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The experiences of a new track racer

Old 02-08-18, 01:31 PM
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e17blade
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The experiences of a new track racer

Hi All.

I havenít been posting on here until recently, but have been lurking for a while.

As a track newbie I have found this forum to be a great source of information and advice, so thanks to everyone for that.

Most of the posts here are (or seem to be) from quite experienced riders, so I thought I would add a thread about my experiences as someone completely new to track racing.

I completed my track accreditation a year or so ago but had been stuck between either racing cyclocross or track this winter. In the end I decided to go all in for track, bought a track bike, did a load of SQT sessions at the London Olympic Velodrome and entered the Full Gas Track League there. I am in the ĎC Leagueí - A being Elite, B being Advanced and C being Intermediate.

I have found it to be very fast and very hard, but mainly.... great fun. I absolutely love it. I think the dynamics of the different race formats is the key to me enjoying it so much. For example, an elimination race is a very simple format to understand, but riding them took me weeks to get used to, and I really enjoy the learning process. The camaraderie and atmosphere amongst the riders is also excellent.

My clubmates asked me to do a write up each week about how it was going and I have been getting some good feedback on it, so I added it to my blog.

If you are thinking of racing on the track - do it! I can thoroughly recommend it. If you read through my write ups from the first few weeks you will get an idea of what it is like to start out as a complete newbie. In the later write ups you will also get an idea of how much it is possible to improve in a short period of time if you really put a LOT of effort in.

For context, previously I had been doing road vets/masters races (usually crits) and have never been close to winning anything. I think Iíve been in the top ten a couple of times. So Iím no great racer.

Write ups link...
‪https://e17blade.wordpress.com/‬


Hope you like it.
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Old 02-08-18, 01:42 PM
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chas58
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Sad to say, I lived very near a velodrome for years before I tried it. I had no idea how much fun racing an oval could be - the pack, drafting, tactics, different race styles. Road or mountain bike racing are so much different...
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Old 02-08-18, 02:06 PM
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I still can't figure out why it's not more popular.

Maybe it's a marketing or image thing. The overwhelming majority of people who try track riding/racing seem to like it. A many of those that do stick with it.

There's something for everybody in track racing as well. I can't think of another genre of cycling where so many different types of athletes (small, large, sprinter, enduro, fast twitch, slow twitch, etc...) can be competitive in one event or another.
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Old 02-08-18, 03:01 PM
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Without trying to sound like a complete wet blanket, here's a few reasons why I think track has issues:

There are not a lot velodromes left in the world, and more than a few of the ones that are left are in need of help.

People can't just go off the street and pedal in. You need a track bike, and in some cases for steeper velodromes, training, which puts a lot of people off immediately (You can go ride your typical office park crit with most any road bike, but honestly even those have low turnout numbers compared to something like a "Gran Fondo"). Yes, there are rentals and classes, but compare that to say Tennis, BJJ, or other less competitive sports, it's a lot. Before the fixie boom hit around 2006-2007, getting a fixed gear bike in of itself was difficult.

Most people are very intimidated by the concept of racing in general (like actual racing, not just "I'm going to try and do a 5k" kind of thing), and can't handle the competition. I saw this all the time when I used to work on and race cars. "Hey why don't you go bring the car up to the track and see how it really goes?" and they would stammer around and make excuses about "Getting ready" or some other stream of excuses "It's too expensive!". It's way easier on the ego to buy the gear, rather than actually be humbled by someone on a cheap bike with box sections.

It's visually not as stimulating compared to something like road cycling, mountain biking, or cyclocross. There's not a lot of "cool" appeal to most people versus like doing some downhill mountain bike ride with huge jumps, or whatever is on a Mountain Dew ad.

There is very, very little promotion for it (at least stateside) versus the aforementioned other than the requisite Olympic footage you might see on some highlight reels. Almost everyone I've ever talked to about what I do on Wednesday nights looks at me blankly and I have to go "Oh you ever seen the Olympic thing with the big oval and you pedal a lot."

---

So what can we do to make it grow?

IMO Any area with an indoor velodrome should really hammer hard on the spinning crowd. I think the Detroit 'drome is a good step forward and trying to keep things fresh in people's minds. Some televised/streamed events wouldn't be so hard to do, but there's so much media out there that it's hard to keep track.

Be positive and try to bring more people in. Every one on the track should be kind of a mini ambassador.

