Sunday, August 7, 2011

Master's Track National Championships, 2011

So, this guy moves to Japan and discovers track cycling there, falls in love with it, studies on it for a couple of years, even finds out he may have a nickel's worth of talent for it. Same guy reluctantly returns to the US amid Japan's biggest disaster since WW2 with a pregnant wife, and against all odds wins a Stars and Stripes jersey at Masters Nationals at the first crack! That would have been a nice story, right? Well, not so fast, it didn't quite work out that way...

Day One: Kilo

We arrived at Trexlertown on Monday afternoon amid thunderstorms, so no track time the day before racing. Tuesday dawned damp and hot, but dry enough to get on the track. Warm-up was a bit of a shock-- more people than I'd ever seen on a track before were trying to get in a good hard effort at the same time as me, around 400 riders were in T-town for the week. I was out there for 15 minutes and succeeded in surviving, if not really getting in a single hard jump.

I brought my mom along --to race! She's a former roadracer, and at 67 years old more fit than me by a longshot, so when she told me earlier this year that she wanted to come to this event to cheer me on I told her she should compete instead. She already had a keirin bike I'd found for her in Japan, so why not? This summer I've been giving her some training tips which has been a lot of fun for me.

And she medalled in her first ever track event, the 500 meter time trial! Bronze! I was excited, but not surprised, really. I knew if she put her mind to it she would do it. Fit AND stubborn, she does not give up once she's started something! I was super proud.

The same could not be said for me, though. I knew that I was capable of doing a very good kilo time for my age group, and I know that tactically I've got a lot to learn in the match sprint. My team sprint was a big unknown as well since the three of us had never ridden together. So the kilo was my best shot at a good result.

Though I'd been training hard for it all year, I simply did not have the legs on the day. The start was good, but I felt I didn't get a good peak speed on the back straight, and then my legs just clamped up tight. Smooth it was not, pure struggle all the way.

6th place with a dismal 1:12.9, the slowest kilo I've done in about two years! What happened?! Technically it was fine, but when I got rolling the magic was just not there. I could write a list of excuses the length of my arm, but in the end I was just not fast that day, and that's all. Next year, perhaps.

Day Two: Team Sprint

The team sprint was possibly the race I was most excited about at Masters Nats. It's such a fun race, and so rare as a cyclist to do an event that is a true team effort. On paper we had a great team, too: Kurt Sato was our starter. He's only the current WORLD RECORD holder for flying 200 in his age group! Also a multi-time Masters National Champ, so we definitely had the first lap covered. Our second man was Paul Malenke, of the powerful LTO Velo team. A former college football player for the Airforce Academy and an elite track sprinter in his youth, Paul is a big, powerful rider. And then there was me as third man. I was definitely in good company.

But first my mom started the day off right by winning another bronze in the 2000 meter time trial! She was already hooked by medalling in the 500, but this sealed it. Right away she started comparing her times to the silver medalist and saying, "I think I can beat that!" I'm sure you can mom! NOW she's gonna get serious... .

Paul and I in the ready area before the team sprint. He looks a bit nervous while I seem to be admiring my rear tire... .

"Team West Coast Guys" at the ready. We're all wearing California State Champ kits from various years to show our West Side affiliation.

And we're off. Right here's where things started to unravel: Kurt was on a small 91 inch gear, and Paul seemed to have fluffed the first stroke. It was shades of Yamaguchi as Paul fought to reel in Kurt who had unintentionally opened a bit of a gap... .

Paul caught Kurt around turn three, but Kurt seemed to have slowed a little to wait for Paul. Wise of him. I think we also lost some speed there, but nothing to be done about it. Meanwhile, I was panicking a bit and yo-yoing off the back of Paul before finally getting my shit together as pictured above.

Paul passes off to me and I gun it for all I'm worth, but it's another disappointing sixth place. Definitely below what the team was capable of. Hmm. The nice thing about team sprint, while it's truly a thing of beauty when everything falls into place, is that even if it's a mess you've still got teammates to console you afterwards!

Here's the video, unfortunately the mid-section has been edited out:

After the racing we discovered this house which had a veritable museum of old Schwinns and other old American bicycles in the garage.

We talked to the owner, a life-long bike nerd of the highest order. It's a "bike shop", but somehow I feel like he doesn't let many of these roll out the door... .

Day Three: Day Off, NYC

My wife Tomo and I spent the off day by taking a bus from Allentown into New York City. We visited my brother at his posh office overlooking Central Park, Tomo did some shopping in Brooklyn and we met some friends for dinner. Nice.

Day Four: Match Sprints

Right, last chance for glory! Above I'm getting ready for the flying 200 TT qualifier. All week I'd been enjoying the smooth surface and steeper banking of Trexlertown, much nicer than our humble (but lovable) Hellyer. I felt confident that I could do a good time.

But yet again, fate was against me. No that's not fair to fate: I simply fucked it up! I stood too early and lost my snap before sitting, it was a real mess. I qualified, but felt gifted to have made it in. Time was a most pedestrian 12.27. It was not my year!

My first round played out perfectly for me, though, and it was really the high point of my week at T-town.

Here's the video:

I really rode my own race. Once I took the front, I was able to control with a couple of jab/float, jab/float moves, then hit it hard on the final straight. My opponent was no slouch, though and I had no time to let off even a hair before the line. Hard, fun ride.

But in the quarter final ride, my worthy adversary played me like a fiddle. Perhaps he'd been watching and noted that I like to ride from the front, or perhaps he was just a much smarter sprinter than I. He guarded the front well, I missed opportunities to get it, he kept things slow, and then expertly held me on his hip. Though I made a determined run on the final straight I came up a half wheel short. Hats off, he beat me fair and well.

Though losing the quarter final, I was in to the final ride for places five through eight. But I elected to DNS, mostly because my family and I had a long drive back to Wisconsin (where my mom lives) ahead of us, and it was already nearly six o'clock. So, I was done. All told, the results sheet says I left Trexlertown with two sixths and a seventh, though I think in the sprint tourney I should rightly be eighth. Really not bad, even though I'd been hoping for a lot more. Next year!


Up next, Elite Nationals qualifier at Hellyer, August 21... .


  1. thanks BP, I felt like I was there!

    man I wish I could beat myself up over a 1:12 kilo!