Track Cycling

TunnnnneBank Trofee.

Sunday 9th December, Rozelle Park, Ayr. 

A super cold start to the morning has me flipping down the back seats in the car and wrestle my two bikes into the boot. The tightening system on the bike rack is a block of Ice and won’t budge, just as well the Citroen C4 is a big bus and gives me the option to get to Ayr with both bikes.

Ayr Burners are hosting the opening round of the Super Quaich series. It looks like Christopher, JP and crew have been out with the park maps and made a few adjustments to an already good racing course. The main change I see is we ride down between the hedgerows, as to previous years of running up in between them. A new section in the woods halfway through the lap looks interesting and a possible bit of running for me and my wan gear!

Head over to sign on and the other J Baxter (Joe) informs me that the timing chips are still cooking and sign on will be delayed slightly. With that, I take the pit bike the long way to the pits and eye up some of the changes the course has to offer. Have a chin wag to Montvelo crew about (MoX) the second round of Super Quaich up in Montrose. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to attend that race but what I heard it’s going to be epic and a good addition to the Scottish Cyclocross Scene.

The chips come out of the oven and its time to go to the car and get sorted for the B race today. Doonbank has been good to me the last few years so hopeful that luck keeps up with me in today’s race. Roll up to the start line and settle in amongst the first few rows.

For the start grid this year we are on a long tarmac road facing towards Rozelle house, the main hazard will be the speed bump at the end of the straight as we turn left onto the new section of the course. 

Bar ends are checked, feet are clipped in and 60 odd riders are ready to tackle the hour of racing. The whistle soon blows and we are off and racing like maniacs! We all manage to get to the grass in one piece after the mad dash down the road. Some nice curves around some huge trees soon bring the speed down, only slightly though, as we’re back up to race pace as we ride up and around to the double hurdles.

I am doing not bad, just surfing about 10th place as I hoppped over the hurdles and get back in the saddle. Before the race I was in a panic, I had changed over my three seasons old 36 shark-toothed chainring. I only had a brand new 40 tooth chainring in the house and have been thinking since the switching that the gearing would be too high (40-18). But thanks to the Burners they have giving me more flat stuff to ride and I can keep pace with the gear monkeys. 

As we zig-zag through the woods and down between the hedges I feel I am in a good position to try and beat last years result of 5th. Get to the bottom of the hill, ride through some mud soup and head for a muddy slog up a short slope. Ride past one side of the double pit area, round the corner to aim slightly back down the hill with a nice wide right-hand bend to take you out if you lost grip! Stomp on the pedals and bring the speed up and aim for the woods. 

As I ride past the pits along to the trio of steps I feel my front tyre isn’t too happy. Dismount and run the steps, as I climb back on to the bike I can feel that I have picked up a puncture on the front! A shite! I have only just gone past the pits so pretty much the worst place on the course that it could happen. I decide to ride on anyway, as to run to the pits would be way to slow. As long as I take It easy I should be good. (Thank god I don’t have carbon rims!

As my race slows right down, the top ten racers scoot away, now I am losing places at every turn of the cranks as we start the second lap. I make my way to the pits, navigate the down hedges riding the ruts on a flat was tricky but I manage to get to the bottom in one piece. Run through the sloppy mud at the bottom and see the yellow flags of the pit just at the top of the hill. Never been happier to see my Mountain Bike waiting for me. Ditch the CX bike and now I have lots and lot of places to make up.

Lap after lap I start to pick riders off, and lap after lap I get more confident on the course. With the assistance of gears, I am starting to enjoy the technical parts on the course rather than resorting to running through them. The best part is gathering speed through the trees after the hurdles, keeping the speed high and batter down through the hedgerows. The first few laps I was hesitant going down between them, but the more I eased off the brakes and just let the bike roll the more I enjoyed it and easier it becomes.

The last two laps I have a shadow, Rider number 201 (Murray Doyle) we would swap positions on our stronger part of the lap, mine being the second half after the steps. Its good having a shadow as it means you need to push oneself to maintain the battle of mid-pack positions. I learnt from last year at Doonbank that I didn’t need to panic when someone is breathing down my neck. Just ride the final lap just like I normally would.

We race past the pits heading for the steps for the last time, Murray takes over me and with him doing so I stick with his wheel. We ride down to dismount the bike, BANG! he’s down on the ground. 

Murray has slipped while dismounting his bike and both him and bike are sliding towards the netting. Time for me to shake a leg and try and make a gap on him. I manage to get a tiny gap, but he’s quick to his feet and back in pursuit of my rear wheel.

Good, I think to myself, he is using more energy chasing me and we have some fast areas to come as we head for the line.

Next big obstacle to get around is the new uphill around a tree off camber area thing! I head in on the wrong line and have to dismount and get running as I curse too myself. My error also had an effect on Murray, he’s also off and running too.

Sprint up the small incline and out of the woods for the last time. Time to get the speed up as we hit the tarmac. The finish line is about 400 meters away. Get my thumb clicking and also whack it up on the top triple ring and get some wind in my hair.

