A couple of weeks ago I got the opportunity to shoot one of the Full Gas Winter Track Series events that take place at what was the London Olympic velodrome, now the Lee Valley velopark. It’s impossible to stand in the centre of the beautiful wooden track without imagining the atmosphere, in the heat of the 2012 summer, as the home crowd cheer Laura Trott, Chris Hoy, Victoria Pendleton et al on to Gold Medal winning victory.
However, it’s a very different place on this cold, damp Tuesday evening in February. There are far more people in the centre of the track than outside, except for the odd supporting spouse and parent, the stands are all but empty.
The times these competitors are putting in maybe slower and many are certainly older than their Olympic counterparts, but the passion is no less real. It takes a lot of commitment to drive to this rather bleak, incredibly busy, corner of North London after a day at work only to don a lycra bodysuit and push yourself to the edge of exhaustion.
What you don’t realise, as the casual observer, is quite how dangerous it can be. I spent most of the first race doing my best to get my photographic eye in and realising quite how fast these group ‘C’ amateurs were travelling.
The group ‘B’ warm up gave me a second chance to get some shots of the racing when, after only a few laps and a touch of wheels, there were suddenly a number of riders on the ground.
At first it seemed like the opportunity to get another perspective on the racing. It soon became obvious that two riders received more than scrapes and bruises. One received a nasty cut to his head, another landed on the wrong side of the barrier amongst the, luckily absent, spectator’s seats and was more seriously injured.
After some time the rider with bleed was taken away by ambulance and the more seriously injured rider by air ambulance. I understand both have now been released from hospital to hopefully ride again.
The prizes may not be the same as those awarded to the Olympians but the dangers are just as real.
I’ve had the opportunity to return and fortunately see more racing and no accidents, I’ll post some shots as soon as I’ve had a chance to edit them.