Frightening, exhausting, thrilling – Manchester Velodrome shows what Derby can expect

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It is only a matter of months before the Derby Arena opens so we took a trip to the National Cycling Centre in Manchester to see what the city has to look forward to.

“WHATEVER you do, don’t stop pedalling.”

That is the main piece of advice as I and five other newbies push off from the rail at the Manchester Velodrome.

I am here on a taster session for people who have never been on a cycling track before.

The Thursday lunch time that I have chosen is well attended, with 12 cyclists of varying ages and genders taking to the boards, which form the home of Team GB’s Olympic athletes.

Half of the group have already completed their first session and are quickly on to the track warming up.

The rest of us track virgins nervously clip ourselves into the pedals of our bikes and grip the barrier to stop ourselves from toppling over.

Brian Ormroyd, our coach for the hour-long session, takes us through the various safety instructions – always look over your shoulder being a key one – before we are set off on our inaugural ride.

The first lap is on the concrete just so that we can get used to the feel of the fixed gear bike.

Having a fixed wheel means there are no gears, no brakes and, even more importantly, no ability to freewheel.

If you stop pedalling the back wheel will lock and, as Brian points out: “If you do it while you are on the banking, then it will kick you off.”

It is that banking that really takes your breath away as you make your way into track area.

At 42.5 degrees, you would struggle to walk up it without a pair of crampons and the idea of pedalling fast enough around the 250 metre-long track to keep upright seems almost impossible.

With the first lap over, the six of us come to a wobbly stop using the barrier as a brake to halt the Dolan hire bikes upon which we are perched.

After a quick breather and a few more words of advice from Brian, we take to the wood of the actual track on what is called the côte d’azur, due to its light blue colouring.

The feel of the material at the very bottom of the track is much different to the concrete and there is a slight bank but nothing in comparison to what looks akin to a wall on the corners rising up a good 20 feet above our heads.

Once we have got a feeling for the bike and the wood surface, it is time to head out on to the track proper.

First we take on the straights, where the slope is shallower before we attempt to tackle the corners.

Brian said: “When you are in the banking, you need to be going at a reasonable speed.

“If you don’t, then the bike will start to slide down the track and we don’t want that.”

Heading out on to the straight, always making sure to check over my shoulder for riders coming up behind, I am out on to the track and the banking is coming up fast.

I put a bit more power into the pedals to make sure there is no chance of sliding down the slope and I am on to the banking.

There is no need to lean the bike; the camber of the corner guides you round and before you know it you have shot out on to the straight.

There are six others in the session that have already completed the taster session and are already happily cycling round further up the track. It is a disconcerting feeling being overtaken by someone and only seeing their feet whirring past a few feet from your head.

I and the five other novices come back to a halt in front of Brian and I have a wide grin spread right across my face.

“What did you think of that then?” said Brian. “It is the best thing I have ever done!” is my breathless reply.

Turning to the rest of the group, Brian explained that we were now free to use the rest of the time on the track.

He said: “If you can keep around the blue line further up the banking and no higher, then that would be great.”

We spend the next half an hour or so whizzing round the track, occasionally stopping for water – the air in the stadium is dry and hot and quickly makes your mouth dry.

The feeling of climbing the corners is amazing and keeping to the lines is much tougher than it looks on the television.

Once I have racked my bike and returned my borrowed shoes, I head to the canteen for some lunch, where I bump into Brian, who explained how he got into coaching.

He said: “I started instructing after I brought my lad down to the start on the track.

“I had been on a taster session myself and had enjoyed so thought he would too. He has long since gone but I’m still here!”

The track is just getting over the rush from the 2012 London Olympics and are expecting another increase in numbers from the upcoming Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

I have a wander round the centre, which also includes a BMX track and an outdoor trail as well. Back in the velodrome, the British Cycling squad are training for their trip over the border.

There at the bottom is a long-legged man in a cap with a very distinctive face – Sir Bradley Wiggins. As he and his team-mates come flying past I can barely contain my excitement for the opening of the Derby Arena and the chance to have an incredible facility on my doorstep.

Original article from derby telegraph

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