York Cycleworks club were lucky enough to have use of Manchester Velodrome just 24 hours after the likes of Mark Cavendish and Laura Trott were tearing up the boards at the Revolution round 5 meet. After having not coached practical on the track since September when we finished sessions in York for the winter, I was looking forward to this as much as the riders. We had 15 riders of differing abilities split into 3 groups allowing those who had never been on the track before (and one who had never ridden a drop handlebar bike) to learn the basics of handling a fixed wheel bike (yes you can't stop pedalling on the track) and those with more experience to practice and learn new skills as well as getting a bit of a work out.
It was probably the first time since September that all of the riders had a chance to ride their bikes without the entourage of jackets, leg warmers, over shoes, skull caps, gloves and every other layer you have to put on through the Great British winter and a welcome opportunity to pull the short sleeve jersey out from the back of the wardrobe. It was great to watch a collection of blue, red, orange and black stripes riding around the venue that has seen the development of many world class British riders.
The goal of the session was to work on bunch racing skills and ultimately end up having a bit of a race at the end. The intermediates race was won by experienced track rider and team rider Simon Donoghue (special thanks to Simon for helping to organise the session also) who timed his effort perfectly to win it on the line after chasing down the early break, another special mention to YCW coached rider Liz Burns who came from nowhere to take third place ahead of most of the guys. The beginners had a flying lap race and each set themselves a 250m time that they can aim to beat the next time they go.
It is no secret that riding on the track will enhance your bike handling skills and tactical awareness no matter what your normal discipline is and it is incredibly satisfying for me as a coach to see the progress riders are able to make in such a short time on the track. At first the imposing banking is daunting and the lack of brakes can make riders nervous but the low lap time around a velodrome means you get much more feedback from the coach than you would in another environment, this combined with the adrenaline of riding at a high intensity most of the time is perhaps why I love to coach track riding as much as I love riding it.
It is always good for riders to experiment with different disciplines to expand their skills and knowledge and winter is a perfect time to do this when it can be hard to find the motivation to go out and train. I will be coaching practical again few weeks time, this time with Jack Clarkson who not only just finished 3rd at the National Cyclocross Championships in Shrewsbury but has also been selected to represent GB at the World Championships at the end of this month, this time we are swapping the wood of Manchester for the mud of York Sport to hone your cyclocross skills. I am looking forward to coaching with Jack as he is a very experienced rider with a lot of knowledge to offer.
If came along and enjoyed the session at Manchester or missed the opportunity and fancy a go at riding the track, come along to the Velodrome in York this spring and summer and have a go. I for one can't wait to be coaching and riding the track again.
Words - Rob Stanley
Pictures kindly provided by Simon Donoghue