I’ve ridden lots of different bikes, in lots of different places. But this is the first time I’ve ridden fixed gear. With no brakes. On a wooden track that slopes to over 40 degrees in the banking.
But this isn’t just any wooden track - this is the Olympic Velodrome. It’s immediately familiar. I’ve spent hours watching Hoy, Wiggins, Pendleton, Trott and many more speed round. Only a few days before my ride, the world championships were filling the place to the rafters.
It’s a different feel today. No crowd and instead of sitting in the gods cheering I’m stood in the middle of the track. Watching the big screen, waiting for my turn to record a flying lap time.
We’ve already had an hour or so of coaching. Learning how to move across the blue boards of the ‘Côte d'Azur’ and speed round the track. Taking just enough speed to hold an improbably high line near the top of the vertiginous banking. I adjust my seat again. In my mind channelling the great Eddy Merckx, though in reality it’s just nerves.
Then I’m off. Slowly at first. Building up speed so I can take the bend as high as possible and then swoop down to the start line. Legs pumping, gripping too tight to the bars.
Down over the line and into the first bend. I’m trying to hold the black line and ride the shortest distance. In my excitement and enthusiasm I’m way above the line. Up near the red, riding too far as I catapult into the back straight. Then round the final bend and I’m already facing the finish line, one last effort and I’m done. I’m breathing so hard that I’m not able to look up and see my time. I slow down and drift back into the middle of the track, as the next rider starts their charge.
My time is pretty terrible, but that’s ok. I’ve ridden the Olympic velodrome and I’ve got a few pointers about where I went wrong. I’ll be back to take some laps soon.