Both Adam and I turn 40 this year and, thanks to our lovely wives, our birthday gifts contained an opportunity to get off the road to do a track taster session on the Olympic track at Lea Valley Velodrome
It is an incredibly impressive structure, £93m of brilliantly engineered track befitting of the GB Olympic triumphs that occurred there in 2012 as well as Sir Wiggo’s Hour Record. Laura Kenny said at the time that the design of the track was so good that you could feel the difference in pursuit circumstances.
The inside was incredibly daunting to be honest, with banking that ranged from the flat safety strip to 42 degrees at the top of the curves the scale up close is so much different to what you see on the TV!
The other more apparent issue to me, at the start, was that I had never ridden a fixie bike with no brakes. I think that was the part of the whole experience that made me the most apprehensive. A few gentle laps of the safety strip and I was starting to get the hang of it, although controlling a steady pace that is comfortable for you can be difficult if the person in front has a comfortable pace that is different to yours! Boo you man in yellow!
As we progressed up the track, onto the Cote (the light blue strip on the edge of the track), then the black line, then the red, the pace increased and we were able to start to overtake with clear instruction to the person in front to hold their line by shouting “Stay!”.
The physics of the velodrome combined with the fixed nature of the bike really punishes you! You have to keep pedalling regardless and the higher you go up the track, the more watts you have to lay down. I had incredible respect for the track riders before this experience but having the chance to experience what they do has elevated them even further in my estimations. It is a tough, relentless sport that requires stamina, power, fitness, concentration and mental fortitude – the speed that the pros go at intensifies all of those requirements.
It was a brilliant experience and I will definitely head back there for another go…. maybe I’ll incorporate the BMX track next time too!