I have got to break him! Keep the speed up Bryan! A quick look over my shoulder before we turn onto the home straight and I see the elastic has snapped. I am not going to lose another position in this race. Hit the 50 meters to go marker, bunny hopped the speed bump and roll through the line for 15th place.

Doonbank you have done it again, created another great race for me and it wasn’t the podium that I had been dreaming of the previous night. I did have a hard race on my hands after being away back down in the mid-thirties so happy to be 15th rider home.

I can’t wait for 2019 Doonbank as I’m going for a podium spot now.

Huge thanks to all the Ayr Burners for hosting a great day at the park.  Thanks to Alan Anderson bring the tunes to tuuuuunebank.

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Rise Of The Machine. 

Could Parts of Strava die?

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With most manufacturers producing e-bikes, I must presume the popularity of them is on the rise.  With the growing market are your hard earned Strava King Of The Mountain (KOM) and segment times in jeopardy?

Lately, I just lost (KOM).  A long held gravel climb, up to the local reservoir.  The rider took it by forty-six seconds.  The loss got me thinking!

Forty-six, how did he manage forty-six? Bet he was aided by battery power! (I don’t really think he did by the way).  I have just been beaten by a faster rider. The thought didn’t leave my head though. It got me wondering, with the e-bikes out on the trails and roads will there be faster time being posted?

Don’t get me wrong, there is still a lot of blood sweat and gears in claiming a KOM or posting a fast time on Strava.

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With a little Google search, I saw that e-bikes from one company can power you for 80 miles on one charge and up to speeds of 25 kph. So with fresh legs and a little assistance, riding up the slopes might bring you bag load of KOMs after a day of riding. On the flat maybe the extra weight of the battery pack might slow you down in the sprint race, but I’m sure a top ten could be on the cards when you switch on the power of lithium

I don’t actually chase the KOM anymore, but I still use Strava as a tool for logging my rides/races and like to see my feeble annual mileage on the bike. For some King’s out there, their crowns and Kingdom’s could be overpowered by electricity very soon!

A power struggle might take grip soon. Instead of 250 watt motor, like now. Things could get juiced up in the battle to retain the top of the leaderboards 300-400 watt, higher? Then it doesn’t become a cycling app anymore, as with that power your talking mopheads.  I’m not by any means saying riding an e-bike and logging your ride shouldn’t be done, but If you did take a segment KOM, then I think it should be flagged and reported keeping Kingdom’s intact.

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I am sure some sly Strava hunters out there will be taking crowns by electronic technology, getting one up on their mate. But come on guys, give Joe Blogs a chance to claim a piece of Strava for themselves.

Any thoughts post them below.

Velodrome Nights!

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Glasgow welcomed the Commonwealth Games in 2014.  With this, it brought some new sporting facilities dotted around the city.  The Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome arose out the dirt in the East End of Glasgow making it the first indoor Velodrome in Scotland.  Three years after it opened its doors I now have the itch to see what riding the board would be like.

After hearing that Clare has booked in for her first level of accreditation (four levels to gain the right to call yourself a track rider) the itch gets bigger, and I decide that I should follow suit and book my slot and the days tick down till track day.

Level 1.

After the night race along the M8 and M74, I arrive just in time to sign my life away on the forms, get kitted out with bike and shoes and make my way to the back straight to meet my fellow novice track riders.  We seem to be a diverse bunch of folk. I feel a bit weird standing in my full lycra amongst the football shorts and baggy t-shirts.

We get the brief on the track layout along with the track etiquette for entering/exiting the track correctly and safely, and also talked through how the to be safe while riding around the boards.

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Looking Pro!

Once we have been informed of what’s to be expected of us in this session, it’s time to clip in and roll off (checking over your right-hand shoulder as we go).  We’re not allowed to enter onto the track for the moment, so we are told to ride around the Apron (the flat bit).  After being assessed that we can stay upright on the bikes, we are then told to move up onto the Cote d’Azur (blue boards) and ride a few more laps.  Soon we are slowed down and brought in for a drink and a debrief.

We mount our alloy steeds once again and prepare to ride off for the next part of the lesson.  The whole group seem to be doing well, no spectaculars when tackling the bends at faster speeds.  Some people’s fitness was on the lower end of the scale, but they used their heads and rolled off to recover when it was needed.  My hour was up, and we came to a slow stop then we all came off the track.   Good news came across after a quick chat with the coach, we all made it past level one.  Happy Days!

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Two days after me gaining level one I am now back inside Sir Chris Hoy once again.  Get my Dolan bike and a pair of shoes, I then head up to the inner circle and sort out my helmet while I wait.  I came armed with baby wipes to get rid of a season of Cyclocross mud splatter on it while I wait for the session to begin (was a bit embarrassed about the state of it on the last session).

I look about and it’s the same as the first session, a group of all mixed ages and abilities (no football tops this time around).  First off we are shouted up to the track and told to leave the bikes on the glass and gather up.  Very different feel to this session than the first, more strict and I think this puts a few people on the back foot slightly rather than make us feel at ease.  With this, we were quizzed on the etiquette of the track and what we remember about what we learned on accreditation level one, for some people who sat the course over a year ago weren’t confident in speaking up.

