Archive for August, 2010

Madisons, Moochers, Kerins, etc

My brain is wandering; I’m typing whatever comes to mind so this is a bit of everything.

I won my favorite race for the first time yesterday! I’ve been telling people my favorite race format is the points race for over a year, but all I had was a fist-full of seconds and thirds to show for results. I love the Points Race because it will always be a hard race and because there are so many different ways to win. I took the mixed-bag approach to victory last night winning the first sprint off the front solo, I won the 3rd sprint out of a field sprint, and took the 4th and final sprint out of a 3 man break. I also won the Miss and Out and was 2nd in the unknown distance, so the night of racing was very solid for me.

Enough of race reports, the most interesting thing that has recently happened in my riding and racing is muscle soreness. The past two weeks of racing have resulted in my left leg feeling more sore than my right leg. I have been riding a bike for 3½ years and my left leg has never been more sore than my right leg. My left leg, being the leg affected by Cerebral Palsy, has always lagged behind my right leg in power output, suppleness, workload, and soreness. I find this very encouraging in that my left leg may be closing the gap to my right leg. I should see my steady effort power increase if my left leg does get closer to my right leg in terms of strength, but the biggest benefit is likely to be in my sprint. That would really help me round out my abilities and arsenal on the bike.

I mentioned earlier that I like hard races. I like hard races because they get rid of moochers, I don’t like moochers in my races. To the moochers… If you aren’t strong enough to pull for half of a lap, that’s 167.67 meters and 12-13 seconds, stay out of the front of the race. If you find yourself unable to pull, but still able to contest intermediate sprints, you actually can pull. You probably shouldn’t be in a breakaway if you can’t pull through. However, if you find yourself in a break and unable to pull, play tail-gunner so the break can stay fast, fluid, and have a chance of surviving.

Keirins are on the schedule next week, I’ve never raced one before. It’s both exciting and scary, the idea of a motorcycle pulling us to 30mph and cutting us loose for 2 laps. I’m finding myself less intimidated by the sprint events, and I’d like to see how it feels to race this one. The trainers for the Australian sprint cycling team that is training here said I might be able to come to a training session for some pointers. I think it would be fun and a great opportunity to learn from some of the best.

Seeing as how the Keirin and Madison (for the Pro12) are on the schedule for next week I am going to defer applying for my upgrade to Cat2. I considered doing it this week, but the coach said to wait and “keep learning how to win”. Waiting to upgrade doesn’t sounds so bad when he says it like that.

Speaking of the Madison, and speaking candidly, it’s my unicorn. I’m all for overcoming challenges and empowering the disabled, but I am also realistic about what might be a bad idea. The act of taking a hand off the bar to throw or be thrown into a race is not something I have come around to trying or even seriously considering. My left hand does not work 100%, which puts a damper on my Madison aspirations. The Madison is so important because it is one of the most common and important formats of endurance track racing at the biggest events. One of my goals is to become fast enough to race at events like the Fixed Gear Classic in Minnesota, but I risk losing omnium points by being unable to race Madison, and how do I ask someone else to race with me if I can’t do a proper exchange? Maybe in the future I will be able to execute an exchange and maybe I won’t. My hope is that this does not limit my development or racing opportunities in the coming years.

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Tactics and Racing the Pro-AM

With a string of successful weeks at the track, my focus in racing has shifted from being a part of the race to how to win each race. Every track race has it’s differences in length and format, and enough weeks of racing will show you where each of your competitors has a strength or weakness. Picking up on these subtleties can go a long way in making decisions in a race setting.

I find myself looking forward to the racing on Thursday more than anything else. It gives an immediate and tangible reason to train that a World Championship months down the road can’t quite reach. So I packed up and headed to the track last night with a goal of scoring another win and the omnium (overall). It took me about 17 years to get warmed up, so the first 2 races saw me take mediocre finishes. With the omnium out, I came into the next race hoping my legs had come around. There was an early attack, and as we pulled it back, I countered with all I had. I was reeled in with 2-to-go, but I had succeeded in breaking up the group. I found myself on the front with one lap to go. I looked back and decided to go for the win from a lap out based on who was on my wheel, what I know about them, and who was lurking behind. It worked, and I won. It’s crazy how quickly I was able process all of that information and start my acceleration.

The last race of the night was a 50 lap (+10mile) P123 Points Race with 25-30 starters. It was chaotic for the first 10-15 laps and 2 or 3 sprints, but calmed down as people started dropping out. I confess to thinking about dropping out for a long while, but each time I’d dig a bit deeper and tell myself I’d race ’till the next sprint. Somewhere around 15 to go I found myself reconnecting with the lead group that had been paired down to 8, I had to finish the race at this point. I suffered through another 5 km and 3 sprints, but I made it. I had not scored any points, but I had finished the hardest race I have completed.

Am I ready to move up to Cat2? With only 3 nights of racing left, I am planning to finish out the season as a 3 and apply for my upgrade to start 2011 as a 2. I’m still learning strategy in the 3’s and I’d like to keep it up ’till I’ve learned as much as I can.

