Author Topic: Saw Team GB at the velodrome today  (Read 1005 times)

Rhys W

  • I'm single, bilingual
    • Cardiff Ajax
Saw Team GB at the velodrome today
« on: July 26, 2012, 10:52:47 pm »
Team GB, along with Newport Council (who run the pride of Welsh cycling, the Wales National Velodrome) had organised an open afternoon today, aimed at schools, cycling clubs and anybody who's interested. The tickets were free, as long as you could get through Newport Leisure's labyrinthine booking website (it wouldn't accept my registration, in desperation I tried putting my phone number in the rejected email field and somehow it let me in). The conditions were somewhat draconian:

To ensure the safety and security of all spectators and Team GB,
admittance to the Olympic Track Day will only be permitted for those
registered and by agreeing to the following terms and Conditions:

·        No photographic or videoing equipment is permitted (this
includes camera phones)

·        No bags or loose articles to be brought into the spectators

·        No food or drink to be brought into the spectators area

·        No leaning on or through the track side barriers

·        To adhere to all requests either announced by the public
address system or verbally by team members

·        At the end of your session exit the event promptly by the
designated exit

·        Breach of any of the above will result in the person or
persons being removed from the event with immediate effect

I really didn't want to to have my afternoon spoilt by being ejected from the venue by a G4S thug so I left my iPhone at home. When I got there it had changed to "you're allowed to take photos but no flash" and the woman who issued me with a wristband didn't even check that my name was on the booking list. It wasn't as full as I expected - all the seating was full but we didn't have to walk far to get a gap standing in the perimeter. It felt a bit odd - the crowd were expecting a big show, but the athletes were there to do some specific drills and they tried to carry on as if there was nobody watching them, apart from a little wave as the circled the track warming down.

The session today was the sprinters (Chris Hoy, Jason Kenny, Phillip Hindes), female sprinters (Victoria Pendleton and Jess Varnish) and women's team pursuit (Joanna Rowsell, Dani King, Wendy Houvanhagel and Laura Trott). It was all very structured and disciplined - a rider or riders would come out and do something very specific, warm down, and the next would be up. All under the gaze of the sports scientists with their video cameras, laptops and laser-based (I'm guessing, definitely a beam of some sort) timing equipment. Some of it seemed to be flying laps, probably intended for sprint qualifying, and there was quite a bit of motorpacing. Strange to see an "ordinary" motorbike on the track as opposed to a proper Derny piloted by a fat Belgian with an impressive moustache, the only concession being a roller behind the back wheel. The motorpacing was hugely impressive as they wound up the speed. A blur of lycra-clad Scottish muscle and carbon fibre within touching distance at 50km/h is not a sight you're likely to forget.

The Team Sprint teams did a couple of practice starts - just out of the gate and get the second rider on the wheel... and sit up. Extremely specific, like I said. The Women's Team Pursuit did a couple of sessions which were only 2km or 2.5km, and they also did a session which I think was 2km but with a flying start instead of the gate. For all these they had 4 riders and the one at the back left a gap for the pulling-off rider to slot into, effectively 3 riders and a passenger. I don't know what the role of the 4th rider was or why she was allowed to be a passenger... I did wonder if riding with the 4th rider would disrupt their training, and how the 4th rider's performance fits in - if she's called up to ride, is she up to it as much as the main 3?

The seated crowd were entertained and educated by my erstwhile clubmate Courtney, manager of the velodrome and father of Sky neo-pro Luke Rowe. I learnt a couple of interesting facts today about the bikes, straight from the horse's mouth (well, almost). It was very strange indeed, to be in the same room as all those people who I'd watched in that Victoria Pendleton documentary last week - Scott Gardner, Shane Sutton, Paul Manning, Steve Peters the psychiatrist, Ernie the legendary mechanic... Interesting to see sprint coach Jan van Eiden riding around on his own (presumably for fun) in a Team GB skinsuit but on a classically-German FES bike.  My friend said to me "damn, I wish I'd studied Sports Science instead of computers, I could be in there now with a laptop!"

They finished at about 5:30, by then almost all the spectators had left, yet still Sir Chris Hoy rode round a couple of times on his road bike thanking us all for the support. Sheer class - if ever anybody deserved a knighthood it's him. Outside the velodrome they couldn't move for the 100 or so kids who wanted their autographs. I watched them for 15 minutes and they were still obliging and smiling for photographs.