Sunday, July 10, 2011

California State Track Championships

Well, really it was the Northern California Nevada Cycling Association Masters State Track Championships, but that's a bit long winded. Most of us just call it "State's", even though they had a similar thing down in San Diego on the same weekend for the lower half of our beautiful state. Perhaps "Half State's" would be more fitting. People not so old (30-34 class- come on, are you really "Masters"?), to the genuinely old (70+?!) descended on Hellyer last weekend to duke it out for the honor of wearing the California Champ jersey for a year. I entered the sprints on Saturday and the kilo on Sunday.

Looking over the start list, I had high hopes for the sprints. Many of the big boys had not signed up. But when I got there, I found a couple of ringers had entered late, namely Allen Vugrincic and Dave Allen of LTO Velo, some serious dudes. Allen is a double 2010 US masters champ and Dave is known for his stump-pulling jump. My hopes diminished just a tad.

My 200 keeps getting marginally better each time I ride Hellyer, so I guess I should be satisfied, but I also keep making head slapping blunders that just frustrate the hell out of me. This time I got a nice approach on the last lap, a good jump at the rail and a very nice drop to the lane, but then through the last turn, I came out of the sprinters lane not once, no not twice, but yes, thrice! Vugrincic was kind enough to critique my effort for me and pointed this out. Time: 12.2. I'm quite sure that one had a nice chance of going under 12 if I had only been able to keep my wheels pointed where they were supposed to be pointed.

The field was pretty small (10 guys?) so I had a by on the first round. That set me up straight into a best two-out-of-three semi-final round against Dave Allen. Right, then.

Allen Vugrincic gave me a couple of ideas on how to take on Dave. "He has a killer jump, don't let him use it", and "He doesn't have much beyond 500 meters, so make him go long". Cool, thanks Allen! Unfortunately in our first ride I experienced that killer jump right across the front of my wheel coming out of turn three going into the bell lap, and he instantly had three or four lengths on me. I fought back through turns one and two and had him back in my sights on the back straight- he seemed to be fading. Or was he bluffing?

On to the finishing straight and he definitely WAS fading, I came around with about a wheel to spare- yes! 1-0 in my favor.

Next ride, of course I thought I had his number, so I let him set the pace, and predictably he unleashed that devastating jump at the bell again. Again I reeled him in, started taking him coming out of turn three, and -what's this- he's got more? Yep, I couldn't make it happen. 1-1.

Final ride, I should have done more to ride my own race, and definitely try and stop him doing what he'd done before, but I guess I was hoping he was tired (I sure as hell was...) and that it might turn out to be a replay of the first ride. Unfortunately, it was a virtual replay of the second, so he got me 2-1 to advance to the first and second place final, while I slid down to the third and fourth place final.

The indomitable Vugrincic made it all but a formality vs Dave, and I was able to dispatch my opponent in the 3/4 final so we ended up like this:

Lots of fun and hard, hard rides against Dave Allen. More lessons, but it seemed like I had already learned a couple of these lessons somewhere before... .

The next morning bright and early, kilo time.
The LOOK of Pete Billington and it's ultra-low TT position, sculpted in the wind tunnel.

Hurry up and wait. Many, many age categories means a very long wait for a race that lasts not much longer than one minute. Some may question the sanity of such an endeavor, with good reason. Especially considering how damn much it hurts.

Speaking of lessons I thought I'd already learned, I pulled my foot at my first start attempt. Then my holder nearly dropped me after I came around for the re-start. Uh-oh.

Got away clean (check excellent start-face) but a couple of strokes in I realized the cleat had been dislodged again! But there's no second re-start, so I had to soldier on... .

Knowing I'd already lost precious time, I tried to really concentrate on getting the power down and getting up to a decent peak speed, then on the second lap searching for that elusive float... .

But it was not to be. Perhaps I'd used up a lot of energy trying to recover from the flubbed start or maybe I couldn't relax enough to find the smooth pedal stroke. Whatever the reason, the float was wafer-thin, and there was an extra helping of pain. Crossed eyes and the feeling of slow motion while my eyeballs filled with lactic acid, and eventually, mercifully - the finish line.

1:12.68, another crap time for me personally. But again mercifully, the ringers Allen and Dave passed on the unpleasantness of the kilo (wise gentlemen, assuredly), so my lackluster showing was good enough for the gold medal and a year inside the coveted California champ jersey. Somewhat disappointingly, there were no actual jerseys on site. Well, there were some leftovers from previous years, but there were no 2011 jerseys for the winners on the day. Those you have to order on the internet, just like all the non-California champions out there. I'll be ordering mine tonight... .

