Sometimes I wonder why we bother to race. It can be very stressful, and the sacrifices required are huge, not to mention the danger. But I must admit that it can be extremely rewarding, and it motivates me to stay healthy and fit. Setting goals is a great way to stay motivated, and this year my main goal was to improve on my results from Track Worlds last year.
The vibe at the Los Angeles track, actually in Carson, at the Stubhub’s VELO Sports Center on the Dominguez Hills campus, is always special, starting with the fact that it's a world-class wooden indoor track with steep 45-degree banked turns. And for Track Worlds the added excitement, level of commitment, professionalism, and the international field all combine to make it pretty amazing. The entire infield gets jammed with riders and their equipment, separated by barriers into cubes. People are constantly working on their bikes, riding on their rollers, and trying to recover from their hard efforts on the track. Flags from all over the world, and totally unfamiliar kits and languages all are pretty overwhelming, but very cool.
|Margaret helping me in the track's infield.|
Since Track Worlds is basically book-ended by Margaret's birthday and our wedding anniversary, I brought Margaret with me and we made lots of plans to have fun in between my races. We drove down on Saturday the 6th, and I got to ride on my rollers for a little bit and leave my equipment at the track, in our “Hellyerville” area, which a bunch of us from Northern California shared, including Larry Nolan, Kevin Metcalfe, and many others. We then checked into our hotel and went out to a really nice dinner in Manhattan Beach.
As I mentioned in my race report from Districts, the Team Sprint was my number one priority for the entire season (you can read about the various types of track races on the NCVA site). Team Sprint is a lot like a high school prom dance. Much drama, changing allegiances, officials getting in the way of having fun, etc. On the other hand, it's also a very cool event because the many moving parts are a lot like a beautiful dance.
Early in the year Rich Rozzi, Bill Nighan and I had formed a team, and had started training together too. Unfortunately, that whole plan blew up when Bill left us for another team just before Districts. So much drama, and it was compounded by even more drama. We replaced Bill with Kurt Bickel, but after Districts, Kurt crashed during a training ride and broke a rib. We had to scramble to find a replacement rider, but it was pretty difficult since we only had about a week to do this, and we were all out of local riders to choose from. Fortunately, Facebook allowed us to connect to riders from all over the world, and just a few days before the race we found a replacement rider in Guy Mansio of France. Guy is fast, and specializes as man 3 (Rich and I are better as starters) and he's an 8-time French Champion too. So we were a good match. The UCI rules specifically mentioned that mixed nationality teams were allowed, even if they were not preferred, as we were unable to find any US riders who were registered and available at that time.
Sunday, 10/7: 500 meter Time Trial
Sunday was the first race for me, Rich, and Guy. It was our 500 meter Time Trial (standing start, two laps on LA’s 250-meter track). Since it was not my top priority, I mostly wanted to use it as a test of my fitness and form, and as a way to compare our relative strengths so we could position ourselves optimally for the Team Sprint that would be on Thursday.
For the 500-meter, I used the best equipment I could, including a borrowed front disc wheel. I also had a new helmet, and Spokesman Bicycles skinsuit (by Castelli), and used atypically low 92.6-inch gearing (48x14 teeth) which I had arrived at after experimenting with taller gears in the past. The extra acceleration in the start from the lower gearing seems to more than compensate for any loss at the higher speeds in lap two.
|Waiting for my 500 start.|
My start in the 500 felt pretty good, right out of the starting gate. I pedaled hard, standing up for over half a lap, before I sat down. I felt I was doing my absolute best, but in lap 2 I definitely felt lactic acid accumulate in my legs. Soon I felt like I could barely pedal and when I crossed the finish line it was a relief.
|In the pain cave during lap 2 of my 500 (photo: Scott Dworkin).|
Once I had cooled down and results were posted, I was a bit disappointed to see that my 36.913-second time was 7/10 slower than last year, and placed me in 11th overall, down from 9th last year. Heck, just 3 weeks earlier I had set a faster time in a training race.
Still, the 500 was not my main priority, and I was more interested in the lap splits of my Team Sprint teammates. They were pretty much what I had expected, and confirmed what we had already decided to do for our Team Sprint start order (me as man 1, Rich as man 2, Guy as man 3).
