I entered Rollapaluza, got my ass kicked, but had fun helping Herne Hill Velodrome

Given that I had never competed on a stationary fixie bike, it was scary – no, absolutely crazy – to agree to enter the Rollapluza Herne Hill Velodrome Trust Spring Opener. But I did it. I came third. A bad third place. But I did what I said I would do: enter Rollapaluza.

Lloyd Gale-Ward (pictured, left, in black jumper) triumphs with the speed of 21.33 in 500m.
Lloyd Gale-Ward (pictured, left, in black jumper) triumphs with the speed of 21.33s in the 500m sprint.

The event, which took place at The Ledger Building, the flagship pub of Wetherspoons located at Canary Wharf, London, on 21 March 2013, was held to raise funds for the Herne Hill Velodrome. You put your money in the kitty, and pedal as fast as you can in the 500m allocated.

Let me tell you something: I was prepared for the aerobic nightmare. But not the lactic acid surging through my legs. They froze in the last 200m.

Technically, I came seventh when grouped together with the super fit, anaerobic goddesses who belonged to the organisers and Friends of the Herne Hill Velodrome. But in the ‘open’ put-your-donation-in-and-let’s-compete category, I came third. At 32.51s. The first and second place winners scored 25.18s and 31.82s respectively.

“The clever thing about Rollapaluza is that the framing of the social setting is based upon ‘play’. Thus, any feelings of awkwardness, humiliation and anxiety are offset not only by the uncertainly of the outcome of the results, but also by the sense of fun. By passing through that crucial rite of initiation, you allow yourself to be socially included in a ‘cycling’ competition.”

Senior Road Commisaire, British Cycling, Peter Wall (pictured, right) with GLUE's editor. A former competitor, he said that in his time, no one raced with carbon frames. Just steel.
Senior Road Commisaire and Life Member, British Cycling, Peter Wall (pictured, right) with GLUE’s editor. A former competitor, he said that in his time, no one raced with carbon frames. Just steel.

The Senior Road Commissaire and Life Member, British Cycling, Peter Wall, expected me to hit 24.50. He just made this face when I came back laughing with my bad results. A conversation thus ensued: I can come to the beginner’s course at Herne Hill. And there are several options to choose from, such as:

Hillingdon Cycle Circuit, Springfield Road (off A4020), Hayes, London UB4 OLP
www.hillingdoncyclecircuit.org.uk

Redbridge Cycling Centre (Hog Hill), Forest Road, Hainault, Essex IG6 3HP
www.redbridgecyclingcentre.co.uk

He further suggested: “For anyone wanting to try track riding, induction sessions at Herne Hill Velodrome are run throughout the Spring and Summer months on Saturdays. Sign on at 12 noon. Bikes can be hired, but best to take your own pedals.”

On the upside, the event raised some £4,000 in donation through the competition entry tickets and silent auction. Jo Brand, Herne Hill resident and ambassador for the Herne Hill Velodrome Trust (HHVT), got items such as Bradley Wiggins’s ‘Ride Around London’ jersey, Geraint Thomas’s signed Etape Cymru jersey, and a mounted Paris-Roubaix cobble stone auctioned off to the charitable Canary Wharf patrons who attended the event.

Wall’s son, John, the overall manager, “is considering more such events to be staged at The Ledger
Building”, said the commissaire. “Wetherspoon News took some great shots of the racing, which will appear in their magazine.”

“The venue has many attractions throughout the year, including big band music and Sinatra nights, featuring John as a guest singer.”

GLUE editors with the photo taken by Peter Wall. Notice the framing. No cropping. Very still (cycling) hands indeed.
GLUE editors with the photo taken by Peter Wall. Notice the framing. No cropping. Very still (cycling) hands indeed.

That Saturday, I told the guys at the club, after our club run, about the results. One senior runner, Don, laughed, when I said I wore the club kit and put it to shame.

My coach grinned. “Well done,” he said. The following week, I turned up for the spin class.

There is nothing but humiliation to drive you on. “So how does it feel like losing?” A rowing coach asked us years ago when, as a novice coxed four, we got beaten by two lengths by a stronger crew in a sprint on the Tideway. I winced. “Remember that feeling,” he said.

That was Rollapaluza.

The Friends of Herne Hill Velodrome cap, £10. All proceeds were donated to the HHV for the regeneration of the velodrome.
The Friends of Herne Hill Velodrome cap, £10. All proceeds were donated to the HHV for the regeneration of the velodrome.

But given that I got the all-clear in June 2012, and added cycling to my post-operation get-fit regime in July 2012, a bad third place in a roller-racing competition makes a good point fo reference for 2013.

The clever thing about Rollapaluza is that the framing of the social setting is based upon “play”. Thus, any feelings of awkwardness, humiliation and anxiety are offset not only by the uncertainly of the outcome of the results, but also by the sense of fun. You take your chance, you laugh, you get laughed at, but by passing through that crucial rite of initiation, you allow yourself to be socially included in a ‘cycling’ competition.

It’s an effective reward method, very considerately done, and I wish to see a broader base of participants included through these competitions.

For more details on The Ledger Building, call John on 0207 536 7770.

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