Leave the BS at the door. Thankfully most track racing people are really nice and encouraging.

It's hard challenge with zero budget, and a lot of other activity competition.
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Old 02-08-18, 04:41 PM
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I volunteer more than I race - I meets lots of friendly and interesting people, including riders, officials, spectators, and volunteers, that help make track racing enjoyable.
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Old 02-08-18, 10:21 PM
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Those are good points, octopus.
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Old 02-09-18, 08:15 AM
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Originally Posted by octopus magic View Post
So what can we do to make it grow?

IMO Any area with an indoor velodrome should really hammer hard on the spinning crowd. I think the Detroit 'drome is a good step forward and trying to keep things fresh in people's minds. Some televised/streamed events wouldn't be so hard to do, but there's so much media out there that it's hard to keep track.

Be positive and try to bring more people in. Every one on the track should be kind of a mini ambassador.

Leave the BS at the door. Thankfully most track racing people are really nice and encouraging.

It's hard challenge with zero budget, and a lot of other activity competition.
Basically you can't rely on people finding tracks on their own - you gotta get it in front of them, suck them in, put them on a bike, see how they respond, and offer them the next experience. And you gotta do it in volume, to try to find the ones who want to keep coming back, to find the ones who become good (or great, or whatever).

Hitting up spin programs is a solid idea. I also think that tracks should have loaner fleets (that's a no brainer), and go hard in the paint with connections to schools - try to get field trips for a Try The Track Day, and offer kids (or, really, their parents) another program to sign up for if their kids are into it.

I could imagine something like that being run by the right volunteer but being a lot better if there were a solid handful of staff involved - and few tracks I know of really have the funds for that kind of staffing.
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Old 02-09-18, 11:02 AM
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Yeah, I think fear (for various reasons) is a factor.

I watched a guy, hands literally literally shaking as he was lined-up on the boards before a basic warmup paceline. He had completed the beginners course and the track only had maybe 7 people on it, but adrenaline nonetheless.

I'm not fearless, but I do have a "If a kid can do it, so can I..." attitude about a lot of things.

Maybe quelling fears should be a point to stress. I mean, track racing is, mile-for-mile, safer than many other genres of cycling. Think about how many incidents happen in a local crit day vs a local track day [knock wood]. Same for MTB, BMX, CX, etc... Maybe road TTs are safer mainly because they are forbidden to ride close to each other.
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Old 02-09-18, 11:10 AM
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an old track teacher i know said, "if you're gonna teach intro classes, you ought to ride the velodrome backwards every now and then - it will remind you what it's like to be a beginner." and i tried it, and it felt like being on a track for the first time, and it was great advice.
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Old 02-09-18, 11:45 AM
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Originally Posted by queerpunk View Post
an old track teacher i know said, "if you're gonna teach intro classes, you ought to ride the velodrome backwards every now and then - it will remind you what it's like to be a beginner." and i tried it, and it felt like being on a track for the first time, and it was great advice.
It's funny that you mention that! I have a buddy who would occasionally do that for fun when no one else was on the track. He said the same thing, "Feels like the first time!". He invited me to try and I was like, "NOPE."

So, yeah, I guess that fear is a significant factor.
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Old 02-09-18, 12:29 PM
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Riding backwards also occurs periodically at VSC in Carson. It's a great equalizer, humbling yet strangely fun at the same time! The first couple of laps definitely produces a "pucker."
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Old 02-09-18, 01:17 PM
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Racing on the velodrome certainly isnít ďeasyĒ to get into, I very recently done accreditation at Glasgow which took 4 sessions, life gets in the way of these things when itís 100 miles away and your juggling work/kids.

Iíve been racing on the road for a few years now but still felt the need to get a number of drop in sessions under my belt before I entered a race, I love it and definitely feel like I learn something every time I ride but was really disappointed when I emailed Manchester enquiring about accreditation hoping to maybe only have to do the last 2 sessions to be told flatly that Iíd need to do at least 3 tasters sessions before I was allowed to even book accreditation 1 of 4.

Iíve always been of the opinion you canít really have too much training in life, thereís always something to learn but thatíd be 7 sessions before having access to racing or structured training sesssions, 7 sessions Iíd have to be driving 140 miles each way for Iíll look into it again when Iíve done a couple more races at Glasgow......
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Old 02-09-18, 01:21 PM
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If you check out my avatar, you can see that the track's banking is a directional easement curve. It's the old Bromont track. I'll post the full size image later.
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Old 02-10-18, 10:01 AM
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Originally Posted by e17blade View Post
Hope you like it.
I did, thank you. I'm not a newbie, but a re-newbie. It's been a challenge returning.

