Sufferlandria Strikes Back

After Monday’s awesome session on the track, the Sufferlandria National Team is keen to get back on the track. Discussions about buying track bikes had already started, with some making plans to visit velodromes back in their respective cities. Coach Silvano had talked up a special surprise, heightening the anticipation.

After missing the opportunity before to film the track action, I planned ahead. This time, I put my Garmin mount on the bars, making it easy to mount the Garmin and my GoPro. Sharing the experience of the track is always tough, so I thought that the best way would be to capture it.

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Eager to get out there, we were instructed to do a 20 minute warm up, and get our legs in form for the track. Quickly we found a groove, settled into a train, and shared the pulls behind Coach Silvano. It was great to see everyone finding their confidence grow during this second session. The track is mentally tough, it requires intense concentration and focus. To see everyone out there pulling the train was a very ‘nationally’ proud moment.

Now Silvano promised a surprise, and we got a sneak peak at what it might be when we came up onto the track with his motorbike. You see, to push the speed of a cyclist training on the velodrome, a coach will often pace the cyclist using a motorbike, pushing speeds of 60km/h plus. It looked like we would be doing some motor pacing.

Our suspicions were soon answered as Silvano explained how motor pacing works. The group would circle on the black line at 30km/h. He would circle around on the motorbike and direct the leader of the train onto the back of his motorbike and gradually increase the pace until the rider feel out of the slip stream or his signed for you to move out.

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Anticipating your turn was super exciting, watching the motor paced rider circle at over 50km/h, observing their determination to hold the slip stream as Silvano went faster and faster. I was roughly tenth in the train, so I had a long ride until my turn. But with every turn of those fixed gears, I felt myself fall deeper into the ‘track zone’, focused only on the line that we were following. I knew I could hear people yelling things out from the sidelines, but I was unable to shift my gaze.

When my turn came, I edged up the speed and into the slip stream of the motorbike. Most cyclist’s can tell you how important the draft is, but this was mind blowing. The motorbike almost towed you around the track. As my speed rose, there was no way I could glimpse down to see my speed, I was laser focused on the rear wheel of the motor bike. I found myself slipping back, so I pressed on harder and managed to grab the wheel for another half lap, before slipping out too far and out of the draft. What a rush. My blood was pumping and I was full of adrenaline. On a road bike, I could coast back to a comfortable pace, but on a track bike I had to keep pedaling, circling the track as I wiped of speed. Such an awesome feeling.

Silvano had another surprise. The Kilo. A head to head, well sort of, flat out 1000 meters around the track. We were paired up with someone of equal power, and released from opposite sides of the track. Of course, we needed a crash course on track starts, as we’d spent our time launching from the rail.

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The world record for the kilo stands at 56 seconds set back in 2013. We were a bunch of national athletes from a mythical nation, how close could we get? I would line up against GP, who has a slightly higher FTP than myself. Sir Neal had taught us a few small tricks, like crank positioning and start tactics. But for all of us, this would be our first all out effort from a standing stand.

Off the line, I faltered slightly, loosing some ground, but quickly got myself back on the correct line. So someone that had been training exclusively in zone 2 for half a year, an all out power effort was foreign to my body’s training. I gripped the drops, put on my best power face and drove those pedals as hard as I could.

1000 meters would be five laps of the 200 meter velodrome. It seemed short, but five laps was a painful long scream as we drove our bodies to the limit. On lap three, I couldn’t believe I still had two more laps to go, so I dug deeper for more power, more pedaling efficiency to lift the speed, crossing the line in 83 seconds. Nearly 30 seconds behind the world record, it astounds me that the top athletes can be that much faster. Braith was the group’s fastest in around 75 seconds.

After the kilo, not many of us had any energy left. With roughly 20 minutes of track time left, a selected few attempted the ‘flying lap’. A rolling start attack on a single lap of the track. My legs had nothing left, so I had to pass. Instead, I craved for a cold beer, a rare craving for someone who had gone off beer over the past year. But one thing was for sure, I was addicted to track. Just a shame, Singapore doesn’t have one.

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