Saturday, 12 July 2014

Streetvelodrome

 
It is what is says: a velodrome on a street, a pop-up wooden cycling track, travelling around the country, stopping at parks an squares and opening its doors to everybody. You don't need to be a cyclist, you don't need to have a bike, you just show up and they'll give you everything: a bike, a helmet, arm protectors, explanations and a lot of encouragement and fun.

I came across it on Twitter an decided to give it a go, having no idea what I was getting into. The way it works is that there are 4 teams built of 4 people. Two of them are professional rides assigned permanently to the team and travelling with it across the country to ride in 5 rounds. Each time the street velodrome is open to the public, you can come between 9am and 12am, they'll give all equipment and you give it a go. You can try as many times as you want and they measure your times and put it on the board (each bike has a fancy chip measuring the time to 0.001s I think). Four of the fastest amateurs, both in male and female category, are assigned to teams (three fastest ones qualify automatically and then there's a race between the 4th and 5th one) - you end up with 4 teams of 4 people each. And then the racing begins. There's no point describing the details of racing sequence - you generally go out there every time they call your name and race your guts out :)

I expected it to be fun but was very surprised how much fun it was! I was aching, and grinning, and pedalling, and wondering how is it possible that a few wooden boards can excite you that much. After all how fascinating can it be to ride in circles on a 75m track? The answer is: extremely fascinating! And surprisingly tiring too.

First of all: it was much steeper than it looked in the photos or youtube videos and as I'm terrified of cornering on smooth surfaces (rock gardens on a mountain bike are fine! ), my heart came up to my throat when I stood in front of it. The referee smiled and said "The longer you look at it, the harder it'll get" so I got on the bike and hit the berm. And again and again and again and I didn't want to stop :D It was fan-tas-tic! 
I was delighted to get the fastest amateur time and qualify to the races where I climbed quite high on the score board until I lost the bronze medal by 0.01s but it didn't take anything away from the fun of the day. I was exhausted and happy.

I'm sure a part of the great atmosphere are the people working on Street Velodrome - they are very friendly, helpful and professional. There is all the fancy equipment, timing chips, TV cameras, a guy on a microphone talking all day long without a break (now that's an endurance sport!), loads of spectators, noise and laughter. It all makes you feel like you were a professional rider. And a star! Although I felt like a kid locked inside a giant merry-go-round :D

And it's so unlike anything else! If you have a chance to come along to any of the events - do! If I could do that then so can you!

From September you will be able to see the series on Channel 4, British Eurosport and Sky Sports (plus 27 other channels in over 180 countries). 
And here's their website: www.streetvelodrome.com





Fastest female amateur, oh yeah!
 Calendar:



Round 1: Stevenage
8th June
Held in partnership with Sport Stevenage

Round 2: Ealing
21st / 22nd June
Held in partnership with Ealing Council

Round 3: Harewood House
4th,5th,6th July
Held in partnership with Harewood House Festival of Cyclying

Round 4: Stockton
13th July
Held in partnership with Stockton Borough Council

Round 5: Paisley, Scotland
26th July
Partner host Renfrewshire County Council

Series Finale: Broadgate, City of London 
7th August
 

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