June 24, 2008

Track Racing Is Fun

The American Velodrome Challenge fired off this past weekend at Hellyer Park. It was my first 'big time' track race since, probably, 1990! There were Olympicans, future Olympians, Pro Roadies, and a slew of just plain 'ol fast guys & gals. I raced a couple of 'Elite' events - keirin (well 2 rounds of it anyway) and the 60 lap points race (if you call desperately hanging on racing), but I was mostly there to do the masters events. There were five of them - miss-n-out, scratch race, keirin, sprints, and points race. My goal going in was to make the podium in all the events. A lofty goal perhaps given my lack of both track racing in the past 18 years and my lack of racing at all this season, but my goal still the same. Fortunately, on friday, the elite keirin served as a good warm up for the two masters races that night - miss-n-out and scratch race. The elite keirin was a lesson....big, aggressive, fast guys, that do this often are way faster than me! Wow, they really can jump and just plain haul it for the lap and a half...

Luckily redemption lay in the miss-n-out. Thirty one riders were in the field, making for a 28 lap race. The first laps were a bit sketchy - riders pushing and shoving to get into a better position mid-pack. Why all the pushing for a safe mid-pack position I can't say...but you could feel the inevitable was coming - and sure enough about 10 laps in some guys tangled and went down - I heard the noise on my lower left and just turned right, aiming for the top of the track and hoped for safety. I got through ok, others didn't. After a 10minute rolling wait we re-started and the real fun began. I found it pretty easy to duck, dodge and weave to stay out of trouble and before I knew it we were down to 6 riders. I was sitting in the sprinters lane with a rider above and just ahead - I was last wheel. No place to go but backwards and over the top - so I did. Hard punch to the line and over the top and off the front a bit...safe. The next two laps were easy and I was in the final three. Neutral lap and then BOOM - Larry Nolan fires off a solid attack, matched by Dirk Copeland, while I just watched them ride away - a bit too tired from the push to make the top five.

Scratch race - safer and still fast it's a blur til the last lap....following wheels, riding hard, and watching the top 7 start to sprint. Feel pretty good, then I spot a hole..shoot forward between two riders and nab a 5th! Nice - two masters events, two podiums!

Sprints - why do i fancy myself a track sprinter? Turning a 12. 6 isn't fast (11.69 - that's fast, and was the top masters time). I pretty much sucked - didn't win a race at all...but somehow managed to get 6th. Not a podium, but 'dern close! i turned a 12.33 in the elite qualifier for just a small bit of redemption.

Masters Keirin - another chance to learn how to do this race...learned a lot too! My group had fast guys, including Larry Nolan. I got a great start and settled into the 2nd position behind Larry - it was like a free ride to the finals...just stay on his wheel and try to follow when he hit the gas. We were probably 15m clear of the next rider, and I was through to the final. Of course the lessons continued in the final..I didn't get Larry's wheel and took too much air on my way to a somewhat ok 5th. 4 races, 3 podiums.

Points Race - Here is a piece of advice for aspiring trackies - when a National Champion attacks and is followed by a former World Champion - go with them! That group went away and stayed away for the majority of the points...blasted! No points, no podium, no cash. "luckily" the elite points race was immediately after the masters points race...so I got to do 100 laps of points racing in one stop! Unluckily the elites were MUCH faster than the masters...like 3 or 4 mph average (which means something at 31 - 38mph). Just to stay on the lead lap was an accomplishment and I was pretty happy to survive. I rode a 50x14 (94inches) which was too big for masters, but ok for elite. With better prep, more rest between events, and a stronger mental game I know I can run with those guys - great motivation for Masters Nats in September!

keep an eye out for the upcoming Sterling Track Day - we'll take ya'll down and show you the ropes at Hellyer...because
Track racing is fun!

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