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Finding My Groove

With State Champs coming to a close I was finally able to take a break, 3 glorious days of doing nothing brought me into the next block of training. I was going to flog myself in an attempt to help the road team prepare for Worlds during their training camp. I spent the week trying to keep up with the better Time Trialists on the TT training days, and acted as a carrot on the hilly days. I want to wish all of them good luck and fast legs as they will be in Canada for the next 10 days!

My first day back in training happened to be a Thursday, and being a freshly minted Cat3 track racer, I was going to race that night without regard to the TT intervals I had done in the morning. Late afternoon rain showers scared a bunch of people so the field was small and I quickly realized I would be competing with 2 guys for the top spot throughout the night. I took 2nd in the 1Km scratch race, 2nd in the Tempo race (2 points to 1st, 1 point to 2nd on each lap), and 5th in the Handicap. There were a few errors in the handicapping, so 5th didn’t bother me. Coming into the last race, an elimination race, I knew I could win, I just needed to figure out how to win. I immediately jumped on his wheel when the guy that won the Tempo race attacked, and he wanted to sit on the front so I let him sit in the wind. I saw that the guy in 3rd place was about to make contact as we approached the final elimination; I liked my chances better against him so I soft pedaled through the last turn allowing him to catch us and avoid elimination. I let him go to the front with one to go and got the jump on the backstretch to take the win. I got my win and I used a sprint to do it. It’s nice to know I am strong enough to win with a sprint and that my arsenal is just a little bigger now.

After the previous week’s success, I went to the track last Thursday looking to build on what I had done. I like the feeling of winning, and I wanted to do it again. I didn’t have a morning training session so I was hitting the track with a little extra in the legs. I needed every bit of extra I could find! The racing was hard fought and very fast with each of the 3 mass start races being won out of a break. I was able to make each of these breakaways and racked up a 4th, and a pair of 2nds.

My win for the night was funny in that it was a Flying 200 meter Time Trial. I remembered I had left my aero helmet at the track so I used it just to be a goof. I started my wind-up very late (it was my first F200, after all), but still pulled out the fastest 200 in Cat3 by .01 seconds. I won because I had my silly aero helmet on. The moral is that you should use the aero gear you have whenever you race because you never know when a race will be decided by .01 seconds.

Overall, another very good night of racing for me.

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Super Week, Track Nats, Track States

The month of July was a blur, a lot of training, a few track sessions, a surprise trip to Super Week in Chicago, a track camp, Paralympic Track Nats, and finally Colorado State Track Champs.

After the disappointment of Para-Road Nats and missing the criteria for making the Worlds team, I knew that I would have to preform at Track Nationals. I was facing a tougher time standard this year as a result of a restructuring of the disability categories, I didn’t have any time for games. I set about the business of doing my workouts and getting on the track whenever possible. 2 weeks out from Nats my coach told me I was going to Super Week, 2 days later I hopped on a plane and raced for 4 days. I didn’t achieve much in the way of results, but I did learn some lessons that would start paying off in the next 4 weeks. I returned to The Springs on Friday and track camp started Sunday.

Track camp was leading up to and preparing a mix of experienced and novice track riders for the racing at Nationals. Despite the varying levels of track experience, the camp ran smoothly. I hadn’t spent much time on the track this year to this point (trusting the coach on this one) so I was working on pacing and technique, but mostly planning to ride Nats off of my road power.

We started the racing with the Individual Pursuits on Saturday. The wind was stiff that day and I did not have a good race. I finished 6th, and was on the bubble for a Worlds Team selection. I was having a tough time dealing with this mentally, but I decided I had to get over it and hit the Kilo hard. The conditions for Sunday’s Kilo were beautiful and I rode to a substantial PR, a 4th place, and a selection to the Worlds Team. I had finally ridden a great race, and could allow my mind to relax. But not too much, I had to turn around and ride a Team Sprint.

The trio of Will, Sam, and I are the probable team for the Team Sprint in International competition so we were the favorites to win. Will set us up with a very quick opening lap, Sam really turned the screws on lap 2, and I just had to spin my legs as fast as I could for the last lap. We turned the fastest time of the day, and I get to spend another year with a National Title. I am really looking forward to working with Will and Sam on this race as I think we could improve our coordination and speed.

I was deep into a training hole/rest deficit at this point, but I could not slow down with Elite State Track Champs/Elite Nats Qualifier in a week. I did crack very hard during a mid-week training ride, but I was still able to salvage a few decent rides at States. I took 6th in the Pursuit, just 3 seconds out of 2nd place. I had a great ride in the Kilo and matched my Kilo from the previous week, and just for fun I rode a Team Pursuit 15 minutes later. We were slow, but it was an incredibly enjoyable race. I would love to do a TP next year with a more cohesive and faster team.

With the end of States I was finally able to take much needed and deserved break.

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