Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Dateline: 20:31, 20 May 2009

"Hey, how's it going? Um, I was wondering, could I install a crankset right now? ... It's okay if you don't have a free stand, I'll do it on the floor. When am I riding? Um, in about three hours... The track? Yeah, it's about, um, three hours away."

That was me talking, at the local shop.

With that I started my final task before I headed north for some NEV action.

I thought my frame was French threaded (with an Italian name frame, what was I thinking?). Well, the 26.6 mm seatpost threw me for a loop, making me think the frame was built along French standards. And my bleary eyes saw "38" on the bottom bracket cup instead of "36". Today, with clearer eyes, I saw that, in fact, it said 36x24.

Italian thread.

Therefore the crankset I ordered would fit, or, to be precise, the bottom bracket cups I ordered for the crankset I ordered would fit. I'd have pictures but I was in a hurry. I'll take "after the fact" shots though.

Suffice it to say that I figured out a way to uninstall the fixed cup without a fixed cup tool (use a vise to hold the cup, turn the frame), extracted the BB, and installed the cups for the new BB.


So I switched the left and right cups (Italian BBs do that, English ones don't because one side is reverse thread). Installed the cranks. Installed the shiny silver BMX chain. Thought about switching out the 48T chainring for my 50T. Looked at my watch. Nix the chainring swap.

25 minutes later, I left the shop with a virtually new drivetrain on the bike.

Note: I also had new brake pads on the blue car - and, curiously enough, the slight grinding noise while braking suddenly went away. I, of course, installed them today just before I left for the shop. I also managed to do some laundry - including the team kit in my gear bag. I did some dishes too, including the bottle in the car. And, of course, every time I walked by the window with Riley sitting on the sill, I'd pet her because she wasn't her normal skittish self. Of the other cats, Hal was most active. He just followed me around, meowing about all the things that cats meow about.

I got to the track with just a bit of time, maybe 20 minutes, before we gathered for the national anthem. Then it was off to the races - for me, it meant the B's - a Scratch race, a Snowball race, a Madison (!), and then some Match Sprints.

On the warm-up I realized the 48x15 felt much easier than the 50x15, but I was amazed that some of the good riders were using even lower gears (one a 48x17!). I figured I'd be good even with the change from the 50 to the 48 - I'd still have a bit taller gear than some guys.

The Scratch race is just a normal 15 lap race. We started off, me following this guy Will for a few laps. I remember him because last week he pointed out he was using a 48x14. I thought my 50x15 was big, a 48x14 is huge! This week he and I both rolled around on 48x15s during warm-up. Anyway, in the race, when he pulled off, I did a lap at the front, pulled off, and realized that my legs had difficulty spinning the 48x15.

Then someone attacked.

I went shooting off the back.

I simply couldn't spin the gear fast enough. My 175 mm @ 90 rpm road style didn't fit well with the 120 or whatever rpm I had to maintain to stay with the attacks, forget about launching one myself.

About 6 laps in I'd pulled off the racing line, and a lap or two later I was at the car. By the time the guys had sprinted for the finish, I'd removed the 50T ring from the old crank (luckily I did all that work on the way to the track, else I probably would have left it at home). Before the As finished their race my new crankset had my old 50T on it.

I felt a bit better now. At least I felt like I could hang onto the back of the group, if nothing else.

Of course, that's when someone pointed out, "Don't you want the lower gear for the sprints?"

Hm. I think I jump better with big gears. I'll stick with what I know.

The Snowball is an interesting race. It's sort of like an amortized points race. Only the winner gets the points, and on the first lap, there's only one point up for grabs. On the second, there are two. Third, three. And so on, up until 15 laps, where you can snag 15 points if you win that last sprint.

One guy went early and snagged all the "inexpensive" points, but his effort made him pull off the racing line once he got caught (he still got 4th or something). Then two more guys duked it out for a few laps, with me shadowing them, waiting for something, I don't know what, but something.

Then the guy on my wheel shot past me. I tried to go with him, out of the saddle and everything, but he'd gapped me good, and I started to explode, even with my 50x15. I looked back to see who else was there.

No one.


I sat up and one of the two guys duking it out earlier rolled by me, maintaining a nice, even pace, one that was absolutely unsustainable by yours truly.

I pulled up the track and stopped.

It seems I'm good for maybe a couple laps (they're typically 25-30 seconds a lap), but when the guys start plugging away for 4 or 5 laps, 2 or 3 minutes, I'm totally cooked.

