Monday, April 28, 2008

Opening Weekend at our home turf, the Kissena Velodrome, was this weekend. With the motto of Heidi's race series from last summer, GET FASTER, ringing in my ears, we headed out for the races. I was feeling pretty good - Thursday morning training rides up the west side of the Hudson River, working bike delivery and getting base miles and lots of short sprints in, and spending more go-fast time on the road bike, including last weekend's road race... well, they made my legs feel like they were in a good place. I wasn't out there to win, but I was out there to gain some more experience - data, if you will - and see where I was so I can think about getting stronger and faster for the upcoming Twilight Series.

Saturday's events - a 1,000 meter time trial, a team sprint, and a 9-lap points race. The time trial hurt. The team sprint was fun - the impromptu team I was on included my sweetheart and a stranger. We worked well enough together and came in a respectable 2nd place. But I much prefer mass-start events. I don't consider myself to be a particularly strong racer, so I'm relying on reading race dynamics to take advantage of situations. In the points race, someone broke away, but I was able to push the pace of some confused racers, and took 2nd place in two of the three sprints - not bad!

Sunday's races were exciting - once the track dried out. The 6 lap scratch was unimpressive. Everybody riding for five laps and then sprinting for 1 doesn't do much for me. I'm going to have a better strategy for that race - hurt the field a bit and try to take the sprinters out of contention a bit. Then there was a charriot race - one lap, standing start. Kind of a crappy race for the Cat 5s, and the women, while everyone else is doing Keirins. I took first in the qualifying sprint, and third or fourth in the final. More points toward the omnium. But it was the win-and-out that I was really excited for - though I prefer miss-and-outs. But I was excited; one sprinter took off very early and was barely contested for first place. Two guys shot off hard for the second place sprint, and one was totally toasted as I and another strong rider set the pace winding up for the third place sprint. Coming around turn 4, about to embark on the last lap, I was in 2nd position, with Joe in front of me and Andy, winded, behind me. Joe, following what had been our move of swapping pulls to set the pace, moved over for me, but I didn't take the lead. I called to Andy to take it, but he couldn't move forward. I, on the other hand, wouldn't be persuaded to take the lead going into the last lap. Our pace slowed down on the home stretch, but going into turn 1, we were high on the banking - a place I love. I moved, tearing down it with a big head of steam, and opened up enough space. They never caught my wheel and I took the sprint by at least a bike length. 3rd place! And in a win-and-out, you really have to earn it!

So I took 4th place in the Cat 5 omnium. A good start to the season - I'm very excited for the Twilight Series.

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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Well, I've been busy. Organizing the toughest, most innovative race series of the year is hard work. Getting sponsors, on the other hand, is lots of fun. You just send emails telling companies how rad your event is going to be, and then a week or two later, you get a UPS slip on the door telling you that they tried to deliver something, but that you weren't home (you were), and that they'll try again tomorrow between 9 AM and 7 PM!

Sludgement Day kicked the racers' asses - being longer and harder than elite cyclocross races. Tracklocross, or busted version of grasstrack racing, was a hell of a lot of fun. We had a great field with cones already there waiting for us to use it! We set up an oval and started running the races. Riding an all-purpose track bike around turns on wet grass is very difficult; it was easy to have your rear wheel slide out and go down. It was very hard to accelerate without slipping - thoughtful weight distribution was key. And it was hard - fast, sprintey, sketchy, and fun.

Leaving the "illegal, underground, and intense" realm, I bought my USCF license a month or so ago, and this past weekend I got a chance to use it during the Prospect Park Spring Series. I had heard enough about Cat 5 fields to be flat-out afraid of getting caught up in a wreck on this race, so solicited some solid advice - stay near the front or on the shoulder of the pack. If you're caught in the middle, let yourself out the back and work your way up the side. I raced a strong race, staying near the front, and being a part of the notoriously difficult to organize strong-but-inexperienced racers that Cat 5 fields are known for. Tried a couple interesting moves, almost held a break near the end, got swallowed up, didn't have much left for the final sprint, and finished toward the front of the midpack. Not bad!

Kissena Velodrome's opening weekend is this weekend, though, so my second road race will have to wait. And I've got to pick up my track bike from Taliah Lempert's studio.

In other bike world news, a notable local advocate for sensible/alternative transportation has offered me a job. So it looks like my months or bike delivery work are drawing to a close right when the nice weather kicks in.

It's all for the best.