Thanks so much to the organizers, Metromint Cycling. They did a top notch job keeping everything moving smoothly. And thanks to Allen Vugrincic for not riding the kilo!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Testarossa Velodrome Challenge at Hellyer

July first and second was the Testarossa Velodrome Challenge, the biggest race of the year at Hellyer. Up for grabs was a whopping $16,000 in prizes. This purse brought out some of the country's heaviest hitters, and none other than Project London 2012 teammates Jimmy Watkins, Michael Blatchford, Kevin Mansker and Daniel Walker came down to mix it up. It was amazing to watch these guys in action. They seemed almost like a completely different species....

Project 2012 Felts ready for battle.

I believe this is Kevin Mansker finishing his 200 TT.

Watkins and Mansker amazingly tied at 10.73 in setting a new Hellyer track record for the flying 200. Interestingly, Watkins seemed to do his 200 without getting out of the saddle at all.

Local bad-ass Pete Billington's 200

The stylish Kirk Whiteman heads for the line. This guy was really fun to watch.

I entered the masters sprint tournament. Before I got to the track, I didn't fully comprehend what a big race the TVC really was. Even in the masters field it brought out some of the West Coast's fastest guys. Part of the draw was the (unofficial) Masters Keirin World Championships on Saturday night. Multiple national and I believe even world masters champs were signed up to race.

As usual, my 200 left a lot to be desired. My best time on Hellyer by a mere .01 second, I still bobbled the drop from the rail and swung way out of the sprinter's lane exiting turn three onto the home straight. That said, qualifying 5th was kind of gratifying, and I know now that I can go under 12 at Hellyer if I can ever manage to hold my line properly.
[Note: I pinched a couple of these photos from pros who were at the race as my "personal photographer" (wife) was at a BBQ in Oakland]

Right off the bat, I was outfoxed in the 1st round by Andreas Vogel. He led it out, confoundingly never left the lane, and just kept dieseling along. I waited and waited to attack, floating high above off the rail. But I waited too long: By the time I finally jumped, I thought, "Shit, he's going pretty fast now!", and I couldn't come by. I've just learned this is called being "put to sleep". Chapeau, Andreas!

The three-up repechage round (above) wasn't too much trouble. From second wheel I took the front with a lap and a half to go, floated it up by the stayers line, and when the second wheel guy tried to come under at the bell I closed the door and hit it a little. On the back straight I hit it for real and was able to carry it through to the finish. It was to be my only triumph of the day....

Here I am in the second round versus Brian Abers who would go on to win the tourney and take the keirin later that day. He really took me to school. I drew second wheel, but preferring the front I jumped and took it at the bell, did my standard protective blast on the back straight, floated it in the final turn until I could feel him off my hip and then hit it for home down the finishing straight.

And it was working pretty well, too! Abers was coming up, but I was giving it more and it felt like I might have this one, when he dipped down a little and we just every so slightly banged knuckles. Now, it was just like a little love tap, but I've only had contact during a sprint a couple of times- that sort of thing is pretty frowned upon in the amateur ranks in Japan (even though head-butts and open aggression are completely accepted amongst the pros), so I'm pretty green when it comes to the rough stuff. I hate to admit it but I backed off a hair, perhaps enough to lose it. And lose it I did, by half a wheel or less.

Dammit, but it WAS a good one, and fun. I don't know if other people feel like this, but part of the fun of a good sprint is that even if you lose, if it was tight battle, there's still a satisfaction to it. I still get all giddy if it's a close run thing, win or lose. Maybe I'm strange that way. In any case, Mr. Abers, thank you for the lesson, sir.

But finally, I'm a bit ashamed to admit that in the 5-8th place minor final I didn't really give it my best. Yes, I was tired, and 5th through 8th place? -Who cares? But that is a crap attitude, and every opportunity to race should be a chance to use everything you've learned. Otherwise, why are you there, right? So no excuses, I wasted an opportunity. A half-hearted 7th. Not to suggest that the whole day wasn't still loads of fun...

David Allen won the 3-4th final to finish 3rd in the Tourney.

And Abers took top honors over Keith MacBeth.

Next weekend, it'll be Masters State Championships, followed two weeks later by the big one: Masters Nationals at the storied Trexlertown velodrome.