Thursday, September 18, 2008

Racing - Track, Take Two

I'm drinking coffee, eating a couple donuts, and trying to revive myself for the rest of the drive home. From the track, of course.

Tonight was a lot tougher, a lot more educational than last week.

First, a thing about track racing. Your gear ratio is critical. Too high and you can't accelerate. Too low and you spin out. Low gears also cause you to tire quicker in a "longer" race, like ones that last more than two or three laps.

I have a 50x15. It sounds low to a roadie because, well, it's a low gear for a roadie. But if it's your only gear, it's kind of a big gear. If the banking is about 14 degrees (I learned that tonight - educational, see?), it's a high gear, because the speeds don't get crazy insane. It's about acceleration, not top speed.

So my gear makes me feel like I'm running a 56x11 based on how big it feels. A 49x15 would be better, and the guy that totally demolished me in a bunch of races ran a 48x15. That would be considered a tad low, maybe, but man, his jump was pretty good.

I got to the track early enough that it was still closed. That's good schedule wise but my bladder wasn't happy. Luckily the track opened shortly afterwards and I got ready to ride. To my disappointment the camcorder had turned itself on when I jammed it in the bag and it was dead. No helmet cam.

No pressure either. I warmed up on the course, my large gear feeling ever so slow and molasses-like. I did a few flying 200s on my own, trying to get the hang of going fast around the final bend. It was okay but I wasn't satisfied. I always had to back off in order to make it around the turn. Something to work on next year.

I also started skipping the rear wheel around. My long position weights the front a bit too much I think, and as a result the rear hops around a bit. I'll be shortening the reach in order to help prevent this.

I won the first race, a scratch race, again, with the 48x15 guy Scott basically leading me out. I did pull for two laps just before the finish though, so I got my face time in (two out of nine laps, and I spent another one or two sitting on the outside). He told me afterwards that he figured he'd give it a shot since he thought I'd win it.


He also revealed to me that the guy that demolished me last week in the match sprint final was trying to figure out a way to beat me. He did, of course, and really snookered me, but I didn't realize he'd actually thought about it. I figured it was like me batting at a mosquito, which, if you know me, I do without even thinking about it.

Scott and I were pretty evenly matched so we did a bunch of sprints against one another. I learned of his lower gear, decided that I had to keep the pace high to reduce my big gear penalty (i.e. it's easier to accelerate a big gear if you're already going fast), and I led out two sprints. The first match started with us already a bit down the track so it was about a 1.75 lap leadout. I dove to the inside with about 220-230 meters to go and held off Scott.

The second was a bit tougher - we were on the backstretch when we were called, and we both wanted to do the sprint in a lap, i.e. a 1.5 lap race. So I led out, we rolled by the line, yelled at Tony to ring the bell, and he smiled and said "Two laps to go!"

Oh the bastard.

I decided to see how this would pan out and continued at the front, trying to go faster and faster. Scott was loving this, sitting on my wheel, watching me hurt myself. I jumped at about the same place, but this time, instead of forcing Scott back a bit, I could tell he was right there.

I sprinted around the last bend, dying, no power, just trying to will the pedals around. Scott came flying up the outside (miraculously I managed to stay in the sprinter's lane) and we sprinted to the line side by side. Scott told me I got it but I wasn't convinced. But since other guys said I got it, I decided maybe it was so.

Plus, as McEwen once pointed out, you always know when you've lost. It's when you've won that things aren't as clear.

It was a good win, hard earned. And it had to be because that was the last win of the night.

I started a three up match sprint with Scott, hit teammate Mike, and myself. Mike jumped pretty hard, I jumped after him, and started thinking about keeping an eye out for Scott. I eased a bit to stretch my legs just a bit - and my back wheel lifted off the ground because I'd stopped pedaling when I was going about 80% of maximum speed.


When I landed back on the bike, I hit the saddle so hard it pointed to my 10 o'clock.

Scott, of course, went flying around me. I sat up once I knew I didn't take him out.

We also did a Miss and Out. I decided to do what Mr 13.7 did last week and did some pulls and a group of us were away. But not really, as the others caught up. Scott and Mike pushed the pace, I hung on, and we were definitely down to the last three. The final sprint - I wasn't sure how this would work - was the three of us on the next lap. I think Scott won but I know where I was - third.

As a season end bonus we did a Chariot race - that's where everyone starts from a dead stop (you're held up by a holder) and you race one lap. Since it's all about accleration, and I have that mongo gear, I got left behind at the line. I think I got third out of four, but this event clarified the importance of gear selection. I mean, yeah, I can jump pretty hard, but I was about 10 meters behind the lead guy (Scott, of course) after about 40 meters. Yikes.

As a season end time consumer while Tony got the grill going, we did an Australian Pursuit. That's where everyone lines up equally spaced around the track, starts at the whistle (or when Tony yells "Go!"), and tries to catch others. You're out if you get passed, but the rider in back can sit on for a bit, catch their breath, and prolong the agony of their prey.

