On Saturday I took part in Cycling Ireland track training day and to my surprise found it to be great fun. The only track in Ireland is a slightly makeshift affair, outdoors and surfaced with tarmac rather than a fancy velodrome, but its 10 minutes from my house and having shallower banking than normal makes it a good place to learn. We began with an accreditation session to learn how to ride the bikes safely – there is no free-wheeling, no gears and no brakes and you ride very close together so it takes some getting used to.
After a morning of riding around in circles and some elbows out skills sessions we were thrown into the deep-end with a training session involving several different track disciplines. First up, flying start sprints, here you get a lap to build up speed and are timed for the last 250m. This requires a lot of skill to know how much speed to carry, how to use the banking of the track to help you, and when to attack, so a few practice runs would be useful. Next a short standing start sprint that means heaving the bike to get up to speed before powering to the finish over a distance that is barely long enough for the pain to register. Third was four laps at the fastest speed possible, a painful interval session that could get quite addictive in trying to knock split seconds off your time. Finally the most exciting, a 12 lap keirin, a bunch race (still no brakes and riding very close together!) that if done properly should involved lots of aggressive racing and attacks as people try to breakaway on the short laps. For this I was a bit too cautious, waiting for more experienced riders to attack and then following, so missed the winning break at the end – next time attacking is the way to go!
To do any of these events well involves quite a lot of skill, the tiniest mistake or mistiming can cost split seconds which make all the difference (youtube tutoring may be in order before I return!). It seems that track could like a condensed version of road racing with more action, excitement, and technical skills. I’d certainly recommend heading down to Sundrive to give it a try!