they’ve been riding and racing for a while) at the structured sessions and had the opportunity to practice with them on a couple of occasions when the coaches clearly wanted to see what I was made of. I was also aware about the lack of women that participate in league, which means the races are limited to a final rather than heats; or if against the men, rather tough.
I’d already identified that my main limitation was of tactical knowledge in each of the different races and if anything this is what was going to hold me back, even down to knowing what was actually required in a Devil v a Keirin! And so, I dragged my Dad along for support, not that he objected given his love for the sport.
The key to racing, as Heather has very rightly written in her previous posts about racing, is preparation. This is where I failed on a number of counts.
Firstly, I managed to pack what I thought was everything I needed. I even did a run down before I left the house – shoes, check! Socks, check! Bibs, check!… But somehow, even though it hangs above the front door, I forgot my helmet. Just as well Dad was with me, on hand to lend me his.
Lesson number 1 – write a pre-race check list and place it somewhere I can check and double check it before leaving.
Second failure of the evening was the warm up. New to the sport, I haven’t yet invested in a set of rollers, let alone tried a pair, nervous that my housemate is likely to come home to find me wedged between a wall and a kitchen cabinet. Aware that I needed to be warm, I did what laps I could on the inner circuit of the track trying to raise my heart rate to a decent race equivalent, but it clearly wasn’t enough. End of the first race and all I can taste is metal and I’m wheezing like a Grampus. Not a great sign! And so, I seek out a set of rollers before the next race and low and behold manage to sit comfortable and spin.
Lesson number 2 – warm up properly!
My #pocketrocket & borrowed helmet
I may have already learnt two key lessons, but if anything my evening was a success. The first race was a mixed Omnium. With a nasty headwind on the far straight, the bunch stayed together for the majority of the ride, and I managed to hang on in the middle for most of the race. I got caught on the front of a split half way through the 20 laps, but it soon came back together and I managed to keep my legs spinning, avoid a few close wheel touches to find the extra energy to push through the finish line… and I wasn’t last! Result! The second and final race for me that evening was the ladies Keirin. 3 of the 5 riders have been competing since they were juniors. I stood no chance. My first experience of sprinting off the line for the derny. I had no other objectives but to watch and learn. I now know what I need to do next time round.
Someone had given me wise advice that league is the best place to learn tactics and get to proper grips with racing, and they weren’t wrong. I can’t wait to get back to league next week and build on these lessons. This time with my helmet packed on a set of rollers to hand.