Monday, April 16, 2012

Tax Day Match Sprints

Ah yes, a warm spring day at Hellyer velodrome, perfect for some friendly match sprinting action. There was a little bit of a headwind on the back straight, but otherwise a lovely day. There was a wide range of ages and experience levels, from 12 year old juniors up to grizzled veterans (ahem, my crew...), with a couple of very strong Cat2 road racers in the mix as well. That called for bracket racing, with the brackets set via 200 meter time trials.

Above, my buddy Aaron exhibits much improved form at the finish of his 200, showing the typical tough-guy elbows-out stance. My 200 was not bad, a 12.43 (5th fastest of 17) which I was mildly pleased with given the headwind slowing everybody's jump. Indeed, the top time was only an 11.97, so it was a pretty slow day. My time put me into the top bracket-- no easy pickings for me.

In my first round I drew man-monster Paul Malenke, whose Sequoia-like thighs strike fear into the hearts of his sorrowing opponents whenever he lines up for battle. Paul drew first wheel [actually, the ultra laid-back officials allowed riders to self-select their starting positions-- no coin toss], and we played throughout the first lap, me feinting and diving, he always watching and countering. Approaching the bell lap, I marginally lifted the pace from behind at the rail, and after faking another dive entering turn one, I caught Paul napping a bit and punched it over the top of him, taking the lead but staying just outside of the sprint lane. On the back straight I floored it for real, floated a little bit in the last turn to let him bunch up on me, then hit it for home on the back straight. It worked, I was able to hold off the big man by about a bike length.

Next round I drew Nick, a very strong Cat2 road racer who was having his first track race on the day. Despite his inexperience and borrowed bike, he'd posted a very respectable 12.6 in his 200m TT-- his first one ever. As a comparison, I think my first ever 200 was something like 13.7... . He definitely looked to have potential as a track sprinter, and Paul, David Allen and I had been giving him advice on how to approach a match sprint.

His first ride had been against David Allen, and he got it all wrong, allowing Dave to trap him against the boards and totally control the race. Tactics became irrelevant, though, as Nick was simply too strong and managed through brute force to cross the line first. Impressive!

Ok, so I'd drawn Nick for the semi-final. Apologies for these photos, there's an annoying delay on my camera that Aaron was not expecting:

Nick asked me to take first wheel, and priding myself as an accommodating gentleman-racer, I obliged. I instantly had Nick trapped against the boards, just as in his last round. "You did it again!", I said, "Dammit! What now?", he replied. I then showed him how I could keep him in check by slowing when he slowed, and accelerating and squeezing him against the boards with my hip if he tried to go over the top. Above is my back wheel as I take the front with a blast at the bell. I then floated in turn one and two to drive him up the banking off my hip and was able to drive him all down the back straight through turns three and four with him up the banking and doing more work. All going to plan...

But then just as in his previous ride, though he did just about everything wrong from a tactical standpoint, he simply had too much power for me, and took it by half a bike length. Witness, the above photo now just shows his rear wheel and a nice shot of my whole self... .

UPDATE, 2/20/12: Just found video of our ride, courtesy of Nick's wife's blog, "The Cyclists Wife" (

Though I had one more ride to go, we decided to pack up as it was getting late and Aaron and I needed to get cheeseburgers in us as soon as possible. Much to the chagrin of the assembled committed trackies, the final was down to the two Cat 2 road racers. For shame! I gave Nick a final post-ride briefing.

I missed it while changing in the bathroom, but apparently Nick did everything right in the final. He let the other guy do the dumb stuff, capitalized on that, and used the banking to his advantage. Nice! His conclusion on the day: "This shit is fun". Uh-huh! I think we may have a convert... .

Sunday, April 8, 2012

First Race of the Year

A bit fat, definitely slow and weak, and warm-up hurt as much as the racing, but that's what the first race of the year is supposed to be like, right? It was the Novice Track Racing Cat 3/4/5 Presented by NorthCal Water, a low-key early season race intended primarily for beginners. And yes, by USA Cycling's definition I am a beginner. A Cat 5 to be exact, the lowliest of categories.

Yes indeed, I was riding at a fairly high level for an old guy in Japan, having won the equivalent of my elite state kilo championships two years running and coming 7th at the national level, among a few other nice results. That doesn't matter over here, apparently. Here you have to do mass-start endurance-type racing (scratch, points, etc.) if you want to upgrade. Having done all that my first year racing in Japan and having no interest in it now, it seems I'm doomed to forever being a Cat 5. No worries, I can still do most of the sprint racing I want to do as a 5, so while it's cramping my style a little, it's largely irrelevant.

The high-point of the day was my buddy Aaron's re-baptism by fire into track racing. [He's fourth wheel in the scratch race, above] Much the same situation I was in a couple of years ago, he's not new to racing, but it has been a while. Like me, he did the USCF road racing thing as a youngster, and now as an old codger finds himself shaving his legs and lining up once again.

He did all the races on the day-- a flying 200m TT, scratch race, standing 500m TT, and an unknown distance. Tired he most certainly was! I did just the 200 and 500, setting times that were encouraging but not amazing for an early season race, a 12.6 in the 200 and a 36.7 in the 500 which ended up being the top times of the day. Far from my best but not bad for the time of the year. Plus I'm still getting used to fatherhood. It's not easy to find the time to train! Ok, those are my excuses...

Aaron had a blast, he is hooked and will now be a regular down at Hellyer, I'm sure. Welcome, Aaron!

Here's my hot new MR Berkeley/White Oak team kit, yeah! It always feels great pinning on that first number of the year.