I spent the next bit of time talking to one of the regulars. He pointed out some of the riders, their strengths, their focus, stuff like that. One guy that impressed me in previous weeks (in the A races) with his staying power had actually been focusing on the Match Sprint the prior year. He definitely had some get up and go, but apparently he decided to do a more rounded program for 09. Still, though, he had this cool as nails disk wheel.

On to the Madison. My training partner from last week wasn't around, so I did some practice slings with the aforementioned Will. But we didn't mesh well with the slings and I almost pulled him off his bike or something. He declined doing the race, so I teamed up with one of the other guys I know there, Scotty.

Now, although Scotty is a good racer (we duked it out last year), we hadn't practiced a single sling, and therefore it was kind of sketchy. It's pretty easy being the slinger (the guy racing up to that point who slings their partner into the race). It's harder being the slingee (the relief rider who gets whipped up to race speed in about 10 feet). It's even harder when you're supposed to be racing other teams while you're slinging one another all over the track.

We got totally annihilated.

I didn't help much - at least Scotty could hang with the boys. I couldn't go more than a lap, but it takes two laps to catch your relief man, so I'd lose us a good half lap each time I got into the race. One lap, fine. Two laps, trouble. Again, that jump from 30 seconds of effort to 60 seconds killed me.

Still, though, we got in some good slings, and neither of us crashed (actually no one crashed). Chalk it up to experience. I figure it'll take a good year or two before I get it down, and I'll need to have a time-trial-y type of rider to complement my very sprinty type of riding.

I just have to figure out how I can sling my relief partner in after just one lap. Or extend my usable power time up to 60 seconds minimum.

Finally we had some match sprints. Nothing too organized, just some semi-random triplets assigned by Tony, the track director.

The first sprint saw me matched up against the guy who could go forever in the Snowball race (he was chasing the winner) and a young rider who was apparently using some low gear. My 50x15 was a huge advantage over the younger rider, and when the other guy jumped, he couldn't go with the move. It took me a few pedal strokes to get on the Forever guy's wheel, and my jump let me go around him on the back stretch. I drilled it to the line but Forever had sat up.

I watched a few sprints while I caught my breath, including one really entertaining one where the resident pro-type rider Kirk actually playfully head-butted a guy trying to pass him as the bell rang. Then he rode his two opponents up away from the sprint lane (the fastest lane, and once you're in it in the sprint, other riders can't be in it next to you). Finally he dropped down to the sprint lane and went for the line. I forget how he did, first or second, but it was great fun watching a good rider having fun on the track (he was another that used a super low gear, so he had to use his guile to help make up for his lack of top end speed).

Then Tony, another good rider using a low gear (and the guy in charge of the track), had me, him, and the aforementioned disk wheel guy go at it. Tony had that low gear so I knew I had to keep the pace higher, but the disk wheel would give the other guy a speed advantage. My only hope was that they'd be using lower gears than me, and I'd be able to get some top end speed that they couldn't hit.

I rolled at the front, aware that Tony's low gear would make it hard for me to match a jump. By keeping the speed higher, I hoped to keep Tony at bay. Then it'd be me and the disk wheel guy. I figured it'd be him or me based on Tony's low gear (and my strategy to use my big gear to my advantage, i.e. keep the initial pace high enough so I won't bog down when I jump).

Sure enough, Disk Wheel went, I went with him, and, no, he wasn't using a big gear. I jumped on the backstretch, passing him on the right. Incredibly Tony was there too, I felt him just behind to my right. Disk Wheel fought back pretty hard, but ultimately I managed to get around him.

I felt better about the second sprint because the one guy focused on sprinting the prior season, so the "win" felt more honorable. Honestly, though, I have a feeling that if Tony had any kind of normal gear on his bike, he'd have walked away with the sprint.

So a few things I learned about track racing:
1. There are Three Three Word phrases that you have to remember:
- Don't stop pedaling
- Stick, Stay, Rail
- Um... I forget the last one.

2. Good riders can spin little gears ridiculously fast. Big gears are a crutch for lack of "souplesse" or pedaling smoothness.

3. You have to practice slings to be able to do a Madison.

4. I like Match Sprints.

We'll see how the rest of the summer goes.

At this point, this week, I have two days of riding, of which two days were racing. My legs feel pretty normal after the wrecking I gave them Sunday. Next up on the riding agenda - the Hartford Crit (Bike Reg link here), coming up this Sunday.

(For those of you with RSS feeds, my laptop touchpad made me publish a post, so apologies for that)

1 comment:

Rishabh Phukan said...

Glad you had fun at the track!

See you at the hartford crit and then at 'e-haw'.