Getting right on track to feel on top of the world
9:57am Saturday 28th July 2012 in Your Town
SEEING the likes of champions Jason Kenny or Victoria Pendleton gliding around the indoor cycling track on their bikes can create the false impression that the sport is effortless.
But track cycling is far from it.
I jumped at the chance to attempt the velodrome track at the National Cycling Centre in Manchester, especially after watching Chris Hoy compete in the Track World Cup there last year.
But the reality of track cycling was not nearly as straightforward as I had thought.
First of all, had I known before I arranged the taster session that track bikes have no brakes, I would have been a bit more hesitant about taking to the saddle.
There are other key differences from road bikes — track cycles have a much lighter and narrower frame, to make them more aerodynamic.
Their tyres are also different from those on standard road bikes as they are made to fit filled-in carbon fibre disc wheels.
Helmets and saddles do not appear to differ greatly, but I found the seat in a much higher position than I would normally choose.
The Olympics competition involves 10 track cycling events — five for men and five for women. The events test speed, endurance and teamwork.
The Sprint contest involves riders completing a series of three-lap races, with riders going head-tohead.
The Kerin event includes up to seven riders racing for victory.
The Team Sprint involves teams of three in the men’s event and teams of two in the women’s.
The Team Pursuit event is held over 16 laps for men and 12 laps for women.
This year’s games will see the Omnium event introduced which will involve individual riders competing against each other across six different elements on the track.
With a holiday booked a few days after my taster session, I was determined to finish the session in one piece.
Having witnessed the horrific stomach-churning injuries incurred by Malaysian track cyclist, Azizulhasni Awang, who had to have a 20cm splinter removed from his calf during a crash on the last bend of the final at the Track World Cup last year, I was extremely keen to not see history repeat itself.
Getting on to a saddle for the first time in nearly 10 years, my nerves were evident to the instructor, who repeatedly told me to relax after seeing my hands clenched on the handlebars like I was riding Blackpool Pleasure Beach’s Big One.
After about 20 minutes of cycling around the bottom of the track I built up the courage and speed to get higher up on the track.
The key to being able to stay on the track is speed, as a fall in speed will result in the bike travelling downwards.
The most terrifying thing about the track is not being able to stop.
Stopping involves slowing down until you come to a natural halt, allow someone to grab the seat of the bike or grab hold of the barrier at a slow speed.
Although I was not brave enough to reach the top within the hour, I felt like I had climbed Mount Everest at the end of the session and achieved something everyone should try at least once.
For more information visit nationalcycling centre.com
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