Rookie Roadie Mad Bart be­yond the velo­drome

Canadian Cycling Magazine - - Contents - by Bart Egnal

How the ‘plea­sures’ of track cycling com­pare to the road

As a child,

I vaguely re­call watch­ing

Mad Max Be­yond the Thun­der­dome, film in which Mel Gib­son du­els in­side a domed, cage-like arena. The crowd chants, “Two men en­ter, one man leaves!” When I de­cided to flee the win­ter blahs and start rid­ing and rac­ing at the Burn­aby Velo­drome in B.C., early this year, I won­dered if I would be en­ter­ing a Mad Max-style al­ter­nate uni­verse. Al­though ul­ti­mately there were no post-apoc­a­lyp­tic desert peo­ple or re­ally bad ’80s-in­spired leather cloth­ing, the rules of the track are very dif­fer­ent than the rules of the road.


Out­side the velo­drome

On the road, big equals slow. At 6- 1, and weigh­ing 170 lb., I am of­ten re­ferred to as “skinny,” “lean” or other sim­i­larly ego-boost­ing ad­jec­tives. But when rid­ing on the road, my coach looks at me du­bi­ously as I go up hills. He then in­forms me he is push­ing 30 fewer watts to go the same speed. It seems I have a “large ass” hold­ing me back.

In­side the velo­drome

On the track, big equals fast. Here, I was sur­rounded by a ver­i­ta­ble cor­nu­copia of large rid­ers. The 220-lb. track rid­ers con­tent­edly munched on dough­nuts be­fore win­ning match sprint com­pe­ti­tions. No up­hills means no weight worries.


Out­side the velo­drome

Even the short­est races on the road fea­ture 30 min­utes of in­ten­sity. Of course, many races can go for hours. This time com­mit­ment does not suit an in­di­vid­ual such as me. My abil­ity to go for five-hour train­ing rides is con­strained by a one-year- old child and a wife to whom I plan to stay mar­ried.

In­side the velo­drome

Struc­tured work­outs never last more than one and a half hours, which in­cludes breaks. Races are very short: in my first sea­son of rac­ing, I never went more than 10 min­utes.


Out­side the velo­drome

Yes. Brak­ing is good. Just don’t do it

sud­denly in a group.

In­side the velo­drome

If you want to slow down, go up track, or to the out­side. If there is no more track to go up, you crash. Sim­ple. And don’t try to do the fol­low­ing three things to­gether: stop ped­alling, sit down and go up track. In my ex­pe­ri­ence, that leads to a crash and my wife pick­ing splin­ters out of my hip for a few days.


Out­side the velo­drome

You have three choices on the road: cri­terium, time trial or road race.

In­side the velo­drome

There are too many types of races to de­scribe here. Points race, mys­tery race (just keep rid­ing till the bell goes), elim­i­na­tion, scratch, Madi­son – it can be a baf­fling ar­ray of choices.


Out­side the velo­drome

You can count on a good 30 min­utes of easy rid­ing to chat and catch up.

In­side the velo­drome

No talk­ing. If you can chat, your heart rate must be too low and you aren’t close to throw­ing up. So, get to the front! Also, if you ride at the Burn­aby track, never take some­one’s fold­ing chair. Trust me on that one. The velo­drome proved to be a delightful way im­prove my bike han­dling skills and fast-twitch mus­cles. It also gave me an ex­cuse to buy a new bike. The rid­ing ac­tu­ally proved to be a good fit for my low-en­durance, high-weight

“If there is no more track to go up, you crash. Sim­ple.”

skill set. I even went on to win sev­eral races in the Fri­day-night rac­ing se­ries. So even though the track bike has been away all sum­mer, I’m look­ing for­ward to rid­ing the boards when the sea­son comes around.

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