London Youth Winter Track League
Stratford Olympic Velodrome

Katie-Ann Elliston at the London Velodrome

On Thursday 19th October, I competed in the first winter track league, leaving school at 3.45pm  to head straight to Stratford for 6.15pm sign on. There were four groups overall, under 12 (mixed), girls group (girls aged 14 to 17), under 14 boys and under 16 boys. Each group had four races each which included Scratch, Dash, Elimination and Points.

In the first race, I had a 30 lap scratch. I started off feeling ok, getting used to racing in a bunch again and looking to see who I was racing up against. However, the pace quickly ramped up, a girl sitting in front of me had a speedo under her saddle reading 28mph! I thought to myself I'll never be able to keep this up for the next 27 laps but managed to persuade myself it'll be fine and so I dug in deeper. When out of nowhere, someone in a national champion jersey made an attack, so I quickly went for it and managed to get into a break away of three. At this point so much was going through my head, will I be able to stay in, will I tire or will I win. Annoyingly, after 5 laps, a gap between me and the rider in front was slowly appearing and my legs were losing energy so I swung up and joined back into the peloton to help recover and save some energy. The race got back together with ten laps to go; then with 3 laps to go we all battled it out for the finish line. I came around mid-field and was abit disappointed with myself.

The next race, a 4 lap dash, went a lot better. After being on the front of the bunch, I peeled off and tried to get in a little further back so I wasn't wasting any energy for the final sprint. Unfortunately, however, I quickly ended up at the back and had to sprint  to get closer to the front but then got boxed in and ended up coming 8th. I finished the race feeling a little happier than before, but was still disappointed with how I did.

Next, I had the elimination race. The elimination is my favourite event making me even more determined to get a higher position. It started off a little slow with everyone trying to get in the positions they wanted, but I was happy to sit at the bottom of the track in the middle of the group. Each lap went by with someone being eliminated every other lap and me getting closer to the back of the bunch but not going out. There was a lot of jostling, with handle bars jangling and I had to lean on people and use my elbows in the tight bunch, although abit of contact doesnt worry me and makes it more fun! I ended up at the back just after another one was eliminated so used this time to get over the top of the group and a sit on the front which is known as the 'washing machine'. With me doing this and getting out of the way, the pace increased dramatically with three people dropping off the back and being eliminated. Eventually, 7 people were left including me, making it harder to not be the one called out. As each bell rang for someone going out in the next lap, there was a sprint. Each time it was close for who was out, until 5 remained in the top five. Unfortunately, I got pipped on the line and finished 5th which I was really happy about, and yet a little annoyed knowing that i could possibly have stayed in if I pushed that little more in the last half lap. I got into track centre with my Dad giving me a smile and the thumbs up which is always a great achievement in my books because it doesn't happen easily as he only does this when I ride well.

One event left, it's now 9pm, and then the evening's racing events would be finished for me. This last race was a 30 lap points with a sprint for points on every 5 laps. I wasn't quite looking forward to this event however was still determined to do as well as I did in the elimination. Quickly the first sprint was coming up with the bell ringing at 26 laps. A big sprint happened, with me coming 5th, and I managed to cause the break away of six. We stayed out lap after lap sprinting for the sprint laps and easily mopping up the points between us. However, it came to 3 laps to go and we had already dropped a girl until we looked behind and realised the peloton had just caught us up and was sitting right behind us. Suddenly the girl who had been winning over the night, who is the under 16 national track champion, was on the break away again and I decided to go for it again. Spotting it quickly, I leaped out of the saddle and went. The breakaway formed again but with four of us in it. We battled it out at the end with me coming 4th in the final sprint and overall coming 5th in that race. I rolled back into track centre with a beaming smile and being so proud of myself and shocking myself with how strong I actually can be when i stick my mind to it. Yet again i was given a smile nearly as big as mine and the thumbs up from my Dad.

All in all, it was a good start to the winter track league. Whilst I was cooling down on the rollers thinking about how the evening had gone and how I am going to improve my cadence. I thought of Barry Simpson and how he has helped me to progress in my cycling career. Without those time trials spent gritting my teeth whilst hanging onto the back of his wheel and taking turns on the front, I wouldn't have been as strong that evening. All that was left then was to pack up, head home and get some sleep before school the next day.
Katie-Ann Elliston on the London boards


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