Podium at Herne Hill. NLTCBMBC Thundertrack 

Today I set out having had about two/three hours sleep. From being sunburnt the other day – more fool me, haven’t ever been that burnt even from working outside for 15 years – I have some slight nerve damage in my back and on my shoulders. And a constant itching that makes me want to tear strips out of my skin.
I arrived at Herne Hill far too early for the NLTCBMBC, and felt that rubbish I actually had a sleep in my car.
I was quitely excited and a bit worried, never having ridden on a banked track before. But more than willing to give it a go.
Phil Booth arrived first, shortly followed by Alex Cook who had offered me the use of his track bike. Until he arrived, I thought he was riding – but no, he was being brilliantly kind and standing in as soigneur/DS.
Being the awesome mechanic he is, we had the bike set up in a few minutes, and he encouraged me to go out and spin around the flat kiddies track to get a feel for it. I think my smile said it all.

A bit nervous, worried but happy. Really happy to have friends like this around. Phil reassured me more than one, and I needed it.
Eventually I got myself signed on, as more and more people turned up. We were joined by Jo Smith and her partner Rob.
I eventually unearthed the days schedule: Scratch (11 laps for us B’s). Kerin. Elimination. Points.
Then I had a brief session with Phil warming up on the track. Look before you move, flick the elbow to let them know your moving. Always look. Angle of the bank is the same at the top as at the bottom.

My advice is be aware at all times; of who and what is around you.

Men’s B’s were up first and with Phil riding in that group, I was able to keep an eye on what was going on as I rode a few warm laps in the center of the track. With it being windier than normal, I knew it was going to be hard. Alex’s advice – you need to go faster…

Then it was our turn. With only 7 of us in the B group, I managed a quick chat with some of the others as we waited patiently in the holding area.

A couple of deep breaths as we were called up and sat on the fence. Nerves had long gone. Just focusing on what was happening there and then. Then the race was on. As its a group of people I had never ridden with before, I was a bit wary, but knew I would be on the front shortly. The front rider flicked up and moved off, then the second. Then I was on the front, being careful not to do too much. Then a glance behind, a flick and I’m up and letting the next few come past me. I tuck into the back, briefly losing a gap before regaining it. We rotated rather well, and it began to get harder and harder being on the front as it got windier. Totally focused on the wheel in front and how the rider was acting, it was only on the last couple of laps I started to drop of the back. They quickly dropped another girl, who I then focused on and managed to come around her in the back straight before we finished. I might not have finished in the bunch, but I was really pleased at how it had gone.

I felt tired after that. Sitting down and chilling as I watched the men’s A’s and then the women’s A’s take their turns. It’s great to be there with friends, supportive and encouraging they help me to believe that I can do better. Having them talk through a bit after the race like a coach would do is invaluable. If I could have had the strength to hold that wheel a bit longer, I would have done.

Next race was the Kerin. We had a practice go at it, and I knew I would have to save my strength – so as the derny pulled off I didn’t put all of my effort into it. Knowing I would need it later.

Then it was the Elimination or Devil Takes The Hindmost. It was to be a rider out every lap until the last three. As soon as the whistle went, I found myself out the back. Holding the last wheel, I was able to move up in the back straight and around the top corner. Making sure I was in easily. Then I did it again. And again. And just held on so four were out. I was in the last three and really struggling. As we came to the top corner they pulled away, not a lot, but enough that they were well clear. Again it was a hell of a learning curve. And I was over the moon to have been placed!

Kerin proper was next. Only five of us lined up, and as the derny pulled off I was getting dropped. I finished the race wondering if my legs had it in them for the points race!

I lined up for the points race with very heavy legs, hung grimly on for a few laps before getting shelled out the back like I was shot. Not entirely sure how I managed to stop! 

I had already heard rumours there was another race; so made the most of resting for a bit then turning the pedals around for a few laps before Alex attempted to teach me how to track stand which kept ending in me laughing madly and him even cracking a smile. 

Unfortunately I’m not very good, and kept giggling. I get the basics of it and understand how, but it’s obviously something that takes practice! 

I lined up with Jo Smith, Keira McVitty and one other. All experienced top class riders and way out of my league! So when the whistle went we ambled around to the section of the track we had to stop in. I rode slower and slower, getting teased by the judge who told me to keep going, and eventually rolled past Keira and gave up just upsides Jo…. who promptly over balanced behind me and followed me out. Then they blew the whistle…

Picture courtesy of Phil Booth 

I cannot thank Alex enough, letting me borrow his track bike, setting it up, keeping me laughing even when I was completely knackered and trying very hard to put up with teaching me to track stand. You, my lovely, are a superstar. A proper mate as well. Much appreciated and rather humbled.

Phil, you’re a diamond too. You’re encouragement is exactly what I needed – especially when I wasn’t sure about riding it at all. 

Medway Velo has been so supportive and I hope I did them proud today. Huge thanks to Jo and Rob for being supportive too.

Here’s to grasstrack next weekend where I will be with the best group of people I’ve met!

#keepsmiling 

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