Jim Brown, 16, on the thrills and spills of being a way cyclist
I live in Holmfirth, West Yorkshire; the Team GB cyclist Ed Clancy lives just down the road. Before London 2012 Id see him out on the roads when I was riding. A few weeks later, he was winning an Olympic gold medal. I recollect watching it on TV and thinking, I want to do that. My papa was a keen track cyclist already and took me along to the Manchester velodrome with him. Three years later “were in” racing against each other.
There are lots of different events on the track, from the scratching race to the Madison. I specialise in the points race: theres a sprint every five laps and you accrue phases by either put in the top four in a sprint or lapping the entire field. Theres a lot to be considered not easy when the adrenaline is flowing and youre running at 45 mph.
Riding inside a velodrome is very different from cycling on the road. The tracks have incredibly steep sides, known as the banking. When youre at the top, youre virtually horizontal I procured it a bit scary at first. In theory, youre just riding in a straight line, but it never get boring. Youre always at the limit of how hard you can go, always scheming your next move. You have to concentrate; theres a lot that can go wrong, especially as the motorcycles dont have brakes you can only slow down by pushing back against the pedals or swinging up the banking.
People often think of cyclists as being skinny, but youve got to be quite muscly to be a track rider. My thighs are pretty big compared with most of my friends. In a phases race, youve got to be able to sprint as hard as you can, rest for five laps, then sprint, over and over again. Towards the end, your legs are on fire.
I love riding on the way, and my daddy loves that Ive got into it. We compete in the same league every Friday. I usually do better Im first overall and hes third but sometimes hell still beat me. Its just nice to be able to race alongside him.
My weekend workout
How often do you ride ? Six hours a week, between the road, the track and the stationary indoor turbo trainer.
How many races have you won ? Ive lost count.
Favourite pre-race dinner ? Im a big fan of my mums pasta with tomato sauce and mozzarella.
Five ways to get started
1 Track cycling is more accessible than ever. There are six indoor velodromes in the UK( Glasgow, Manchester, Derby, London, Newport and Calshot) and outdoor tracks, too. Find your nearest at britishcycling.org.uk.
2 You cant ride your regular road or passenger bicycle on a way, but most velodromes will have motorcycles for hire. Outdoor ways often have a clubs attached which will lend bikes to novices, offer a subsistence network and assist structure your training.
3 Track bikes have a single, fixed gear( you can turn the pedals in both directions, but cant freewheel) and no brakes. To stop, you simply pedal more slowly until you come to a standstill.
4 Track etiquette is similar to driving on the roads. The convention is to pass on the right, always taking care before changing direction. Look over your shoulder, then signal which way you want to move by flicking your elbow.
5 Dont be intimidated by the power and velocity of athletes at the Olympics. Every velodrome has a way league, so you vie against people of a similar level.
Phil West, technical director at Revolution Series
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