Le Grand Depart

Herne Hill velo, 06/03/10

And so after the working party last weekend in SE24, early Saturday morning and we were ready to roll out for another season of outdoor track cycling at Herne Hill Velo.


I’ve got big plans for this season: to try and finish it. It’s a hell of a long stretch from the Ides of March, all the way through until the autumnal days of October.

In-between there will no doubt be days when the weather gets the better of us, and with larger plans looming elsewhere come the end of summer, best to make hay ‘n all that.

If you have told the fine folk at VCL three weeks ago that we would be rolling out in rotation on Saturday morning, you would have been suspected of having taken a particularly bad knock to the head without wearing a bicycle helmet.

But woh – where did that cold snap go? Bright blue South London skies awaited my arrival at Herne Hill. The track looked splendid following the spring clean last week.

I really think the new racing schedule is going to work well this season. 9-10 am for the juniors removes the novices from bunching with the kids, as well as keeping the track clear for the intermediates only at 10am.

Ah yes, the intermediates. This is the banding of which I’m supposed to belong in. Technically a veteran, but still hanging on to hopes of Herne Hill glory.

Shortly after 10am, I cleated my ride, and rolled out nervously around the first bank. It was like I had never been away. The first breakaway group got my heart rate up. By the second and I could feel the blood pumping through every vein in my body. This is what it’s all about. It’s got to be better than the weekly supermarket shop on a Saturday morning.

Holding back the novice riders until after the intermediates, also allows VCL to experiment with the schedule. Bumps and Lumps was a new discipline for me, and one which I found rather hairy.

You follow the lead rider in a single string, as a route up and down is weaved all the way around the historic Herne Hill track. The thinking is to improve your awareness and handling abilities. The reality for me was that I almost ended up with a bump and a lump.

Rotation finished the first session of the season – a ride of stamina as the pace picks up with each lap. This was more like it, although I bonked as the pelaton broke away for a sprint finish.

But it’s early days down in SE24. I’ve got seven months in which to refine my track riding skills. There is much work to do.

It’s surprising how smooth the transition from road racing to the track is. You soon remember the small things, such as the idiosyncratic track hand signals, or the need to stick with the pack, else suffer the fate of bonking alone on the banks.

Come midday, and I de-cleated and hit the shakes. From my shoulders down to my fingernails, my arm and hands were in freefall. The cycle back to Sunny Stockwell on the Moulton had a fair share of bumps and lumps along the way.

Same again next Saturday.


Herne Hill velo, 06/03/10

Herne Hill velo, 06/03/10

Herne Hill velo, 06/03/10

Herne Hill velo, 06/03/10

Herne Hill velo, 06/03/10

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