Here are our lap 1, lap 2, and total times, with the overall results in parentheses:
|Rider||Lap 1||Lap 2||Total|
|Dennis||20.655 (7th)||16.258 (14th)||36.913 (11th)|
|Guy||20.702 (8th)||15.319 (6th)||36.021 (6th)|
|Rich||20.984 (9th)||15.463 (7th)||36.448 (8th)|
I rode the seventh fastest lap 1 out of all 25 riders, and in the Team Sprint I'd be our man 1, just riding one lap. So all in all, I was pretty happy with my lap 1, though not so happy about my lap 2. And our 8th and 6th overall for Rich and Guy meant that we'd be well-positioned for a high overall finish too. All I needed to do would be to duplicate that lap 1 time for our Team Sprint to come on Thursday in order to put us in contention for the podium. That would be so awesome!
The UCI live streamed the afternoon session races, so you can see video of me in this race (starting around 2:13:30). I even had friends and family rooting for me from back home!
Tuesday, 10/9: Match Sprints
Last year I must admit that I suffered from a lot of stress and anxiety over the Match Sprints. So much so that this year I almost didn't register to compete in them. But winning another gold in Match Sprints at Districts helped convince me to try them again at Worlds. Last year I had slid out on the track during a flying 200 run in a training race, due to slippery tires, and it had unnerved me a bit. We have to ride very slowly in the windup for our flying 200, and those low speeds, combined with the 45-degree banking and slippery wooden surface, make it a little tricky to avoid sliding out. Fortunately, this year I had better wheels and tires and some ideas for how to approach my flying 200 so I could just qualify. Just qualify, that's all I wanted to do, since my time of 12.254 seconds last year wasn't fast enough to qualify for the actual Match Sprints then.
On Tuesday morning, I got on the track to practice approaches for the flying 200. That and riding on the rollers was enough to prepare me. This time I used 98.4-inch gearing (51x14 teeth) for the flying 200, which is a slightly lower gear than I used in the past. I was much more relaxed and confident than I had been last year, so I was not at all (well, not very) intimidated when my turn came to ride. Jeff and Margaret helped me get ready, we submitted the bike for check-in with the UCI officials, and soon I was awaiting my turn on the track’s apron.
|Jeff holding for my 200.|
My time was one of the fastest at that time, but of course the faster riders were mostly still to come. As other riders finished their runs, I moved further down the leaders board and ended up as the 9th place qualifier, out of 12 qualifiers from the 25 competitors. But I qualified this time, while the 13 slower riders went home! Also, because I was 9th, I was not matched against the fastest rider in my first heat.
I would have expected to go up against the 4th qualifier, but for some reason I was up against the 5th qualifier, ironically, Guy Mansio, my new teammate for team sprint! He had qualified with a very fast 11.604.
|Start of ride 1 against Guy.|
Ride 2: For ride 2 I led Guy out, and I don't remember the ride well enough to give a coherent description. Suffice it to say he was able to pass me in spite of my usual swerving, and he advanced to the 1/4 Finals, while I had to race again, in the “repêchage,” for a chance to to get back into it rather than just being out after one round.
Repêchage: The repêchage is for the losers in the 1/8 finals. So I still had a chance at the medals. In this case it was me against Vladimir Makeev of Russia, and Kenneth “Dean” Todd of Florida. I drew “1,” so I started low on the track. I don't remember this ride very well either, but I won and that's the important thing. These 3-up rides tend to just be a bit of a drag race, with less in the way of tactics.
Since I won the repêchage, I was now the lowest-ranked remaining qualifier. That meant it was now my turn to go up against the fastest qualifier from the previous rounds: Geoff Stoker of Australia. He had qualified with a new age group flying 200 World Record time of 10.917 seconds! Absolutely amazing, but that didn't keep me from wanting to beat him, or at least do my best trying.