Rick
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Old 02-10-18, 01:19 PM
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[IMG][/IMG]
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Old 02-11-18, 06:27 AM
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Here are my thoughts on velodrome racing.
Joe's Track Experience
I started writing about my experience when I did my first try the track at Trexlertown.

Ride Safe,

Joe
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Old 02-12-18, 04:51 PM
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Originally Posted by taras0000 View Post
[IMG][/IMG]
Good point. I think they are all like that, with the steepest slope on exiting the turn. Makes it feel a little different backwards...
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Old 03-16-18, 05:07 AM
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Originally Posted by Monkeyfudger View Post
Racing on the velodrome certainly isnít ďeasyĒ to get into, I very recently done accreditation at Glasgow which took 4 sessions, life gets in the way of these things when itís 100 miles away and your juggling work/kids.

Iíve been racing on the road for a few years now but still felt the need to get a number of drop in sessions under my belt before I entered a race, I love it and definitely feel like I learn something every time I ride but was really disappointed when I emailed Manchester enquiring about accreditation hoping to maybe only have to do the last 2 sessions to be told flatly that Iíd need to do at least 3 tasters sessions before I was allowed to even book accreditation 1 of 4.

Iíve always been of the opinion you canít really have too much training in life, thereís always something to learn but thatíd be 7 sessions before having access to racing or structured training sesssions, 7 sessions Iíd have to be driving 140 miles each way for Iíll look into it again when Iíve done a couple more races at Glasgow......
Racing in the UK is actually easier than you think. Whereabouts do you live? While there are only a few indoor velodromes in the UK, there are many more outdoor ones and theres probably one a lot closer than you think.

I'm sure you can appreciate that track cycling is a completely different dynamic to road, hence the need for extra accreditation. The coaches (at Manchester in particular) need to make sure everyone is safe before they are unleashed on the track. I think its only a recommendation to do 3 tasters beforehand. Don't think it'd be too much of an issue if you've been on other tracks
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Old 03-19-18, 03:07 PM
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That is a fantastic write-up of a track season, and a great demonstration of how it's possible to make big gains quickly. As someone who's hoping to start track league racing next winter (at Manchester) I found it both inspirational and informative.

The things that I find slightly intimidating at the moment as regards starting with the racing is (a) wondering whether I've got the fitness for it, and (b) wondering whether it's all a bit chaotic. I've got a reasonably decent road season planned (doing the Fred Whitton along with a few other big sportives) so hopefully that and a few of the SQT sessions available at Manchester (Structured Quality Sessions; basically interval drills on the track in a big group) will help with the fitness and track craft. Just a case of getting in there and learning after that, but your write-ups give me confidence that it's not as impenetrable as it may initially seem.

Do you mind me asking if you'd done any racing prior to starting this? I note that you refer to your 'road season' in your final write-up; I wasn't sure if you meant road cycling or racing specifically.
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Old 03-19-18, 03:39 PM
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Until @bmwjoe answers, I'll attempt to offer some insight.

Track Racing is more alike the not to Athletics (Track & Field).

And like Athletics, there is an event for almost everyone of varying abilities and skills.

- Just want to ride your bike with others? There's an event for you.
- Can perform mental 3D Chess on a bike? There's an event for you.
- STRONG LIKE BULL?, There's an event for you.
- Like to ride so hard that you turn yourself inside out...and want to do it again minutes later? There's an event for you.
- Jack of All Trades but Master of None? There's an event for you.

Also, between the skill categories (your open racing category, e.g. "CAT 2"), age groups, and gender groups, there are enough sections and cross-sections that allow for the sport to be competitive for everyone. You can be a big fish in a small pond (local hero), small fish in a big pond (national elite cannon fodder), or somewhere in between.

Then there are the personal challenges where you seek to get the most you can get from your body via time trials...over and over, year after year.

Then there is all of the cool equipment (my vice).

Basically, within all of the above, it's very likely that you'll find a few things that make it worth while for you especially as an amateur hobby racer. For elites that are racing to provide for families and pay bills, it's a hard road.

