I was very curious to have a go on the famous Rollapaluza rollers, having spectated at one of their well-renown spin evenings. So I signed up for their "Brief Encounter" night - roller racing in pairs, Madison style. Two teams of couples would compete against each other over 1000metres. The first person would spin on the rollers for 500m, and the second person would then continue the remaining 500m. As I needed a partner Fred signed up as my just about willing partner, and we entered under our team name, Rumble in the Cronx.
By the time we got to do our heat in the qualifying rounds we had already had a few beers so I wasn't sure if I was properly prepared for this. Our aim had just been to have a go (as opposed to competing) while not embarrassing ourselves too much. Sitting on the stage in front of the crowd among all the lights gave me a slight sense of nervousness. Members of the Rollapalluza team were on hand to help us adjust saddle height and explain how the game worked. We also had a couple of minutes to warm up and do some practice spins. The rollers felt weird, as the first thing you notice is the lack of resistance. It's very much about keeping a fluid pedalling motion and avoiding rocking from side to side. This was more about flexibility than strength.
The last thing that Rollapaluza's Anna said to me before the start whistle was that I was a bit unlucky to be pitched up against one of the fastest female roller racers on the scene. I realised I would have to give it my best shot if I didn't want to humiliate myself.
At the whistle I pounced down on the pedals, forgetting about techniques and just spun my legs as quickly as I could. I couldn't hear much, apart from loads of shouting but without any distinguishable words. I just about made out Anna's words as she shouted, "you're beating her, you're winninig." I tried to keep going, but I could feel myself waning and the beer swilling inside me. I felt sick and thought I might fall off the bike as I was rocking around so much. What was only about 30 seconds felt like half an hour! Finally I was told to stop and Fred picked up on things. He had a significant lead to play with, which was good news for him. But the guy he was up against was a master of spin, so Fred was caught and overtaken right on the line.
That was brilliant. I was on a real high when I came off the stage and was ready to do it again, even if my pulse rate was at almost 200bpm and I was panting for several minutes afterwards. There's definitely something addictive about it. You get the same amount of endorphins released into your brain from 30 seconds of roller racing as you do from one hour of cyclo cross racing. Get that!
It was a shame we lost, but our time was by no means embarrassing and we'd been up against a strong pair. The fastest 16 teams qualified for the knock-out rounds. We came 17th. Fred was quite relieved to hear this as he began his third pint of Guinness. We watched the rest of the rounds, which became more and more tightly contested as faster times were produced.
The competition was eventually won by Anna's team, Tom and Jerry. Regardless of how well people did, a good time was had by all.