After the brief, we were allowed to saddle up and ride out for five minutes warm up on the track keeping on the Stayer’s line (blue line).  The guy in front of me tries to freewheel on the home straight, and I see his legs bounce about, he manages to recover, I don’t think he will ever do that again.  I move up and shout (outside) to let him know that I am overtaking.  After getting up to speed and staying high, I have to stay up for a while as there are some riders ahead that I am catching.  Shout “outside” as I get to them and move past.  This must look like I am a bloody show-off and bombing around the track like a dick.  Eventual I see a big gap and drop down to the Stayers line, and I finish the five minutes at a more sustainable pace.

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We are all brought back in and grabbed a drink.  We sit at track side and talk about pursuit changes and pursuit lines.  Where to change and what to do if we’re too fast/slow.  This is what we will be doing for the remainder of the session.  Eleven of us are split into two groups, I am in group number one.  We set off, building up speed as we go.  For this first series of changes, we are to stay on the Datum line (black line).  We reach the spot on the back straight, and rider one shoots up, letting me through.  My job is now to keep the speed even all the way to the next change point.  Get round to the back straight, I signal mirror and manoeuvre and peel out and up onto the bank.

This part is where shit gets real!  As I pull out and head up the steepest part of the track, you have to dig in hard and keep your speed high, or you are slipping down the boards and taking folk out.  I watch as the riders slowly come past, we are onto the straight, and there is still no back rider for me to slot in behind.  I have to ride the next bend out of the line and slowly apply pressure scrubbing some speed on the back straight (should have gone higher to make me ride further).  This drill goes on for a few more laps.  We all get hooked off the track along with group 2.

After a quick bollocking had been dished out to group 2, they are set off underway to complete some changes as they only managed a few lucky ones the first time around.  Us, on the other hand, are talking through that the pace was a little slow for changes but all in all we did alright.  We get released back out as a group, we are now told to do the same drill but stay up at the Stayer’s line.

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This is where our group fucked up!  Lead rider takes us off, and I am the second rider again. He asks where do we join onto the track?  Fuck mate that was level one!  Guide him on.  We are soon aiming for the Sprint line (red line).  We are far too slow to hit that line on the first bend, we should be on the black line, were my thoughts.  Somehow we manage to ride the curve at a slow speed with no incidents!  Now were aiming for the Stayer’s line.  WTF!  I try and say were too slow, but he can’t hear, and as we hit the bend, he pulls up to start a change.  Fuck Fuck Fuckity!  I say that were too early, trying to get him to stay down, but he doesn’t!  I’m now the lead rider, and the only thing I am thinking of is speed!  I have got to stay upright.  I aim down for the Sprint line and try to pick up the pace for me and riders behind.

CRASH, BOOM, SQUEAK comes the sound directly behind me.  The rider has slipped off the curve and has taken out the rider just behind me.  I glance behind and see the body’s slide down the track, time to slow up.  I shout to riders behind to slow down as wee need to come off the track asap.

After a few minutes of panic, the guys get them selfs up and return along the Apron to where we all wait. We fall in for a chat!  First thing is were asked how did that happen?  It happened due to lack of speed. Also, the coach hadn’t told the lead rider to start his change as he knew we were going to slow.  Fair play to the guy he held his hands up and said he thought we were to change on the first lap.  So it came down to rider fault and partly the group’s fault, due to us not alerting the leading rider we were not up to speed.  Yeah, I could have shouted louder, but they were also another four silent voices behind me!

After a few minutes, the two guys dust off their new burn tattoos, and we are set off to redeem ourselves.  This time we do three laps before we change.  I am the second rider again, and I seem to be the voice calling out the pace and trying to keep the lead rider going at a steady, we pick up speed each lap, and this time we feel more together.  The extra speed seems to help a lot.  My first change appears to better, as the speed keeps you stuck into the corner as you ride high and let the group come through underneath, get into the back of the line just as we come into the home straight.  It’s still a scary thought that you could slip and come down in a burning slide if you ease off around the corners.  After a few changes we are brought in, and we slow down.  Though maybe one lap early for the coach as he thought it was a bit of an emergency stop from the guy bringing the group to a halt.

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Now the session has ended we are back into the inner ring of the track, we are all told that we should return and resit this level.  It’s not a pass/fail course apparently it’s just we all didn’t meet the coaches standard at this stage.  I think that’s a fail in my book!  It’s a bit gutting, to be honest.  As I didn’t come as a group, I came as an Individual and though we were getting assessed individually.  I thought I rode alright and not sure what I have done wrong for the coach to say no.

I believe it was the crash that made their decision easier for them, but we also heard that the other group of five didn’t pass as well.  So a bad night all round for the 8 pm accreditation two folks.  Good for Glasgow Life though, as they get another eleven people paying for round two again.  I think that some people will be put off from resitting and won’t return.

I will go back, as I am stubborn and hate not passing things.  It would have been nice to find out what I did wrong so I can rectify it and pass the second part enabling me to book in for step three of the accreditation.

At first, I thought the accreditation was a load of bollocks, but after the two sessions, I think to ride the boards these courses are essential and has been a bit of an eye opener for me.

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Part Two of Velodrome Nights Coming Soon.