It wasn’t until right at the end of last year that I found out that Castle Combe motor-racing circuit was open to cyclists once a week between April and September. A two mile loop of smooth tarmac with no potholes, cats eyes, cars or traffic lights seemed like an open invitation to have fun and I resolved to get involved this season.
One of my new projects is coincidentally based in Chippenham, a few miles up the road from the race track so I conveniently arranged an afternoon site visit on the same day the track was open. The majority of cyclists using the track were on road bikes, however there was a good number of families out with young children and a few hand bikes.
I rode a couple of steady laps before somebody took my wheel and we rode together, taking turns on the front. The only rules seemed to be that you had to cycle anti-clockwise and that faster riders take the inside line with those slower on the outside. After a handful of hard laps I was contemplating a rest stop when our group suddenly grew to a dozen or so and it seemed a shame to leave. For the next half an hour we were covering laps at an average speed of 25mph which actually felt relatively comfortable in the middle of the bunch and I found I regularly had enough energy to move to the front for a pull. However, at that speed it was sometimes a little unnerving being so close to other wheels and putting your faith in unknown people to not do something stupid which might cause a crash.
After a while I grew a little bored of the monotony and decided to test my ability to break away. I’ve got absolutely no experience of this type of thing so just wheel-sucked for a lap and then on a quieter stretch of track charged my way around the outside at about 28mph on the drops and more than likely exploding in sweat and dribble. I felt a brief moment of freedom which lasted all of about 20 seconds before my speed began tumbling and then the train of cyclists slowly drifted past me. Before I knew it, I had lost everyone and it took a monstrous effort of over half a lap to catch back up again. I drafted on the back for a brief moment, and then decided to call it a day and pulled over to the outside of the track for a slow warm down.
I fully expect to be back again this summer. Castle Combe is a hidden cycling treasure.