Fancy something challenging to liven up your midweek training? Well, V C Deal might just have the answer [especially if you live in Kent – ed.]. Hidden from view amongst the folds of Kent chalk down land that end with the white cliffs of Dover is the Lydden International Motor Racing Circuit. Owned by McLaren, then leased to a racing entrepreneur, the circuit is used primarily for car racing not just on Tarmac but also using the surrounding land to accommodate the rally-cross fraternity. It also plays host to Tuesday evening training sessions for local racing cyclists.
Having been conceived and built as a racing circuit, it has developed over the years to accommodate the changing trends in motor sport. This season the tenants completed a million pound refit to satisfy those demands. Thankfully, throughout all these changes cycling has been allowed a presence here due in part to the goodwill of McLaren and their successive tenants.
The main credit though must go to the foresight of the V.C.Deal and organiser Ian Ferrell. Their decision to renew the informal agreement that was in place 10 years ago was, at the time, a big gamble. Back then organising clubs were lucky if they could muster 25 riders on a good night, too few to break even. So Ian’s decision to use his abilities to somehow raise the profile of this venue and increase rider numbers was a brave one, but one that has ultimately proved very successful.
Initially the format was to run an evening criterium. However, a bit of market research and feedback from riders encouraged the club to try out their own ideas. To draw in cyclists, not only from the road racing scene but from time trialling as well, the evening would be run as a training race. The idea being that there was no winner as such and, that if the group pace was too hot, you could simply sit out a lap or two. Likewise, if upping the pace was your thing then away you went with the entire bunch sitting on your wheel. Basically no rules, no licenses – just pay £3.50 and have fun.
Of course there are some parameters. The duration of the session is one hour with time to warm up beforehand and afterwards. The first lap is neutralised for everyone to settle in, and the last five laps are counted down with a marker board. As it is meant to be training, the emphasis is on safety and an awareness of new or inexperienced riders. Numbers have steadily increased with the result that, even on wet evenings, 30 hardy souls will appear.
When the sun’s out, 50-plus [don’t be shy about your age – ed.] turn out with, on one occasion, a total of 94! The increase in bodies has had the same effect on the variety of riders’ backgrounds. Triathletes and cyclosportive riders are finding this format an ideal way to experience and learn riding in a big bunch for the first time. Time triallists have to vary their speed to stay with those around them and put in efforts chasing a wheel. Novices have to learn how to make efforts that can take them in to the red zone yet recover in time for the next onslaught.
Overall the informal nature of the evening seems to be the appeal. The contours of the circuit favour the peloton but the quality of riders and in particular the juniors ensure even those at the top of their game get a good workout. So, what more do you want? There’s tea and cake afterwards and even showers. Action starts at 6.45pm every Tuesday and you can contact the club via their website www.activcycles.co.uk or phone Ian on 01304 367325.