I think I’ve had a very successful first year on the track. I got 2nd in a points race on my very first race day in the 5s, and on my first day in cat 4, I won a race, beating out a very strong guy who is a cat 3 on the road (with the points to be a 2) who has won over half his races on the track. I told myself that this season was about getting experience and seeing which events I like, and which I’m good at. I hoped that I would be better at the endurance events (scratch, points, elimination, etc.) as that wouldn’t require me to make many changes to my training routine. However, I suspected that the sprint events would be my thing, and I turned out to be right. I got a 13.01” in my first flying 200 on a 90” gear, which I discovered after the fact is laughably small, and still 13.01” is a solid first time. In my second match sprint tournament, with better strategy and a 97” gear, I got a 12.53”, which was the fastest cat 4 time by a wide margin. In the bizarre world of open-category match sprints, this seeded me in a bracket with cat 2’s and 3’s, all way more experienced than I. I was able to beat a cat 2 and place 6th overall in my last tournament (including all categories), so I think sprinting is where I belong.
Keirin is an event I didn’t get to do all year because Indy only offers it for cat 3 and above. I went to Northbrook for the exhibition Keirin on July 7th, but it was rained out. Thus, I showed up at Ed Rudolph Velodrome for the state championships last night having never actually raced Keirin. There was a Danish win and out prior to the Keirin heats, and the night concluded with a 3-lap scratch race, so my legs really feel like shit right now.
The Danish win-and-out is race where after 2 laps, the bell is rung and the first guy across the line on the next lap wins and leaves the track. Everyone else keeps going. First guy across the line on the next lap gets 2nd, and you keep going until someone is placed 5th, and then the race is over. It really, really sucks if you contest a sprint and miss it, because then you have to keep going. It’s not unusual for someone to miss winning the race by half a wheel, and then completely blow up and get shucked from the field. I told myself I was going to save energy and only attempt the sprint if I was sure I could win. I ended up chasing attacks but never contesting the sprint. I spent a lot of time in the wind and got 6th overall out of 15, which is exactly what I didn’t want to do. Good job following the gameplan. Oh well, on to Keirin.
Having never raced Keirin before, I decided to put on a massive 104” gear because that would put my cadence at approximately 100rpm at 31mph, which is the speed that the motorcycle drops off at with 1 ½ laps to go. I broke my chain whip putting the gear on and had to ask some guy I didn’t know to borrow his. They also got to my heat much faster than I thought they would, so I was a bit stressed getting to the line. Either way, I made it and drew the next to last starting position on the grid for the semifinal heat. There were 8 in the race, and the top 4 would make it through to the final. I struggled to get the gear up to speed in the standing start and took last position in the line of riders behind the moto. It accelerates from 18mph to 31mph over the course of the 3 ½ laps it’s on the track. It pulls off with 1 ½ to go and then the race is on. When we saw 2 to go, I got out of the draft and moved myself up along the leader as we exited turn 2. Nothing spectacular happened in this race. I just kept myself in good position and very comfortably finished 3rd to move onto the finals.
When the championship race neared, things started going wrong right away. I was waiting to get on the track and noticed that the results hadn’t been posted from the semifinal yet. They literally posted them as they were calling the cat 4 minor final (9th-15th place race for those that didn’t advance). My name wasn’t on the list for the major final, so I protested and they had to stop everything for 5 minutes while they checked the video. I felt fortunate that they had video to check. Indy does not, so if I had been there last night, I would have been screwed. They finally saw what I already knew, that I got 3rd in the semi, so he told me I was in, and I waited for the state championship race to start. I drew 2nd position, but once again was slow on the start and settled into next to last place in line. My plan for this race was to get on Matty Giedt’s wheel. We both raced our very first crits together in Beloit back in 2012, and he’s now a cat 2 on the road. He has an unbelievable acceleration that I knew could get me into position, then I could rely on my top end to come around in the last 50m. When we saw 3 to go (still 1 ½ laps until the moto pulled off), the only guy behind me decided to start moving up. I went ahead and jumped on his wheel, happy for the free ride. For some reason he decided to only move up a couple riders, which is dumb because once you’re in the wind you might as well go all the way up front. He pulled right next to Matty, which meant I was flanking his wheel. I decided that I was going to remain here, boxing in the rider currently on Matty’s wheel. My hope was that when the moto pulled off, Matty would jump out, putting me on his wheel. My plan worked perfectly, and with 600 meters to go for the state champ, I was on a wheel that I knew was going to be there for the finish. Matty slowly moved us up into position. I couldn’t believe my good luck, and as we heard the bell and came out of turn 2 onto the backstretch, I felt like a podium finish was a layup, and I was going to have a real shot at the win. But that wasn’t to be. As we came out of turn 3, Matty violently swerved up track. Since I was overlapping him a little, I had to go with him unless I wanted to high-five the track with my face. A few other riders also went with us. We all struggled to keep under control while we were on a banked turn pushing 40mph. We all stayed up, but my state champ hopes were gone in a flash. I found out after the race that there was some incidental contact where some jacked guy bumped a tiny guy and sent him flying up track. Just bad luck I guess. I think I got 7th overall, I never checked. Even after having some time to think about it, I’m confident I made all the right decisions in this race and put myself in position to win.
The last race was a 3-lap scratch race and I was ready to get on the road to go home. I also didn’t feel like finding another chain whip to borrow to change my gear, so I decided to do the scratch race in my giant Keirin gear, which is absolutely stupid, but I didn’t really care. Technically, it’s not the worst thing in the world if the race stays fast the whole time, but I wasn’t expecting anyone else to push the tempo, so I attacked at the gun. I got the big gear rolling and had the field strung out well along the backstretch. I flicked off in turn 3 and swung up track to see who came with and start the rotation. A couple guys were with me, but they didn’t push very hard and the catch was made before we were even out of turn 4. I settled in and knew that I was probably going to be fucked for the finish as I was going to have no acceleration. I should have attacked again and just went balls to the wall for the last two laps, but my legs just didn’t have it. The windup into the final sprint ended up being mercifully gradual, so I was able to power my way into good position. When the final jump came with ½ lap to go, I couldn’t match the acceleration to contest for the win, but still ended up a solid 4th place out of the 15 man field, which is hilarious considering the gear I was in.
Next up for me is the match sprint state championships on Saturday, August 20th, also in Northbrook. This is my best event, but since these are open-category tournaments, winning isn’t a realistic goal for me at this point. But if I can be the last remaining cat 4 in the tournament, that would technically make me the state champ for my category. That will be my goal and I think it’s realistic based on where I’ve landed in my first couple tournaments. Ok, enough for now. Time to go do some squats.