• James

Riding the boards in Manchester

Manchester's National Cycling Centre is the heart of British cycling and you can tell when you visit. Waiting in reception I saw several people with British Cycling tracksuits, staff and riders. I walked past the ex UCI president Brian Cookson in the corridor. "Ahh, so thats what he's doing these days." I thought.

I was in Manchester with my family for a weekend away, for some shopping and to enable me to get my first experience riding on the Manchester velodrome. I'd done all the paperwork to get me on the track with a provisional accreditation transferred from my full accreditation from Glasgow but I still needed to complete four Structured Quality Training (SQT) sessions safely before I could get my full track accreditation for Manchester. It seems every velodrome has its own accreditation process and I suppose it's all useful track experience that I might rely on later.

I didn't travel with my track bike because its not legal for their SQT sessions so Dolan hire bike it is then. The session was full, 40 riders on track, which was about 30 more than I'd ever ridden with before so it was rather busy. "Don't crash into anyone" is what I said to myself for the first few laps but I didn't need to worry, I'd joined a vets session which meant they were mostly older than me and really quite sensible. But despite their age they were bloody quick. Even my wife Julie said they weren't hanging about and yes I agree, there was some good old digs in there during the two hour session.

The session was run under the watchful eye of Fred the extremely patient and helpful coach. It comprised of several exercises on the track that lasted about 20 minutes each then a break to get a drink and regroup. The last exercise was going to be a series of "scratch' races. We rode in a big group and the first four riders would drop down to the black line and after the whistle, would sprint one lap to the line. I had never done this before and when it was my turn I was in second position in my group of four. I realised with a few laps to go that that rider in front was none other than Brian Cookson so I realised at least he would know what to do and I was also aware that I better not take down the ex UCI president. Can you imagine the cycling news headlines "Cookson crashes in velodrome accident with newbie rider." Yikes.

We finished the session safely and I got the sign off from Fred. Three more and I should be accredited properly which means I can join any session in the future but next time I'll see if I can take my own track bike after the gearing modifications.

Interestingly the track in Manchester is quite different to Glasgow, it has much smoother transitions between straights and bankings and it flows nicely. Glasgow's velodrome is exciting with steep bankings and I suspect would be more suited to high speed racing. Quite odd that velodromes seem to be so different, you would think there would be some sort of standard but thats precisely why I was in Manchester. As they say "the devil is in the detail." This weekend was another little step towards the start line of the 24 hour attempt.


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