Of course, not everyone who tries the track sticks with it for various reasons. A lot of times it's logistics (no track nearby, traffic, etc...) or simply that their other sports/hobbies are more interesting. I do recall one guy that I raced with who converted from roadie to trackie saying, during his first few weeks of racing track , (paraphrasing:) "Man, this is awesome. It's intense, it's nearby. I raced 4 races, kicked some butt, got my butt kicked, and now 2 and a half hours later I'm having a beer and a slice of pizza! With road racing there is soooo much more involved to do just one race. I'm sold." This was in 2009. He still races today. He medaled at Masters Nationals last summer.

The medals and jerseys aren't worth much of anything outside of the track community. But, the fun, sense of accomplishment, struggle and achievement, health benefits are all worth millions.
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Old 03-19-18, 04:22 PM
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Thanks for the advice - hopefully I'll be in a position to be reporting back from track league meets soon!
@carleton, @bmwjoe, @e17blade - do you mind me asking how old you were when you started? I'm 32 now and have not been cycling long (2 years, roughly); it's something which it is possible to feel self-conscious about at Manchester when the wee academy kids, who are looking to be hoovered up into the British Cycling machine, come hooning past. I imagine it's similar to skiing, when you tiptoe down your first red run only to be overtaking by a bored-looking seven-year-old who's going backwards and picking his nose at the same time.
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Old 03-19-18, 04:41 PM
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Originally Posted by FinkFloyd View Post
Thanks for the advice - hopefully I'll be in a position to be reporting back from track league meets soon!
@carleton, @bmwjoe, @e17blade - do you mind me asking how old you were when you started? I'm 32 now and have not been cycling long (2 years, roughly); it's something which it is possible to feel self-conscious about at Manchester when the wee academy kids, who are looking to be hoovered up into the British Cycling machine, come hooning past. I imagine it's similar to skiing, when you tiptoe down your first red run only to be overtaking by a bored-looking seven-year-old who's going backwards and picking his nose at the same time.
I think you may be over-thinking this

I was 34 at the time. Fat, drinking, out of shape, etc... Not 'athletic fat', more like 'he probably shouldn't take his shirt off in public' fat

Training and racing really did turn my life around in terms of diet and exercise. I had been naturally lean and fit through high school and college but then after that, I (falsely) assumed that I would continue to be that way. Between a sedentary job programming and money to be able to eat fast food as much as I wanted and drink as many beers as I could handle, I was in a vicious spiral downwards. I still loved bikes and rode them, but I didn't ride enough often enough to offset the bad diet.

I'm stronger now that I've ever been, including being a HS athlete and a "social athlete" (competitive intramurals, pickup basketball several days/week) in college where my competitors and rivals were often scholarship athletes.

Back to track...I came into the sport having never ridden more than 7 miles in a single day. Most of the times it was from bar to bar on my sweet Bianchi Pista Concept (seriously).

You'll be fine.
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Old 03-19-18, 07:19 PM
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I started racing bikes at 32, got on the track at 35. You'll be fine.
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Old 03-19-18, 07:43 PM
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32 Phhhhhht! I did my first try the track when I was 54. This year will be my 5th year riding at the track. I only take the two 4 week courses at the Trexlertown track ($60/8 sessions). One reason I don't participate in the Saturday cat 4/5 races is I would need to have my own bike. This way I get eight 90 minute sessions and they loan me the bike.

I started riding again when I was 44 or so. Very gradually getting in better shape. When I was 55 I was in fairly good shape. At 60 I am lookfoward to signing up again. Being older I tend to favor the longer races like the miss and out.

After riding in a few ad-hock pacelines on the road I cannot see myself racing on the road. The thought of going fast on typical roads with a bunch of other bikes in close quarters scares the crap out of me. On the track it is much more controlled. You never have to think about traction or a road hazard. The riding is fairly predictable as nobody has bakes or can coast. There are also many different types of track races as @carlton says. At the very least you have the 200m sprint where you can establish a baseline for any improvements you make.

Last year there was a 49 year old that raced with the professionals on Friday night.
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Old 03-19-18, 08:25 PM
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@FinkFloyd, just to clarify, it's sorta like playing a guitar: Easy to learn. Difficult to master.

I understood your questions to be about getting started and learning the ropes and getting comfortable. That's easy. You'll also experience "newb gainz" that we all got to enjoy as we simply got more time-on-task.

Being competitive and winning in your age or skill group is up to a lot of different factors. But, still fun nonetheless!
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