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.