A New Beginning


A New Beginning


I’m stood at the bottom of the track which rises steeply up and away into the banking. There’s an instructor talking but his words drift past me off into the vast space. He’s speaking French, very quickly with urgency in his voice that suggests the information he’s imparting is important and crucial to our continued well being. My nerves are rising, I’m understanding very little, the odd word here and there. I’m starting to wonder what I’m doing here… what the hell am I doing here?

James and I are in Aigle, home of the UCI and the Velodrome of the world Cycling Centre. What better place to start my track cycling career, or so I’d thought. For some reason I’d not until this point considered the complexities or the etiquette involved in riding the track safely, the basic rules that would keep me and my fellow beginners in one piece and the fact that my French is pretty poor at the best of times!

A quick introduction to the intricacies of a track bike- there aren’t any. A brief but intense explanation of how to ride the Velodrome  without killing ourselves or anybody else and we’re off, let loose on the track. Gently to start with, getting a feel for the bike, the lack of brakes and the fixed wheel. If the wheels are turning so are the pedals, stop pedalling and you will be kicked off.

The first lap, riding on the flat we pass under the banking, rising up at either end to 47 degrees it feels imposing and intimidating towering above us at a seemingly impossible angel. The bike feels good and with plenty of space our confidence grows. Lap two and we’re gradually creeping onto the banking taking brief exploratory moments, teasing ourselves with the possibility, testing our courage, understanding the theory but not sure if we quite believe.

With our confidence growing we’re consistently on the walls, circling the lower banking but steadily creeping higher. There are no doubts any more, I’m converted and I truly believe. It feels like nothing else.

James is on my wheel and I feel a competitiveness creeping in. I want to go fast, as fast as I can. With my lungs burning like they’re being ripped out through my throat and my head buzzing I take a high line into the banking. Up to the top, close to the barriers and the load through the pedals grows and grows. I begin to drop, aiming low into the straight and there’s a feeling of weightlessness the pedals becoming lighter beneath my feet. I push harder as I fall, the acceleration is intense, a smile spreading across my face, uncontrollable. I’m laughing, I can’t help it and I don’t want to.

I’ve never been here before but I can’t help feeling like I’ve come home.

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