On my #Road2Rio, I knew that the day would come that I would be thrown onto a tandem bike with no brakes, no shifting and no way to stop pedaling. I would be thrown into a 250m oval shaped “shrine” for cyclists, known as the velodrome. Ben Collins and I would make our firstvisitation to the LA Velo Sports Center in late January and after walking over to the top ledge of the track and looking straight downto the bottom of the track two stories below, I just hoped that this wouldn’t be our last day on Earth.
Of course they don’t make it easy in cycling. It would be too easy to just use your road bike or even components from your road bike. This problem gets worse with tandems, as nothing fits with anything. We would be borrowing the track tandem from the United States Association for Blind Athletes (USABA). I am so thankful that USABA trusts two “deer in headlights” like Ben and I. After mustering up the courage to set foot on the track, we were motivated to stay upright on the bike as we were told, “Try not to crash because if you do you are sure to get MRSA on this track.” Just the words of wisdom I wanted to hear before riding in circles nearly parallel to the ground at 40mph with no brakes.
As we road around the apron (inner lane around the track that is flat), I am sure all of our Para-Cycling National Team teammates were staying way clear as it was two “triathletes” about to enter the holy cycling “shrine”. I am sure video and pictures were taken and uploaded to Facebook and Twitter to uses as comedy material on cycling forums.
We got up to speed and Ben took the leap of faithonto the wooden coaster. Since the velodrome has such a high degree of inclination, you must maintain a minimal speed just to prevent yourself from completely sliding off. It is a physicist’s dream creation where the centripetal force and gravitational pull are the only thing that hold you up on the track. As we rode up the slightly banked straight away and came into our first turn all I could think about was how I would catch my fall when we tumbled to the bottom. We both gripped the bars tightly as if we were on a roller coaster ride preparing for a drop. We both committed the ultimate no-no and looked down as we swooped around the track along the blue line. This led to more anxiety and maybe a few “Oh craps.” The bike got very shaky for a second but then the bike just steered itself down the track and we were out of the turn. We both took a sigh of relief and then received probably the best words we could at the time from new coach Michael Creed and that was “Calm Down!!!” From that point on, the grip on the handlebars became a little looser and my shoulders lowered from my ears. We then began to swoop around the track fairly comfortably and Ben even played around with swooping up to the top and dropping in on the backside. I soon began to have fun on this new found play toy.
Once we played around at lower speeds, it was time to get the canonsloaded for some sprints. We had a few 2K (8 laps) efforts in which we would get up to speeds of 40mph and fly around the turns near parallel to the ground. The first few times around at this speed was scary as you feel though you will either fall to your left or hit your left pedal on the ground. Neither of these things are high probabilities but it feels this was as you go around. We made it throughour first ever sprint on the track without getting MRSA so we were pretty proud of ourselves.
Before we had totally mastered the track, we had one more thing to do and that was learn the track start. This involves loading the bike in the gates, hopping on and trying to keep the bike off the ground as both pilot and stoker stand up and throw down mega Watts to bring the bike up to speed. Our first few starts were not pretty and to be honest the only good thing about them was that we didn’t crash. A good start is all about the timing and rhythm between pilot and stker and at this point we had the rhythm of the local street performerthat knows they are a horrible singer but still goes out there and makes noise anyways. It would be a work in progress but we didn’t have much time as our first race on the track would come just a few weeks later on February 5th and 6th at the US Para-Cycling Track Open at that same Velodrome in Carson, CA.
This was our first run at the holy shrine of cycling. There will be more to come on our #Road2Rio!!!
For those that are in the LA area February 5-6 we would love to have your support so come on by and watch us. Here is the link to the US Track Para-Cycling Open.