Wednesday 9 March 2016

The View from Track Centre

Early morning practise day 1 at the Track World Champs 2016
 Having spent all of last week helping out at the Track World Championships at Lea Valley Velodrome I thought I might share the view from Track centre. Unfortunately volunteers are not allowed to stand around snap chatting with the great and the good so its more of an insight and I'm sure you've all been there and ridden round anyway - however some other kind bodies took some photos so here they are.

Mark Cavendish about to launch into a flying lap practise.
So why volunteer? Well I know only too well that without people offering up their time none of the events we organise at CCH would happen and it seems it'd the same at World Championship level. I'm sure some of those helping out were there for the glamour of bumping into the big names of track cycling, or saw it as way of seeing the event for free, or maybe just making sure they got a ticket - who knows? We were kitted out in cool shirts and fed and given free tickets for when we weren't on shift. I have to admit I wasn't there for entirely altruistic reasons. I went hoping to learn as much as I could by watching everything that went on in track centre and on the track - with  the idea being I feed this into coaching at our track sessions or at the Eastern Track School sessions.

Mark Cavendish about to do his TT effort in the omnium - with yours truly on the back stopping him from dragging it around the track...

My main task for the week was as one of the starting gate operators. The starting gates are the red frames you see getting dragged in and out when there are pursuits, team sprints and most timed track events. They are attached by cable to the timing devices which release the pads holding the riders back wheel in place once the countdown reaches zero. Weighing around 70kg they take some moving even if they do have wheels. Getting them up onto the track and into the correct position takes a bit get used to.

Laura Trott about to set off in the omnium TT - this time theirs two of us on the gate as the track had stared to get uneven
and the GB coaches didn't want her wobbling out of the gate.
Once the rider's helper has presented the bike a few hopefully quick adjustments take place to secure its wheel and seat post . Most of the time it goes well but there are a couple of team coaches that are always picky about the set up and that puts pressure on the operators to act quickly. (Australia and GB if you must know - I suppose its the attention to detail that helps them win). The pressure is due to everything being on a very tight schedule for the live television feed. Once the bike is set and the rider is on the bike the countdown begins and the gate operator stands on the rear to stop the rider dragging the gate away if they start too early. In the men's kilo event two people stand on the back as those big sprinters would probably drag it all the way round with just one guy on the back.

Once the rider has set off the gate has to be taking off the track and out of the way as soon as can be especially if its the team sprints - those guys cover half a lap fairly quickly... Then its a matter of repeat until all the heats are done. Those of you who were there know how hot it is during championships inside the velodrome so we were consuming litres of water in between getting the gate out and in.

Laura Trott on her flying lap- viewed from the volunteer seating area.

When we weren't needed on the gates there was time to look around at all the amazing kit getting used and watch the mechanics set up the bikes. I reckon the mechanics must have been on 20 hour shifts each day and they never stop working on the bikes. the Australian pen was the closest to where I was normally stood and I liked the look of their gold plated sprockets - reduced resistance on the chain. In the Canadian pen they had a turbo rig built out of an old steel bike frame with no rear wheel - just three chain rings one on each side of the cranks and another on the front wheel - it looked mad but it must work as they had a pretty good week. The german TT bikes were pretty amazing things to look at too.

Aussie mechanic

Starting Gate

French team Look machines

German TT bike

GB bikes

Rolling out the gate

Pete the derny driver

The crazy Canadian turbo gizmo

For me the other top bits of kit were the Azerbaijani team manager's snakeskin waistcoat - truly one of a kind - and a hand knitted flag in the Russian's pen - could be used as a flag or a cosy what's not to like...
That Russian flag
 By the end of the week I was pretty knackered, GB seemed to have won lots of rainbow jerseys and everyone seemed pretty happy. So why volunteer - just ask fellow volunteer and CCH club mate Matt Hallet who was also helping out track side. He performed an important task for Jason Kenny just after he won Gold in the men's sprint - it involved rather quickly finding a bin and removing the lid....

Thanks to Martin and Geoff for the pics.

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