Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Dateline: 20:12, 13 May 2009

Yep, at it again. I actually don't need to lower my average speed tonight - I think I'm at about 65 for the average (the car says I've been doing 63, but earlier it was reading north of 70).

Anyway, this means I have another day of track riding under my belt. I could treat it like skiing:

"I did 21 days this year."

Or, for me, relating to the track:

"I've done six (or maybe seven) days so far."

Today's foray seemed less successful to me. Although I didn't race as well, that's okay - winning or not, ultimately I go to work hard, to explore limits. Today, though, I lacked pep. Felt flat.

We started with the Scratch race, as usual. I learned that this isn't a coincidence - it's designed to be a nice intro to the evening's racing.

I rolled out with everyone else but simply couldn't get into the pedals. I must have been fumbling around for a good 20 or 30 seconds, finally engaging the cleat on the backstretch. A bemused A racer, following the group to warm up, looked on with a slightly horrified look on his face.

With a big crowd, maybe 15 racers in the Bs, the pace should have been high. Instead, it seemed a bit flat. And after a couple riders had some contact (my first experience seeing two riders touch hard right in front of me - and without brakes, it was slightly perturbing), I moved up from my tailgun position.

Then, with a few gaps starting to appear, I moved up even more.

Eventually two guys went off, with a few others chasing. A few riders decided to sacrifice themselves to try and bring back the two man break, but as the laps wound down and the sacrificial riders blew left and right, I realized that it would take a hard effort to make it across, not just a bunch of pulls.

So at 4 to go, I jumped. Bridged. And managed to hide for one turn (the sun wasn't throwing down any illuminating shadows).

The next turn the two guys were looking across the track to check their advantage, and the second guy glanced down and saw three shadows. He quickly looked back, then to his right.


I was too tired to wave but I really should have. As it was, the two had been metering their efforts, and as we approached the bell, they drilled it.

I shot out the back.

With half a lap to go I felt like a group of three chasers would swamp me at the finish, so I swung up the track, ceding third through fifth.

Next up - the Miss and Out. Like I said before, it's good to be slightly uptrack (to the right) of someone, then making sure you're in front of them at the line. I did this reasonably successfully last week, running into trouble when we were down in numbers and I couldn't sit on a wheel while sitting one row up the track.

The group rode pretty steadily, in tight formation. I should have sat there and waited out the race. I should have waited for the inevitable break, then bridge up to it (just not as hard as I bridged in the Scratch race).

Instead, I attacked.

Now, unusually, I was on the inside, pretty boxed in, when I went. I never really thought about attacking - my legs suddenly went, I veered into the only opening in front of me, and, as I squirted out into the open, I heard an surprised "Oh!" as I went by someone.

No contact, no weirdness, just some hollering to chase me down.

For the first time in many, many years I can say that I went off the front for two laps. 318 meter laps, but still, two laps. I looked back, trying to count the riders so I could get an idea of how many laps I had to survive, but after counting the last three riders thrice, I gave up.

(Hint - if doing a Miss and Out, count how many start the race before the race starts.)

Four riders separated themselves from the group, and with four riders the cut-off (meaning once four riders were left, the race stopped, and after a couple rest laps, they'd sprint for first through fourth), they were anxious to keep it to only four.

When I got caught, one of the protagonists from last week's racing yelled out, "If you get in after that, you better work!"

Little did he know that I was totally blown. I tried to hang in but couldn't close the gap, and finally, agonizingly, I had to sit up. The two guys on my wheel attacked each other, and the four in the lead rode away.

After that a guy from CycleLoft gave us some Madison lessons. The Madison, done right, looks something like this:

But that's now how we did it.

The important part of the madison is when you throw your teammate into the fray. Since that can be sort of dangerous, it's important to get the basics down. So we started working on that. I paired up with a guy who'd done this before so he was pretty good.

Me, on the other hand, I felt... not so good.

First we worked on sort of a sticky throw, meaning we didn't let go. It was a bit comical, watching guys fling one another forward and backwards. The idea with the hand sling is that one rider gives his momentum to the other, with a slight arm boost thrown in for good measure. Our illustrious instructor mentioned the example that one rider would go from 30 mph (race speed) to 20 mph (relief rider speed). The relief rider, getting tossed into the race, would go from 20 mph to 30 mph.

If you don't let go, though, it doesn't look very interesting. It's like watching kids learn how to play soccer - it's just a rumble around a ball. We yo-yo'd fore and aft, not unlike two guys on a railway hand car, until we had accelerated up to some unmanageable speed.

Next we actually let go. I felt less comfortable with this. I could toss him up to speed fine, but I wasn't smooth getting ramped up. Holding the drops and getting a hand sling didn't jibe well with me. We did a few extra practice throws for me, and then we stopped so they could get the A race Madison under way.

Apparently I looked pretty good though because the announcer, Dick Ring, asked if I'd be doing the actual Madison race. I smiled and declined.

Good thing, too, because I realized at some point that my left crank arm was wobbling around the bottom bracket axle. Jamming an incompatible crank onto said BB was, ultimately, unsuccessful.

I also realized that the frame is French threaded (!!!). French?! What were they thinking? I don't know, but what I do know if that the Italian BB I ordered won't fit. Arg.

Anyway, with that unfortunate revelation, the mosquitoes swarming, the temperature plummeting, and the light fading, I decided to call it a night.

The high point of the night - one of the four in the break in the Miss and Out (actually, he got fourth) called out my name.

"Nice move. Threading the needle."

Wink and a finger point.

I couldn't help but smile.


Mike said...

Ya know Aki, for the price of a SRAM Force groupset, you could pick up one of those sweet felt track bikes.

Aki said...

Ah, yes, true. Neither, at this moment, are in the budget. However, I may have a lead in selling off my backup to my backup bike. If that happens, well, who knows.

Mike said...

Is that the giant?

If you're looking to sell that steel track bike of yours I happen to ride the same frame size and have an interest in track racing...

Well, as long as that mismatched crank thing gets fixed.

I still need to head up there some Wednesday with you. Next weeks bad too, but the following week I swear I'm keeping open. Gonna try and make the Tuesday night worlds too.

Aki said...

Hocam - well, maybe the week after. I was getting prepared mentally for the different drive etc. I hope to have a bunch of new equipment on the bike. Let me know when you're good to go.

If I get a new bike you'll have dibs. And I'll fix things because next week I'll be racing this bike again.

Rishabh Phukan said...


Sell the backup to the backup.

The chances of you running out of 2 bikes are practically nil!

Or better yet, trade it for a better track bike ;)

Aki said...

The backup to the backup is hanging, sans bars/stem/brifters/wheels, in the garage. So, yeah, it would make sense not to own it anymore. I'll see what happens with my lead.