The Sufferlandria National Training Camp isn’t just about getting faster or fitter. Athletes also get a chance to explore new cycling disciplines. On the afternoon of day one, we were going to try the velodrome. For many of us, it also meant our first time on a fixed gear bike. What happens when you throw a bunch of Sufferlandrians on fixies? Let’s find out.
First, it’s important to note that over the lunch break I was lucky enough to meet UCI President Brian Cookson, a guy who has made huge efforts to bring cycling into the post-doping era. Governing a sport is no easy task, so you’ve got to feel for Brian who has to deal with doping scandals and skeptical fans with limited financial resources and just a four year term. Brian, if I could vote, you’d have my vote. Anyway, Brian happily agreed to have a photo, but I’m not sure we realized what he was saying when he suggested doing it in front of the UCI. We’d just been briefed on the super secret new logo that wouldn’t be revealed until later that week. Thanks Brian.
Our coach for the track was none other than UCI’s lead for track, Silvano Meli. He had a huge task ahead of him, initiating a bunch of Sufferlandrians to the track. This guy was brilliant, a balance between treating us like kindergarten kids and throwing us in the deep end had us all circling the 200 meter velodrome within minutes.
Moving on a fixie is easy, it’s slowing or stopping that scares the shit out of you. Add to the mix 40km/hr plus and 48 degree banded turns, you have a blender that twists your head between adrenaline and pure fear. For the first 20 minutes, I was honestly scared for my life. But then it clicked into place.
You see the trick to the track is using the track. Move up to slow down, move down to speed up, sounds simple. It feels simple once you’ve got it. But then, Silvano throws us into a pace line. Being dependent on the person in front of you magnifies the fear, especially when you’re reminded their track experience is the same as yours, barely know anything. So the pace line can be twitchy and nervous. But when you get on the front, all that fear seems to fade to the background as you focus on the blue line and punch the pace.
Riding on 48 degree banked turns seems strange. You’re constantly worried that the bike is going to slide back down the slope, scrapping your body on the boards. But it never happened. These simple pure bikes were born for the track. They gripped to the line and sped around in circles. And surprisingly you don’t get dizzy.
My Garmin shows a max speed of 47.2km/hr for the first session in the pace line. Not bad for a guy that had never been on a track and started the session terrified. We did a total of just 30 kilometres on the 200 metre track, which is 150 laps. The entire group finished pumped, eager to try more. I could see how the track could get addictive. I think I need to find a velodrome in Singapore and a track bike.