2014 Hack On The Track

TORQ fuelled track cyclist Jan Birkmyre takes up the challenge to be the 2014 “Hack on the Track”; a day of track racing sponsored by Halfords, to find the fastest cycling journalist and launch the Boardman track bike.

I don’t really think of myself as a journalist because, although I co-edit www.bikeenvy.co.uk and make freelance contributions to a number of cycling titles, they don’t earn me enough to fund my cycling habit, let alone contribute to the mortgage. It is work I enjoy, however, so when the “day job” allows, I accept small commissions and that qualified me to compete for the title of 2014 Hack on the Track, sponsored by Halfords.

Just in case you think this is a serious race, let me put you straight; this was a very thinly veiled excuse to get a bunch of journalists together to admire and test ride the new Boardman track bike at the Newport velodrome. Chris himself was present and there was some healthy banter being exchanged before we took to the track. 

In total, there were 19 journalists present, with five of those being women. The range of experience was about as extreme as you can get, from complete track virgins through to seasoned track racers, and the levels of fitness were very different too but get a bunch of cyclists together, plus a coach who is holding a stopwatch with intent, and if there is an inner racer in you at all it tends to come out! 

We raced a flying 500m time trial for seeding purposes and then a number of 500m pursuit style heats, with one rider on either side of the track, riding off in a sudden death format to determine the four riders who would race for the “medal” positions. It would be fair to say that some were taking things a little more seriously than others. In the semi-final, I found myself drawn against ProCycling’s Jamie Wilkins, who I noticed had slipped off to change into a Smart Aero skinsuit, super aero kit costing £300, and he was also sporting an aero-helmet and an extremely fit and fast looking physique. When I asked him if I needed to don my aero helmet for our match, he simply told me he was “pathologically competitive” and that was all I needed to hear to step up my game and take it all a bit more seriously. I had already sucked down a TORQ gel when no one was looking but now I put a few more pumps of air in my tyres, cranked up the Lake 401’s to the max and dug out my time trial helmet…..one thing was certain, this was going to be embarrassing for one of us!

To be fair, he gave me a really good run for my money and I only won by a small margin. That proved to be my closest race of the day and I was eventually crowned 2014 HOTT but not before I was asked if I was actually a journalist, or simply a ringer – I scoffed and said “surely they were aware of my Pulitzer nomination” and no more was said on the subject.

Regardless of the circumstances, I am claiming this as a win and so I can say that my 2014 season has got off to a glorious start and I hope there is much more to follow.

I was also interested to note that Chris Boardman chose to wear Lake 401’s himself; he is obviously a man of exquisitely good taste!