An open invite from the Bury Clarion to attend a track training session held at the Manchester Velodrome went out to other Clarion members and the North Cheshire Clarion with myself and Anthony rallied to the call. I set out a little early because of the media predictions of travel chaos over the bank holiday weekend so I and my son Adam arrived an hour early - the roads were clear after all. Arriving really early gave us the opportunity to watch the previous session as they raced around the 'drome. Don't ask me what was going on but but there was some serious speed flying around and although I didn't recognise any of the riders one bloke came off the track with the name of Chris Pritchard on his top tube, who's Chris Pritchard? apparently he's been selected to represent Scotland at the 2010 Commonwealth games in Delhi, did we witness some medal winners practising?
Our turn now and all 14 from Bury, Stockport and North Cheshire Clarions gather around our coach as she explains the exercises she wants us to perform. Myself and Ant are not accredited unlike the majority riding today but we want to be so ask coach if she can put us through our paces towards getting on the accreditation ladder.
She explains what she wants us to do and sends us on our way. After 15 minutes or so she's confident that we will fit in OK with the more experienced track riders and has us join them. During the rest of the session we are put through some gruelling exercises with little opportunity for any real rest between exercise. One of the exercises involved having two groups of seven riding at a constant pace half a lap apart and when coach blew her whistle the first two from each group had to sprint off the front to catch up with the other group and tag onto the back of it. The pace of this this exercise was just about manageable cruising the blue line for a few laps until it came time for my own effort at a sprint and that was hard really hard work to catch up to the group half a lap in front with my heart feeling that it was about to explode and it was a great relief to catch up with the group for a breather for a few laps before I found myself on the front again and had to do it all over again and again and again, this went on for maybe 30 minutes before the next exercise....
Here's a shot of yours truly on the front of this group riding the blue line during one of the exercises awaiting the coaches whistle...
And again sprinting off the front at the whistle dropping down to the black line.
All the various exercises were typically ridden at a fast pace (for me) throughout and towards the end, the last 15 minutes I was starting to tire. We stopped with 10 minutes left on the clock and I thought (hoped) she would now give us a chat and send us on our way but nooo she had one final exercise for us to do and that involved the whole group riding on the blue line at I think I heard her say 42 kph (approx 26mph) and upping the pace every lap. I lasted 5 minutes and called it a day as my legs were feeling like lead now after that last short break and couldn't keep up the speed so I eased off for a couple of laps before hanging up my bike for the session. With the fast pace we had all been riding at for nearly 2 hours my legs were now well and truly stuffed; at around the hour and a half mark the session had flipped from being challenging fun to a real battle of willpower over the fatigue developing quickly in my legs.
Here's a video filmed by my son of one of the exercises, one in which was run at 'recovery' pace but with the blow of a whistle whoever was on the front had to sprint off. I'm on the back in this so had already done mine.
On reflection the session was fun and interesting but combined with a real challenge both fitness wise and tactically. Coach came over to myself and Anthony for a chat at the end of the session and said we did really well and that she would be happy to ride alongside us on the track - high praise indeed, and we had achieved the first 'blue slip' level. She also pointed out that the whole session was ridden at a higher pace than normal and no wonder we were shattered, then we find out why the high pace when we discover that many riding today were training for the Clarion track Championships being held next week!!!
We had great fun as well as a great workout and we will be back for our next step towards accreditation but can it wait a few weeks so our legs can well and truly heal from the onslaught that was inflicted on us today?
Photo's from today