Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Dateline: 21:49, 6 May 2009

So I'm at some rest stop on the Mass Pike, trying to get my average speed down a bit. You know those tolls where you "get a ticket" then you pay when you get off the highway? I'm convinced that one day they'll hand out tickets.

You know, something like this:

"Hi. So... you got on at 495? And you're here... in 30 minutes? 40 miles in 30 minutes... let's see, that's 80 mph. So your total here will be $1.95 for the toll and $425 for a speeding ticket for averaging 15 over the limit for 30 minutes."

It's not happening, but I tell you, it will.

So I'm here, going 0 mph.

I'm up here because I was up further tonight, at the New England Velodrome (NEV). I came here last year, but I was doing the C/D races, the beginners. Tonight I raced the Bs and watched the As. A little different.

Over the winter I imagined myself getting a nice Jamis Sonik, or at least an aero front wheel, maybe a 49T chainring. I have a 50x15, and it's a monster gear at this particular track. Most guys run a 48 or 49, and they look smooth compared to my monster mashing style.

I didn't stop on the way up to the track, worried about traffic in the late afternoon, and with EZ Pass, I won't know if they're doing my speeding ticket thing until I get a statement next month. My worries ended up paranoia - I got to the track about 40 minutes before the racing started, giving me plenty of time to get ready.

I made one change to the bike so far - I installed a level stem (14 cm flat, not 14 cm pointed down) and one of my precious crit bars. I haven't measured the delta in position but it's significant. I did one practice sprint, and I barely had any rear wheel skip or unweighting. With my weight further back, the bike felt much more stable.

We did a bunch of races tonight - a Scratch race to start, then a Chariot race, a Miss and Out, an Unknown Distance, and finally a Points race.

The Scratch race should be ideal for me - it's a race where the first across the line wins. So it's like a crit on a 318 meter course with two turns. And you can pedal through the turns. I've been undefeated in the two Scratch races I did last year, and Scratch races make for good warm-ups, so I looked forward to doing this one. Unfortunately my legs didn't respond too well (perhaps my day off yesterday had something to do with this) and I sat up at some point just before the line, the race totally lost.

The Chariot race is a one lap drag race. Since I have the monster gear, I typically can't accelerate too well, so I figured this would be a short race for me. Surprisingly I managed to keep in contact with the leaders, but I didn't have the track to come around - we were five wide in the last turn and yours truly was waaaaaay up the track. I sat up for this one too.

The Miss And Out was interesting. I remembered my mentor (albeit for two days of track racing) telling me that you gotta be on the outside in a Miss And Out. You can keep a guy to the inside, then surge past him at the line. The inside guy is automatically boxed in, so he's in a weak position.

So I kept a guy to my inside, surged a bit, and found myself in a group of four. I'd been in the wind for a lot of the race, hanging to the side, and my body started to disintegrate. Tongue parched, legs going wobbly, upper body going numb, I had no idea what was going on. I sat one one guy's wheel and suddenly the other two sprinted around me. I was eliminated (but in 4th place) and the three guys went on to do a match sprint.


I like match sprints.

At this point, being sort of alone all day, for the 2.5 hour drive, and then in my own world prepping for the race and then racing, I started doing what alone people do - talk to myself.

I actually said, out loud, "Something's wrong. I have to get a good sprint in."

And so, during a short neutral period, I went high on the banking, got out of the saddle, and positively cranked on the bike. Out of the saddle accelerating, then back on it, pedaling furiously around the last turn. No swinging wide, no problems holding the low line.

Gasping, I sat up and let the bike slow down. I got in another lap, trying to recover, and they called us to the line for the Unknown Distance race.

I wondered, a bit belatedly, if it was a good idea to do a full out, 100% sprint, just before the start of a race. I figured the others were wondering the same thing too, like, "Who is this joker?"

The Unknown Distance is exactly that, a race where suddenly they ring the bell. With more people they have longer races, and I think we had 10 or 14 racers. Not only that, they'd also ring the bell for a prime. My mentor said that Unknown Distance races were tough, and usually you gamble on a lap and just go for it.

However, with a prime lap, I knew there'd be at least one lap to go. Not only that, they forgot to put someone at the bell for two laps, so I knew it was okay for each of those laps. In other words, I could relax a bit.

Nonetheless, I tried to monitor the front. The three guys who won the Miss And Out were obvious targets, and I guessed that they'd ring the bell for the finish shortly after the prime, when everyone was struggling.

At some point the bell rang for the prime, three guys went, and the rider in front of me left a gap. I closed it quickly, waiting to pounce if they rang the bell again. They didn't, but the three guys kept it going, and along with a guy behind me, we pulled away from the rest.

A five rider race is much easier to handle than a 10 or 14 rider race.

