David McGaw (Cambridge CC) made his competitive debut on the track piloting me around the National Cycling Centre’s Velodrome in Manchester at the National Championships (27-28th January).
It’s difficult getting track time if you don’t live near a velodrome and it’s something like £130/hour to hire a facility for practise sessions. David wasn’t quite thrown straight into it though as we had managed 2 British Cycling disability hub sessions at the London Olympic track beforehand (see photo’s below). Still, track racing is very technical – especially on a tandem – so 2 sessions isn’t a lot in the grand scheme of things.
Those practise sessions went well however, with David getting used to riding on the boards quickly. We hadn’t been able to do a full race effort though and only completed a few standing starts – which weren’t great, but given David is only 60kg’s and has to handle the weight of the tandem and me, it’s perhaps not surprising this was more tricky!
We were also lucky to receive a superb new track tandem frame from Tank Cycles / Matrix. It’s a mix of carbon and aluminium like the road version, but with a beefed up rear triangle – and of course no brakes! It’s super light yet still stiff enough for high intensity efforts.
Our first race at the championships was the 1km time trial. We had a decent starting effort out of the gate and quickly got up to speed. However David was finding it hard to hold the tandem down on the black line at the bottom of the track even with me leaning in a bit. I was half expecting this as it’s hard enough holding a solo down on the black never mind a tandem and it’s stoker. We ended with a time of 1:18 minutes and finished 9th over-all from 12 pairs, but it was a good hit out before our main event.
The 4km Pursuit would be much more to our liking. We didn’t have quite as good a start this time, but it was enough to get off the line and into to our stride quickly. We rode the first 12 laps ‘conservatively’. This doesn’t mean ‘easy’ just that we pushed hard around the banking to slingshot ourselves out of each bend whilst kind of gliding along each straights for a couple of seconds. This seemed to work well and with 4 laps to go we pushed on giving it full gas for the last 1km with no gliding anywhere to be seen. At the finish we had caught the tandem that started opposite us on the track and posted the fastest 4k time of 4:54 minutes – that’s 30.3mph average. David had ridden a great line throughout our ride. He’d chosen to not use the tai-bars this time, which proved a good move at this stage of his track career.
That was only good enough for 6th place – the factor system in use apparently added 33% onto the women’s times as they ride 3k then they have 12% deducted, which is the amount calculated as being the difference between male and female tandem pairs in Para sport. Got to love factoring…
In the end we decided against riding the 200m time trial. It would have been good fun, but we’d have to wait 7 hours, not get home until 2a.m. the next morning and likely finish way down the rankings due to a mixture of it not being our type of event and the factoring system. Judging by how I felt the next day it was the right devision as I was wrecked anyway.
Over-all it was good competing at the national championships again and it was nice to see so many tandem pairings racing – the most i’ve ever known.
Results can be found here.
Hopefully there will be a chance to do some more track events over the course of this year – it’s great fun and we’ve got that shiny new track tandem to make use of after all!