Monday, August 24, 2009

Beer Race

Jeff Harwood from Ironclad and I cleaned up in the Cat5's on the track at the Team Beer Race at Alpenrose. We ended up tying for first, with the tie-break going to Jeff because he beat me in the final race of the omnium.
Felt really good in this race. Felt like I could throw myself around the track and concern myself with only the "racing" part of track racing, and not have to worry about the "riding bike" part of track racing. It's a welcome turn of events. I've finally figured out that my crash last year on my first ever race on the track really fucked with my head. I have been timid and tense when I was out on the track earlier in the year.
Something changed. Maybe it was mashing my bike into a real track bike, from the street fixie it was. Maybe it was just time. Maybe it was the speech on Friday by Luciano, our announcer, who made a point of pointing out that the default line in a mass start race is the outside line, not the inside near the sprinter's lane; i.e. to use the whole track when racing: attack going over the top of the pack, instead of underneath.
Whatever happened, I felt absolutely comfortable out there racing. Fun, for a change, instead of nerve racking.
Next stop: Cat 4. And match sprints. I can't wait!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Track... and Redemption

My last post about the track was a total bitch session. Today, after not racing for the last month and hardly touching my bike the last couple weeks, I went out onto the track for the penultimate race week to get some more experience.
Last time out, I had a bike that had a track geometry but with a road fork, a crankset that was too long and a bushingless singlespeed chain. After that last time, I upgraded the fork to a carbon fiber track specific fork which had a 30mm rake instead of the 40mm rake that my previous one had. I upgraded the crankset to a real track crankset with shorter arms so I could spin faster. And I upgraded the chain to a real track chain. But I didn't get to race. I skipped it the next week, but I would've been rained out anyway, and I was rained out on two consecutive weeks afterwards. That last race would've been my fourth and final race as a Cat5. Then I got off the track kick and started training for Cascade.
Today, I decided to give the track one last shot and cram as much track experience as I could into these last two weeks. And it went so much better.
See, after crashing out of my very very very firstest race on the track, I've been a scared kitten. I didn't so much race to win or even to have fun, but to not crash. Today changed all that for me. I only had to warn one person to hold his line, and besides that, it was a safe race day and I was competitive to boot.
The new bike (the fork changes everything... it's new now, a completely changed beast) handled marvelously. It's a crime that the bike sellers sell track bikes with road forks to beginners. The beginners are the very people who need a well behaved bike. Instead, in exchange for a couple bucks saved, they get a twitchy bike that is even too twitchy for the match sprinters. It's hard enough to hold a line on the bank the first few times out without having to fight the bike as well. My bike, before the track fork, was skittish. I had to fight it on every turn to keep it on a line. Now, with the new fork, it goes where I look. No fighting anymore. I don't have to watch the lines on the track to follow the bank; I just look around the corner and it goes around perfectly. I don't even have to consciously bank the bike into the corner. It goes around like it's on rails.
Anyway, it was a Cat5 race, so there isn't even bragging rights to go along with it, but a couple guys I've met in road races were there in the field, which was good because I knew that these particular folks could ride a bike. The first race was a 10 lap scratch; just a race to the finish line. Found myself at the front after a couple laps. I went up the bank to give a turn on the front to someone else and found I had a gap. So I zoomed down the bank, into the sprinters lane, and took off. Didn't look back. Just hit the gas for the next two laps as hard as I could. A teammate of mine told me once that breakaways were different on the track. You give it a full effort so that you get ahead by about half a lap, then you can back off and just cruise. You don't need to go full bore like in a road race because the pack dynamics are different. It has to be a long points race before you can get a group of even three people to cooperate and chase.
When I finally looked back, I saw I had about a third of a lap lead. I backed down a bit to just match speed with the chasers and rode out the rest of the race. Every half lap, I peaked back to see how the chasers were doing; if they were gaining on me, I'd give it more gas. If they were backing off, I backed off. I ended up holding on for the win.
The next two races... well, let's just say that it was evident that I expended a lot of energy in the first race. I mean, after that first race, I was tasting a trace of blood in my throat from a few burst alveoli from the effort. The second race was a 15 lap points race, with points for the first four positions on laps 5, 10, and 15, with double points at the finish. I wasn't able to do much of anything until the finish, where I was pipped at the line for third place.
Going into the final race of the omnium, myself and two others were tied for first. The last race was a "Tempo" race, meaning it was a race to the line each and every lap, with the first two racers to cross getting points. I got no points. I was fourth or fifth (I think) across the line at the finish, but I was far enough behind the leaders (obviously the race blew apart, which tends to happen on this type of race) that I wasn't even sure when the race ended.
In any case, I had amassed enough omnium points on the first two events to to eek out a second place for the day. And I didn't feel threatened at all. I felt perfectly comfortable in the field and racing, my bike handled great, I had fun, and I wasn't a scaredy cat. A good day.