|Waiting for Ride 1 with Geoff Stoker.|
Ride 2: This time I started from first position, and we rode slowly away. Aside from more zig-zagging, we continued this for a while, with me just trying to reduce the gap back to him by slowing and going up track. This continued as the pace picked up, and only on the last lap did he pass me, into turn 3, at which point I relaxed to avoid wasting any more energy racing a rider whose top speed is over 2 mph faster than mine. I was out of the medals. Here's Margaret's video:
The Minor Finals decide 5th through 8th place. Our starting positions like usual were decided by drawing lots. I drew “1.” In this case it was a 4-up, with me in the pole at the start, then Guy, Rich, and Bill Nighan at the rail. But Rich had wanted to just go for it from the start, without ever letting up. So for him it would have been better to be in the pole position rather than me. In the end, Bill really went for it first, and because he had a nice drop from the rail he was able to get a lead on everybody. Rich, Guy and I followed behind, but Guy pretty soon went around Bill and Rich, with me following. I tried to box Bill in behind Guy as we came next to him, but I bumped into Bill a couple of times, unintentionally, as he came up track, and that slowed me down a little and allowed Bill to move forward. So we ended up in that order: Guy in 5th, Bill in 6th, me in 7th, and Rich in 8th. Video by Margaret:
So, I didn't advance as far as I could have, but it's unlikely that I could have done much better than I did. Overall I was way ahead of where I had expected to be, and the feeling was exhilarating! I just wish the UCI also live-streamed the morning sessions; Match Sprints are exciting to watch!
Thursday, 10/11: Team Sprint
In addition to the drama I mentioned above, the UCI had more drama in store for us. On Wednesday, literally the day before our race was scheduled, UCI officials inadvertently were alerted to the fact that there were several teams of mixed nationalities. While this is allowed specifically, as mentioned above, it is not preferred and in this case there were enough US riders to form several non composite teams. So, very late in the game, with just a few hours to act, we suddenly had to abandon Guy as our man 3, and instead find a US rider from one of the other composite teams to ride with us. We ended up with Kenneth Todd (Kenneth goes by Dean), who I had beaten in the Match Sprints.
He rode a 21.228 lap 1, and a 37.330 in his 500 m on Sunday. So while he was fast, he was a bit slower than Guy, and not quite as ideal a match since he also is not a man 3. So our new US team had three riders who were all a man 1 or a man 2. No US man 3 specialists could be found. Still, it was better than not racing at all.
|Conferring with Rich and Jeff for Team Sprint.|
|Warming up on the rollers.|
On Thursday morning I spent some time on the rollers, for warm up, and then did a few rolling starts on the track just to get the legs ready. We had over an hour wait before we raced, and I just got on the rollers of couple times to keep the legs awake. After consulting with Jeff, we decided I would stick with tall 98.4-inch gearing. In better circumstances I would have gone substantially lower, riding as man 1.
|Me, Rich and Dean for Team Sprint.|
Dean started very nicely, and Rich slotted in right behind him, followed by me. We rode hard, in fact, we rode so hard that even though I was riding in Rich's draft, I worried that I was going to be tired during my solo lap 3. During the 2nd lap exchange, when Rich dropped me off for lap 3, I went below him on the track to gain advantage of the latest rules which allow overlap of bikes in the exchange, and went so low that I nicked a sponge in the exchange area. I don't think it slowed me down, and I accelerated as Rich pulled up track, followed by my rear tire slipping out a bit at the exit of turn 2. But yes, my legs were starting to get tired, and I know it hurt our time.
When the final qualifying results, came in I was disappointed to see how slow my lap 3 had been. Our lap 1 was pretty good (21.116, 7th), followed by Rich's lap 2 (15.059, 2nd!) which was awesome. But my 16.512 lap 3 was only 10th fastest. So my lap 3 ended up costing us at least half a second. Combined with the half second our lap 1 cost us, our 52.688 for 5th place missed qualifying by just over half a second to 4th place's 52.156. We were bummed, knowing that our team had been sabotaged by events out of our control. My best estimate of what our team could have done with Guy as man 3 is about 50.6 seconds (20.6 + 15 + 15 = 50.6). That would have given us 3rd qualifying position, and a real shot at the podium. Still, we did the best with what we had and I'm proud of that.
Thus ended my second visit to the Masters Track Cycling World Championships. Margaret and I got to spend some time in Disneyland and in nice restaurants before driving home on Saturday.
Out of my three events I improved vastly in the Match Sprints, was slightly better in the Team Sprints, and was only slightly slower in the 500, so I think it's safe to say that I met my goal of improving over last year. It is very exciting, and I wish I could do it more, but for the next two years Track Worlds will be held in Manchester, England, and I am not inclined to travel that far.
Instead, my focus next year will be on the 2019 USAC Masters Track National Championships, which it happens will be held in Los Angeles, in August, on this very same awesome track! I'm much more motivated than I was last year after Worlds, so I'm looking forward to this very much! A week off, then I hit the gym hard. Please wish me luck.