Mike started in front of me in a positively leisurely fashion. I started at 100% like the chariot race and quickly caught and passed him.

I realized as I passed him - I should have sat on. I was already pretty cooked so I clawed my way to the next guy and sat on his wheel - for a full THREE laps. The poor guy was going as hard as he could but I was dying and really needed a bit of a break.

Then, in the dusk, across the track, I could see Scott launching off of his prey. I did the same and went around the poor guy, who could finally sit up.

For a few laps Scott and I were even (me, even with someone, in a time trial!). But as my legs went empty, my mouth got parched, and my line started to waver, Scott started gaining on me.

Or was he?

I heard, "You're catching him!" So I looked up to see if Scott was there. My eyes travelled around the first bend. No Scott. Backstretch. No Scott. Second Bend. Oh. Scott was about 30-40 meters behind me.

I was really tired but Tony had yelled out that anyone giving up wouldn't get hamburgers.

I kept going.

A couple laps later, mercifully, Scott passed me.

He immediately started making hacking and gagging noises, down by the sprinter's lane.

I moved up the track a bit.

Tony had the grill fired up and we sat around in the dark, two 500 watt halogen worklights illuminating us. Then he got the Bobcat and parked it next to us so now we had two 100 watt lights. Better.

The mosquitoes seemed to have dissipated so we talked about whatever racers talk about after a day of racing. Yes, we talked about racing, but there were some other things too. It's a bit bleary but at some point someone said, "Oh, it's 9!". I ran to the portapottie one last time (drinking lots of fluid between rounds doesn't make the parched mouth syndrome go away, it just makes you pee more), said my last good byes, and left.

I called the missus after I'd gotten down the highway a bit. It was already 10.

So, since I need to drink my coffee, and since I don't want to type this tomorrow, I'm typing it now, sipping coffee, at some random Mass Pike rest stop.

Now to get home.


Mike said...

I've really been enjoying the track posts, too bad this is the last one.

Find an indoor track!!!

Anonymous said...

Another great story - like "hocam" I'm enjoying the track posts too.

Late night though, eh?

Aki said...

hocam - I've been enjoying the track. I think it's something where I'm essentially a like a little newborn but with coordination - everything is cool and wonderful and interesting but I can actually ride a bike too. Okay, like a kitten. They sometimes mess up (like take a step but there's nothing under their foot except a big drop off the window sill, or I try and coast on a fixed gear) but they are adventurous and not afraid to try things.

Plus it's really low key, like the Tues night races, so it's okay to try the big move and see if it works.

SOC - I got to sleep at about 2 AM. I've been dragging today.

There's Saturday racing but I don't think I can make it. And, of course, at some point it just ends. They do 'cross up there but that's not my thing.

Mike said...

Aki, it sounds like it suits you pretty well. You've been racing crits which are lots of surges and corners with a sprint at the end. Oversimplified, your tactics up to then seem to be just to sit in and not use too much energy so you can sprint. All your problems seem to happen in the stuff before the sprint.

Track racing is like you took all those surges and corners out and just have a sprint, so you don't have much of a chance to get dropped or burn out. Maybe you'll get more into this than you think.

Also, just for the record, hocam is pronounced "Ho-jahm" and is turkish.

Aki said...

hocam - I didn't think of it that way, but yes, it's all down to the sprint. Of course, during a crit, I rely on the "strong" riders to wear themselves out a bit, and in a straight up sprint, I'm definitely not one of the best. But in a sprint with wind, tactics, etc., then I have a better chance. I think the scratch race suits me because of that. The match sprints, a little less so. Anything with endurance (miss and out, pursuit) are tough.

mattio said...

Aki, there are a couple other races that you might do well in. In a Win and Out, there's a sprint for first place after X laps, and then X laps later, a sprint for second place, and after another X laps, a sprint for third through everything else. Also, with good support you could excel at shorter points races - a lot of times, I see the first sprint really blow the field, as the leaders try to stay away after the first sprint. I usually try to bridge up and nip a few points in the second and third sprints (got third in a points race at t-town that way). Maybe you'll get more chances to try those out if you come down to Kissena next season.

I've been thinking a lot about rear wheel hop, too. Kissena's got a few rugged sections that make it tough, especially around turn 4, and me with a bike with a very tight wheelbase (Felt TK2). It's been enough of a distraction that I'm considering replacing the bike for something a bit less tight and steep.

Aki said...

CE - although I knew of the race formats, for someone to point them out to me in such a light ("you'd like these") made me rethink my already-solid stereotypes on them. thanks for that.

Re: short wheelbase, the shorter the chainstay the more forward I can go before I start unweighting the rear wheel. So my choice is to either move the bars back or get a shorter chainstay. Or lower the tire pressure I guess - running 130 psi or so in a 19 mm tubular.

I was thinking of how to get the gear so I have to move the hub up most of the 1 cm I have left in the dropout - then I'd have 38.5 ish stays. This would help a bit. But I think ultimately I simply need to weight the back more, smooth out my stroke, and have a slightly softer tire setup.