The Spoke October 12, 2013

Cycling around Senlis (Part 3 - Beyond the Velodrome)

Cycling around Senlis (Part 3 - Beyond the Velodrome)

This account is broken into two parts; one false start and the actual ride. Another opportunity to cycle around Senlis presented itself and I was determined to find the Velodrome. I had looked on the Senlis Velo Clubs website (only at the pictures obviously, since it was written in the native tongue), and it definitely warranted a visit. It was a 'proper' banked track (unlike Preston Park, Brighton) and courtesy of some persistence on my part, I finally managed to work out where it was located. It was probably only 2 km from my hotel, on the way out of Senlis on the N1017. Perfect. I put the bike in the car (instead of using the Saris), even managing to avoid getting oil on my work shirts hanging up. The car was now packed and ready (or so I thought) and off I went to France.

>> Fast Forward to Tuesday evening >>

I had been looking forward to my bike ride all day. I quickly changed, found my helmet, sunglasses, Garmin, gloves, battery for the lights.....but no shoes. Strange, must have left them in the car. I looked in the car again. In fact, I turned the car upside down. No. They were not in the car. In fact, they were not in France at all. I was standing barefoot, ready to ride, with no <> shoes. I was not happy. This was the second time I had forgotten them. In Senlis, as well - idiot! I wasn't going to even going to attempt to cycle with trainers. Can you imagine how much laughter there would be at the velodrome if the 'roast beef' turned up in all the kit but without his shoes. It was not viable. The velodrome would have to wait one more I walked into town and had a beer and a pizza.........

Later on…..

It's now the beginning of September, but you would not know that from the weather. It was simply glorious. The bike and all my kit had arrived in Senlis again. It was going to be third time lucky. I'd finished work and was quickly on the road. With the confidence of a local, I rode towards Rue de Chantilly. At the somewhat confusing 5 point junction, I turned right and found myself opposite the military cemetery. On the other side of the road, was the velodrome.

It was empty other than a family playing football in the middle of the track. It didn't look like I'd turned up on club night. It was baking hot. I navigated my way down to the track and started rolling round. I had not ridden on a proper banked circuit before and it was fun. The first thing I noticed was the track surface. On the steepest bank some patching had been done and it was not at all smooth. Back straight was ok, but for a few bumps where the concrete sections joined each other. Final bend was in good shape, as was the straight that ran past the spectator stand. I took it steady, deciding what I was actually going to do here now I had arrived and what the best line was. The conditions were perfect for cycling. Noticing a smashed bottle on the track I picked as much glass as I could and made a mental note of it’s location. That was enough preparation, it was time for action.

32 km round the track would do it. I reckoned the track was about 300 meters in circumference, so it would be roughly 100 laps of the track. I wanted to see how consistently I could ride so the Garmin would be a helpful aid. 100 laps. It sounded quite a lot. I also wanted to see if I could manage that distance in less than an hour.

Utterly predictably, I went off too quickly. A couple of laps in and my legs and lungs were burning. I was pushing round at about 38 km an hour, a completely unsustainable pace for me. I calmed down, finding a high tempo but steady rhythm. I tracked the Garmin readout. It didn't take long to work out that the track was slightly longer than 300 meters (it's actually 1/3rd of a kilometre). Nevertheless, it was still helpful to have the 300 meter marker go off each time. My pace had reduced to between 33 and 35 km but this was a rate I could maintain for an hour. My marker was 32 km to travel in an hour.

Riding round and round and round was becoming monotonous. I enjoyed it in a weird way because it was different to anything else I'd done, but it was very repetitive. I was not even half way through. It was dawning on me that this would be a tougher mental challenge than a physical one. The physical effort would be keeping me focussed, but if I let my mind wander I would be in trouble. I thought back to how I used to row for an hour, segmenting 60 minutes into 4 and then dicing the quarter into 3. Keep the target short term. Monitor your breathing and your speed. Keep control. Concentrate. This method was tried and tested. It would work.

Head down, the half hour marker was my first target. To be on track, I needed to have ridden at least 16 km when I went through 30 minutes. 17.2 km. Great! +1.2km. 34.4 km as the potential elasped hour distance. Now the challenge was to sustain that.

Typically, the 3rd sector in any event I find is the hardest. You've gone over half way but the legs are hurting and full distance is still some way away. In my view, this is the toughest part of any hour timed Event. 15 minutes. 3 x 5 minutes. Concentrate.

I wanted to stop, but it was not a serious consideration. I kept my head down, almost in a trance, racing round the circuit on my own. A couple of people were watching for the side. I think they must have thought I'd lost my mind. I just kept riding round and round, at the same consistent speed and occasionally grunting at myself. Soon, Garmin told me there was 10 minutes to go. I was -

A) still on target for 32 km + and

B) just very slightly off the 34.4 km pace I had set at the half way point

It was looking promising.

I focussed on maintaining my speed, achieving the right line on the bends and pushing hard down each straight.

I knew every bump, every join, every minor blemish on the track.

I was watching every second tick away.

I was in the zone.

5 minutes to go. Push harder. Breathe harder. Sweat was streaming off my brow. My shoulders were aching. My legs were aching. I was gunning for the line. I figured I could get maybe 12 more laps in.

I checked each lap off my mental list as I went past the start/finish line. 2 minutes to go. More laps accrued. I'm down to the last minute. Time for a flying lap. I got out of the saddle to provide a burst of power and sat down after 10 revolutions, pumping my legs as hard as I could. Lactic built quickly and I slowed alittle. Keep going, keep going. The end was in sight. I raced around the bend with only seconds left. I would not finish the lap but I would go beyond 34 km.


34.2km. I had done it.

I slowed to a halt and caught my breathe. That had been a hard ride. I think somewhere during the hour I had gone a bit mad, riding continuously in a circle. It had proven harder than I expected, but was pleased with my efforts. I had earned my pizza that night.

Now I knew where the velodrome was in Senlis and I could genuinely claim to have had a 'proper' ride around it. Looking on the internet later that night I discovered more velodromes in the locality. It crossed my mind that maybe I should investigate those as well. Make it a Northern France velodrome project. I'll keep you posted on my progress.


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