Manchester - November 1997
In a fit of stupidity not seen in many years, Fat Nick yesterday volunteered to go for a short ride on the back of a tandem. Specifically, over eight laps of the Manchester velodrome.
But it was all in a good cause! The event was the "Children in Need" charity track meeting, which raised well over 4,000 pounds for the charity. Many riders were in fancy dress -this was a unique opportunity to see Alwyn McMath riding dressed as a chef (complete with big white hat and spatula), Rob Hayles looking rather delectable as a Spice Girl (there are times when I worry about myself...), several caped Supermen, Nick Craig in drag, former world pursuit champion and former hour record holder Graeme Obree dressed like a 1950's roadman (complete with tubs over his shoulders) and Yvonne McGregor sporting a fluffy white beard. Oh, and four (real) young ladies racing in waitress outfits. Chris Boardman was also there, but purely for autograph signing purposes. I'm pleased to report that there was also quite a good crowd of spectators there.
We dutifully put our money in the buckets, and bought our raffle tickets. But when commentator (and former world pursuit champion) Hugh Porter announced they were auctioning rides on the back of a tandem, I couldn't resist. So, twenty pounds the poorer (but it went to a good cause), there I was....
They'd forgotten to mention that it was a sprint match between two tandems, piloted by top tandem men Pete Boyd and Steve Paulding. Gulp. The two witless volunteers strapped themselves onto the back seats, and we were off.
If you like the big dipper at the fun fair, you'd have loved this. I'm sure the view would have been spectacular if I'd dared to open my eyes! One minute we were right up at the top of the banking, then we were swooping to the bottom of the track at mid-curve, before climbing up to the rail again before the next straight. Then my pilot Pete Boyd pinned the other tandem up against the rail for half a lap, before they switched us and returned the compliment. Terrific fun.
With two laps to go, PB told me it was time to hold the bars on the bottom and then, with just three quarters of a lap left, he gave the signal and we jumped. The others had already jumped, of course, so we had to make up the length of the back straight. That tandem had an amazing turn of speed once we got it wound up!
We caught them just coming out of the final bend, and Steve kindly invited us to ride a little higher on the track (some might say he switched us, but I'm too gentlemanly for such comments.....), so we had to pull wide and find a little extra power for a final burst, to take the race right on the line.
I think I can fairly say that that was my most exciting eight laps of the Manchester track. Next year I must wear my cycling shorts under my trousers - riding in street shoes and regular clothes gets a bit uncomfortable...
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