Around and around, 388 times!

I was invited to ride with the Blue Sky Velo club at the velodrome this morning. I contacted the club a week or so ago asking about joining so and trying my hand at racing this year. The president emailed me and put me in touch with one of the members who is coordinating “The Breakfast Club”. Two hours of club riding at the velodrome — from 8-10am.

Earlier than I would normally go since I help Beth feed the farm on weekends. Beth was agreeable to swapping though so she fed for me this morning and I’ll do a feeding by myself tonight or tomorrow. It was worth the hassle of rearranging chores and getting up early! I had a great time.

There were 11 of us by the end of the session as a couple cyclists came in part way thru the session. We started with a 20 minute warm-up made up of some unstructured riding and then some pace line riding and a 40 lap high-pace segment. I was plenty “warm” after that! There was one other woman there initially. Her name is Ellen and I met her a couple of years ago when I used to ride Tuesday and Thursday mornings at 6am (training for my cross country trip). She is a very talented rider, a year younger than me (and probably 30 lbs lighter!).  Ellen is the gal who holds the best one-lap time right now. She actually isn’t on the Blue Sky Velo racing team this year as she’s moved on to a more competitive team and one that is affiliated with the bike shop she uses.

The middle portion of the session was devoted to some competitive “pursuit” races and a ‘take a lap” drill. In the pursuit race,  one group of 5 riders started on the ‘red’ line, (lower on the slope – goes about 130m a lap)  and a second group of 5 riders started on the ‘blue’ line (higher up on the slope — covers about 140-150m each lap). The goal was for one team to catch the other. Of course, the ‘red line’ group should be able to catch the blue line group if all things are equal since they’re covering less ground each lap. I was in the  ‘red’ line group the first race and although it took us a while, we did manage to catch the ‘blue’ line group. It was still a lot of work! The purpose of this drill is only partly physical. It is as much about becoming comfortable riding fast in a tight group and communicating effectively. Towards the very end of that first pursuit right as we caught the ‘blue’ line group, I heard a bit of a commotion behind me and Ellen yelling “STICK!” very forcefully. Once the pursuit was over and we were in the pit, I asked what had happened. Apparently, the rider behind me (Paul) had overlapped my wheel slightly and so moved up track to try to slow down. When he did that, the fellow behind him had to move as well and he (or both of them?) almost collided with the ‘blue’ line group. Thankfully, no one panicked and some good bike handling skills kept things it from being a major pile-up.

The ‘take-a-lap’ drill is one that you often see groups of riders do during open riding time. A pace line forms and once it is rolling merrily along at the blue line, the front rider shots off the front, drops down to the red line and sprints hard while the rest of the pace line continues at a moderate rate of speed. Within a lap or two the sprinting cyclist catches the tail of the pace line and joins on the back as the last rider. As they join, the next rider shots off the front and starts their sprint chasing the tail of the pace line. This continues until everyone gets bored with the idea…  We did it long enough that everyone “took a lap” three times.

I felt strong and when it was my turn to pull in pace lines I didn’t have any trouble holding the speed. Even when we rode fast in the ‘sprinter’s lane’  I was able to hold the wheel in front of me and not be a liability. There was one time when Ellen yelled “Whoa” — letting the front know that the pace is too high to keep everyone together, and I backed it off a little too much. Live and learn. It didn’t result in any overlapping wheels or near-miss accidents — we just lost distance to the team we were chasing.

The two hours went by quickly. I checked the computer after we finished and I had gone around 388 times — that over 31 miles….in 130-15-m increments! My fastest time today was 9.520 (.002 faster than my previous best time). Ellen’s record is still a little below that — something to strive for!  I enjoyed the Blue Sky Velo group and asked Doug, the president, to send me the paperwork so I can join the club and start a new chapter in my cycling life.