Saturday, August 29, 2009

Dateline 20:45, 17 June 2009, Illustrated

With a lot of time to browse online recently, I've been... browsing online.

One of the things I've been looking for are pictures of the track racing I've done, partly to show the missus, partly because I'm curious about what the races look like from a slightly further "not on the bike" view.

In particular, I don't look around enough to see what's happening in the big picture. I don't feel comfortable doing that just yet - if I look around in the turns, I lose my composure, start going off line. I look on the straights a bit, but there aren't a lot of "straight" at a track. Ultimately I'd do some massive efforts unnecessarily - if I looked around a bit, I'd have realized I had a gap, and I could have eased a bit.

So when I finally found pictures on the web, I hoped that there'd be some of me. And, walla, there were!

Thanks to Craig Roth of the Boston-ish area for use of these pics. For the complete set of pics of the day, as well as tons of other pics, you can go to his Picasa album here. He spent a bit of time snapping shots during the evening, and I'm glad I got to see some of his work.

As a bonus, the pictures were of my one and only helmet cam race on the track so far. I haven't posted the clip yet, and I'm glad I didn't because I'll be incorporating the pictures in it. I meant to film a Keirin or two in August but unfortunately I was off the bike before I could get them.

So here, without any further ado, is a visual capture of the night-opening B-riders Scratch Race. It's like a crit - so many laps, first across the line wins.

I'm at the end of the railing, getting the helmet cam together. I stash my cooler there too, with electrolytes, a Coke, and water, along with some reusable ice-packs from our freezer at home. Brooke is on the right, talking to some teammates.

Brian set a steady tempo for a few laps early on. He accelerated relatively hard a little bit in, with no warning. When he saw the gaps he accelerated even harder. This was during that second acceleration. There are some decent gaps there.

It's hard to realize how critical even small gaps are on the track - unlike a road bike, you can't just shift up and roll the gap closed. You have to work hard to close gaps. I'm closing the gap to Brian here.

My token pull after Brian pulled off. I was tired after following Brian for so long, and having to close a couple gaps.

Two to go - a big effort by the guy at the front. I'm floundering a bit, but confident that things will open up.

Just about bell lap, and sure enough, things have opened up. I'm sitting second wheel on the sprint line, with a father/son pair making a move on the outside.

The move was pretty substantial and could have potentially swamped me on the back stretch. I glanced up track and realized this in time.

In order to protect my position, I move up a touch on the track in the first turn. With no brakes and no coasting, racers tend to be a bit more conservative in close quarters. This is almost as close as it gets for the track Cat 3s and 4s.

Note: the rider in blue, at the top of the banking, is an A rider watching the race. Racing on the track, at least at NEV, is informal enough on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings that you can roll around above the blue line during races. In the A races I'd roll around, watching the moves, taking in rider set-up and positions.

It's a huge disadvantage to ride further up than, say, about where the guy in orange is riding. The blue line is so far up it's pretty much impossible to make a pass without expending tons of reserves. Based on my expression, it seems I'm about to jump.

Jump successful. If I knew I had a gap like this, I would have eased on the way to the line. Instead I made an extremely hard effort to finish off the sprint. A huge waste of energy.

I tend to focus on the goal so I only saw the line. I have to learn to be more aware of what's going on around me. Right now, on the track, it takes a lot of mental energy to stay down in the sprinter's lane, so I don't look around much.

Since track races tend to be short, a typical track day will encompass multiple races. Although you may not need long term endurance to finish, say, a 5k bike race, it does require significant amounts of training to be able to race well towards the end of a day of track racing. One of the tricks to being successful on the track is to meter your efforts, doing as much work as you can to earn good finishes, but not use more than necessary. It's a tricky balance and something I still don't get.

Related to that is the importance to reacting to the "critical" parts of a race. When riders make 100% committed moves, the group usually fragments. It's imperative to follow moves, because if you get gapped off, you're dead. If such moves are made in the middle of the race, it usually means that a number of racers will be watching the finish from the sidelines. I've fallen victim to this several times. If the move happens at the end (i.e. if I'm around at the finish and have something left), then the group will fragment as it races for the finish. You must be able to react to mid-race attacks while still keeping a reserve for the final two to five laps.

The only time this isn't true is in the Keirin, since we only go 1.5 laps on our own. It's basically a fast neutralized race until 1.5 laps to go, and then everyone goes bananas. In 1.5 laps it's hard to totally shatter the other racers' legs.

Later that evening we did a pursuit.

I finished second last or so, about 20% slower than the winner. Here I look like I have an idea of what I'm doing, but it was just the start. Halfway in I just wanted to quit.

If I'd taken a lot off the top in the Scratch race, I'd have been a bit better here. Not much, admittedly, but a little. Also, if I had an idea of pace, it would have helped. You can see the cyclometer on the bars but on that week I didn't have the magnet nor the sensor for the magnet. The cyclometer sat there for show.

The moto for the Keirin.

The roller on the back allows a track racer (especially) to bump the bike without falling. I find it extremely difficult to overcome my natural instinct to get close to it. I did manage to warm up behind it, but never got within a foot of the roller. I watched one of the As, the Human Derny (Kurt) keep tapping it over and over.

The Keirin that night went poorly for me too. Since we had a combined As and Bs Keirin, the moto went a bit faster than I've ever been on the track. I could barely keep the bike down low and sat up, unsure of my ability to control my bike at higher speeds.

On the following Keirin day, a few weeks later, I bumped the roller in the warm up and won both the heat and the final in pretty tight finishes.

You give some, you take some. That's bike racing.


Lee said...

I know that this is an old post but I had a bit of a "small world" experience last night. I got interested in bike racing in large part due to your videos and blog. Your treatment of the subject of track racing piqued my interest enough that when the opportunity presented itself, I gave it a shot. I finsihed my six week certification class a couple weeks ago and proudly went out and got shelled handily at my first Friday Night Racing session. Anyway... I am taking the "advanced" six week class now (despite feeling very "advanced") and I overheard someone mention a friend who run a series in CT... Turns out the female half of your CA training camp hosts is taking the class as well. Small world. BTW congratulations on Koichi and although it has obviously slowed down your blogging...try not to let it totally kill it. Many of us enjoy your storytelling and are inspired to dream and race in some part because of it.

Aki said...

Lee - you'll have to say hi to J for me. I'm glad you have the chance to take classes and such on the track. I'm sorely missing the (primitive) track I went to back then, and I recently started dreaming about putting shorter cranks on the road bike, prepping the track bike, and working on my pedal form.

The blogging has taken a huge hit. It's been really hard to get anything done, but I think this is more a Cat 5 parent thing than anything else. Although I hinted at it, I haven't posted it, but I'll preview it here - I've resigned from my job effective May 12th. We want to have a parent at home and I have some bike related stuff I'd like to get done too. I hope that this gets me back on track, at least a little bit. Thanks for the kind words and I hope I can inspire a few more to go out there and race.