We shelled one guy (well, not "we" since I could barely pull, so the other three), so it was down to four. I pulled through once, but then an A racer rolling around said that I shouldn't work, not with two guys on one team in the group. Basically we should let that team sacrifice one guy, and the three of us would sprint.

So when I was supposed to pull again, I declined. Since the guy in front pulled up the track, I followed him, and the two others dove through the big hole we left. As the guy in front of me dove down, with me on his wheel, the bell rang.

Fourth in line, and if someone really drilled it, it would be tough. But I think the guy in second, who I figured was the strongest of us all, he wanted to wait to jump. I had no choice - I had to go early because I was so far back.

I jumped on the backstretch, pulled up to and past the second guy, effectively boxing him in a la Miss and Out. The guy in front was dying, and as I went into the last turn, the race was mine to lose. Second guy finally got out from behind the dying leadout guy but it was too late.


I guess my leg opening sprint worked.

I was hoping for something in the Points race. We did 20 laps, sprinting on every fifth lap. Since the last sprint is usually worth more, I decided to sit and watch the first sprint. I did, and a little group detached. It was the two teammates again, from the UD race, plus one of the guys that made that final group in the same race.

I was dying though, just dying. The Second guy from the UD race, one of the two teammates, took off just after the second sprint, dragging another with him. This left me and Second's teammate fighting for third place points.

I heard one guy say that whoever comes out of the last turn first will win the sprint, but the guy I was with looked pretty cooked. I felt cooked too, but I know I can sprint a bit even when I'm cooked. So when he jumped past me on the backstretch, I waited, figuring I'd pass him just before the line for third place points. I'm pretty sure I pulled it off. I actually pulled up to pull out of the race, but he slowed so much that I rolled back down and followed him. He didn't react so I think he thought I swung up because I felt like it, not because I wanted to quit.

Again, an A racer rolling along said that I shouldn't work, so I didn't, not really anyway, for two laps. I let him move me to the front with 2 to go, and led until we both jumped. I led at my speed, good for my monster gear, good for my style of jump. He should have tried to break my rhythm but I think he really was cooked. I led out from the backstretch and took the third place points for the last sprint.

Unfortunately the last sprint wasn't double points so I wasn't top 3, but that's okay. I learned a bit more with my two sprints, more than I knew before today.

All in all a decent night. I was on the bike for about 2.5 hours in total, racing maybe 10 or 15 minutes. I got in some decent sprints, learned how to take the turns better.

And I want to be much smoother. Watching the As, wow, they are "smooth like butta", as one guy once described his bike to us.

So goals for the future: build a lighter front wheel for my bike using parts I have laying around. Buy a couple Campy track axles so I can use my Zipp 440 and a Campy Record Crono tubular wheel I have in the garage. The latter would be a great track wheel - the braking surface is damaged, but the wheel rolls fine.

And get a slightly smaller gear. And learn to spin it well.

Time to get back on the road.


Mike said...

Awesome write up! I think your track escapades are my favorite.

I'm not sure what route you take, but if your on rt 91 North in MA by Northampton (exit 19 I think) I'd be on your way up there, and would love to come with just to watch an hang out.

I'll get a track bike one of these days...

I watched the racing at the Trexlertown velodrome a year ago and it was amazing.

Aki said...

I just reread the post. I was obviously a bit bleary eyed and tired because some of it didn't make sense. ha.

I go over to 91 south (!), 291, 84, Mass Pike, 495, 93. I go south for a bit because I didn't like going through whatever that 91/Mass Pike city is.

Watching may be a bit boring - there is quite a bit of down time. If you're on a bike it's okay, but if not, well, there are a lot of mosquitos and such to keep you company.

Having said all that, if you're up for a trip, I can alter my route. I think next week I'll go earlier to get more riding in (I left about 2:30 yesterday). I barely have room for a passenger for now but that's okay, I can pack the car better.

Mike said...

Yeah! I can't go next week because of school stuff, but definitely the following week.

Aki said...

Sounds good. Keep in mind that rain cancels stuff, so weather is key.

Also, not sure what the schedule is in two weeks. I know next week they wanted to start earlier, not sure of the following one. We'll play it by ear.

Suitcase of Courage said...

Loved the write up. Makes me wanna get a track bike.

'course, then I wouldn't have to fuss so much with derailleurs...

jg said...

Nice blog! Riding a miss-and-out like that is effective, but as you found it can also be quite tiring if you want to contest the finish - even if you're only putting in little efforts to move ahead, over 10-15 laps that can really wear you out. Another approach is to sit 2nd wheel, just above the sprinters lane - this lets you get a little draft from the front, and you usually have some room in front of you if you need to move forward. Most importantly, you can ride a steady tempo instead of jumping every lap to stay off the back.