I'm not sure if you noticed, but over the summer break I became quite protective of the track racing I know and love - mostly because I wasn't able to do it. I decided that in my absence from racing I'd do as much as I could to spread the word around. For the most part, it's been pretty fun. Actually, all of it has been pretty fun. I specifically targeted the good readers of Cycling Tips Blog, however, as I knew there were cyclists there who were interested in track, had probably seen it on the TV, and maybe even knew one or two of the serious names, but hadn't yet made the jump themselves. I figured that these folks just needed to hear a couple more stories about having fun on the track, about how tight and fast and rad it is to race, and they'd all of a sudden have the urge to wander down to DISC on a Tuesday night.
Maybe that's you. Maybe you checked out the Christmas Carnivals article, then clicked through to here, and then in turn clicked on that DISC link. Maybe you thought you'd go down and watch at first. So you wandered down to the butt-end of Thornbury and into the world class velodrome that was built for the 2006 Commonwealth Games. You sat in one of the multicoloured chairs and looked out into the floodlights, the advertising signs, the intimidating banks of polished pine. There's no way in hell you'd be able to get up to the top of those goddamn things, you remember thinking. But then you sat a little longer, and watched as first little kids - those young 'uns know no fear - and then slightly portly older gentlemen do exactly that. They rolled around for about a lap, then swung up high, allowing the bunch to roll past in a line, then stuck back on to the back. Five or six laps later they raced, and one of them won.
As the night goes on you saw more races, some faster, some slower, but at the end of the night was that first race that stuck with you. You remembered that some of them didn't look all that fit, some of them didn't handle their bikes so great, and some of them didn't win. And eventually you found yourself thinking that if they could do it, so could you.
So you did. You went down to the track, talked to the rego desk, lined up a club bike to use. You didn't even have to buy your own track bike - you just borrowed the club's, and provided your own shoes and pedals. You fiddled around with the bike for ages, adjusting the seat, pumping the tyres, looking at the gears. When your grade was called you put on your helmet, looked around a bit - to make sure you weren't the first, or the last guy - then rolled up to the fence. You were shitscared.
But then the commissaire told you to roll out. You pushed one foot, then the other. You rolled up on to the blue part of the track and waited for the whistle to blow. When it finally did the race was on. You were on the track, chasing the guy in front of you, not thinking about the fear or sliding down the track on your ass in front of all of these people. You were just chasing. And it hurt. Those guys were fast. When you did your turn on the front you kept the pace up, mostly because you didn't want anyone to yell at you. Then you swung up, looked out over the infield and thought to yourself, "Holy shit, I'm doing it."
Eventually there was only one lap to go. The bell rang, and you sprinted your guts out, but someone else came around the top of you and took the win from under you. You eventually rolled down the track and tried to catch your breath. The guy who beat you came around and shook your hand. You exchanged pleasantries and mentioned it's your first time. He tried to make you feel better about not winning, but in your head you were only thinking, "Next time, mate, you're going down."
From then on you were there every week. You moved up the grades, bought your own bike, had more and more fun. And then eventually you found yourself not being able to race, for one reason or another, and so you took it upon yourself to spread the fun around.
Which leaves us nicely where we are right now.