On Wednesday 27th of May 11 young people and 5 adults from Cycling Club Hackney travelled by train to Newport Velodrome, this was almost all of the riders first time on an indoor track.
It was an early start for the group meeting at 8 o'clock outside the Hackney Town Hall, we then travelled across London to Paddington Station by Public transport, jumped on our train and were off to Wales. The train journey took around 2 hours and some of the riders that compete regularly started to realise that the velodrome was not actually that far away.
As the train pulled into the station we looked out the window and it was raining really heavily, although obviously this wouldn't be a problem with the indoor track. We all hopped in cabs and headed off to the track. One thing myself and some of the other riders noticed was that the facilities in Newport where ace, they had everything in one small part of the City. As the taxi drew to a stop everyone really started to buzz.
Walking into the Velodrome we saw pictures of many of the Welsh Cycling and International Track Cyclists riding on the track we where about to ride. After a short wait, we all rushed into the changing rooms, eager to get underway. After changing we headed to another room to pick up our hired Pinarello Track Bikes for the session.
Soon we found ourselves in the track centre and staring at the banking, it seemed very steep, especially after the only track we had ridden was the outdoor and much longer Herne Hill. We where soon joined by riders from East London Velo and VC Londres.
Next we met our coach for the day, Courtney Rowe. We signed on immediately and where then split into ability groups. The most experienced and fastest riders where first onto the track and i was sitting fourth in that group, Keir was at the front and he slowly cranked the pace up as we moved further and higher up the track. We started on the flat section on the edge on the track centre and then going a little faster moved onto the light blue boarded section known as the Côte D'Azur this takes about around 10% of the track. The first thing i noticed was the creaking of the wooden boards and then as we rounded the first corner i saw how white my knuckles had gone from holding the handlebars so tight.
We upped the pace again after a shout from Courtney and moved 20cm onto the black, the inside of this line if where the track is officially measured from. I was really starting to feel the corners now, the feeling was like no other. Again Courtney signalled and again we moved up the track, this time up 90cm to the Red sprinters line. The higher we got the better it felt, and the more you felt gravity sticking you too the wooden boards. Around half the tracks width (roughly 250cm) up was the blue 'stayers' line, looking up from the sprinters line, the stayers line looked very high up especially on the corners. However moving up onto the line felt surprisingly easy, Courtney knew the exact speed we would need to be travelling at to not slide down the track and we where well on speed. We stayed up on the track for a lap or two and then slowly moved down line by line, lap by lap.
After our first ride on the track Courtney put us through various training drills including practicing overtaking and through and off, generally we just learnt to ride the indoor track, I think it was also a really good team building experience. We rode and rested for around 3 hours and ended up with a Roadies Pursuit race, this was fun and gave us a bit more of an insight into racing on the steeper and shorter indoor track.
We left the Velodrome around 5 o'clock and headed straight to the local supermarket to restock on some much needed energy. After that it was back to the Newport station, onto a train and back to London. We arrived home around 10 o'clock and where tired after a very long and tiring day.
This opportunity wouldn't not have come around had it not been for the Stuart Feakins Trust who funded the trip and for Keir Apperley who organised everything perfectly. From everyone who rode thankyou very much it was a wonderful experience and we all thoroughly enjoyed it thoroughly.
Tao Geoghegan Hart
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