This weekend, I had the privilege of attending the Beginner Track Class at the Dick Lane Velodrome in East Point, GA. As I mentioned in a previous post, I have been wanting to attend this class and get started racing for quite some time, but things never lined up for me to be able to do it… until Saturday.
Upon arrival, we signed a liability waiver and got ready for the class. If you didn’t have a bike, one was provided for you. I brought my new Jamis Sonik, which got a lot of looks and comments. Afterwards, we gathered in the stands and waited for Brian Sullivan (lead instructor) and Jeff Hopkins (Director of Operations/former pro roadie/former World Junior Track Champion) to kick off the class.
We had around 30 beginners that were ready to get on the track. Before riding on the track, we discussed the basic safety rules at the velodrome, basics about Dick Lane Velodrome, and details about track markings. It was good to get all of those pertinent bits of information out of the way before taking the bikes down for some practice laps.
There were two distinct groups of riders in the class; those who had ridden a fixed gear bike before, and those who hadn’t. The instructors did a great job by splitting us up and allowing the fixed gear newbies a little extra time to learn how to handle the bike. The riders that had ridden fixed before were allowed to get a few laps on the track to accustom themselves with riding on the banking of the track. It was definitely different than cruising on the road… that’s for sure!
After everyone was used to the bikes, we did some drills to get used to riding around others on the track. We practiced pacelining first, taking turns at the front, then pulling up higher on the track, allowing the rest of the paceline to pass you before jumping onto the tail of the group.
The second drill we did was side-by-sides. We rode with a partner, one on the red line, one on the black line, and had to stay right next to our partner, regulating our speed all the way around the track. That drill got us used to riding very close to another rider, and also to get used to how much extra energy we had to use to stay next to our partner when riding around the upper line. It’s a longer distance around the track, so you have to pedal more/faster to stay close to your partner.
After the first two drills were done and we were moderately comfortable with riding on the track, we practiced the flying 200m sprint. I was first, and really decided to let it go. The feeling of dropping off Turn 2, down the back straight, then diving into Turns 3 and 4 in the pole lane was EXHILARATING!!! The first time barreling through those turns was such a killer feeling! I feel I put in a pretty respectable time (even though we didn’t clock it…) for my first try at the 200.
After the class concluded, Brian wished us well and asked those that had time to stick around if they wanted to do some racing. My response was an immediate “OH HECK YES I DO!” We lined up on the boards on the front straight for a 5-lap Scratch Race, my first race on the track.
The pace started out pretty quick. One guy in our race decided to make a quick acceleration right off the bat. Myself and a few others matched his accelerations, but shortly afterwards, a female that was racing with us and another guy (that had a pretty little gear on his bike) fell off the pace, leaving three of us out front, battling it out for the next few laps.
With two laps to go, I was drafting along in third position when I decided to make a move around the outside. I jumped around and dropped into the pole lane, then accelerated to see how much distance I could put into the other two riders. I looked back, had a pretty good gap, but still had a lap to go. When the bell rang, I just gave it a little more juice and maintained the pace to lead the others to the line. I WON MY FIRST TRACK RACE!
Even though it was unofficial, with no money or points being awarded, it was still a win to me. It’s just what I needed to get me 100% jazzed on heading down to the track a few times a month to stretch my legs a little bit. Even my boss has said, “It’s good to see that you’re excited about racing again!”
If you’ve got time, it would be worth your while to give velodrome racing a shot. Take the next beginner’s class that you can make it to, then come join me on the track. If you don’t want to do that, then at least come spectate and “beat the boards” a little.