Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Masters NCNCA District (State) Track Championships, 7/16-17/2016

By Dennis Pedersen

This was the NCNCA’s (Northern California and Nevada Cycling Association) Track Championships for riders 35 years of age and older, and one of my major goals for 2016. The NCVA’s President, Bill Nighan, plus numerous volunteers, made this event an incredible success. Thanks, all!

My awesome Dixie Flyer!
I hauled everything I could possibly need to the Hellyer Park Velodrome in San Jose, including my trainer for warmup (as the track can get crowded at big events), spare wheels, food, changes of clothing,  DSLR camera, trainer, tools, two helmets, etc. My trusty Dixie Flyer has been an awesome bike for me, too.

Saturday, Match Sprints

When I arrived the weather was unusually chilly (about 57°) and windy (gusting up to 12 mph), with the marine layer lingering until about 9:00 am. So I didn’t expect many people to PR.

Match sprints are a classic form of racing: short distance, and usually just two riders at a time in an elimination tournament. My coach (and former US Elite National Champion, and current 1K record holder), Jeff Solt, came down and helped me with advice and acted as my holder in the standing starts. This was to prove invaluable.

Sprints 200 m qualifying times
During warmup I used 81" gears (48x16 teeth) and hit 35.7 mph for my first 100 m run, then 35.1 mph… the wind was gusting, slowing me down. For my last warmup run I changed into my race gears of 96.4" (50x14) and hit a better, but still modest 37.0 mph. Then we waited for our start list to be announced; I was matched against George Miranda. My actual qualifying run (200 m, timed at the end of three full laps) was at 38.3 mph max, in 12.27 seconds. A bit disappointing, even factoring in the wind, as I qualified with 12.2 last year. Oddly, my max speed was higher than last year (37.7) even so.

Masters races can be unpredictable, dependent on who shows up. For our sprints, we had some good competitors, with Brian Moore (former US National Team) being our fastest qualifier, and I second-fastest, in our 55-59 age group. We are usually matched fastest-against-slowest qualifier, then second-fastest against second-slowest, etc. There were only four of us, so there was just one round of semi-finals, with two laps per match.


I drew the #2 “straw” from USA Cycling official Peter Bohl, meaning I’d start up-track against the rail. I stayed high on the track’s banking as we left the line, while George stayed low. After a few feints up and down the banking, I jumped out of turn 4 while looking back over my right shoulder. To save some energy I “floated” through turns 1 and 2 in the sprinter’s lane, while he matched speed with me. He was up-track a bit, to use the drop down the banking for acceleration, then ran the gap to me into turn 4. He tried to pass but couldn’t (we hit 37.0 mph max). This was “sudden death,” so I advanced to the finals. Brian beat Sean Williams and advanced too, so I would now be racing Brian for the gold.


Heat #1: 

Finish line video
I drew the #2 “straw,” thus starting up-track. On the whistle Jeff delayed starting me, intentionally to open a gap to Brian. I rode well behind Brian, he moved up-track a bit, just below me, then up to perhaps pin me against the rail. I instead moved behind him, then dove below him and ahead, then back up to the rail. We then rode next to each other, more or less, until out of turn 4, when I jumped first above him, passed, and “floated” into turn 1, while I kept an eye on his position over my right shoulder. He went halfway up the track’s banking behind me through turn 2, then sprinted hard to try to pass me in turn 3, but couldn’t. As we raced toward the finish I half-wheeled him next to me. Though he was able to gain, and almost catch me, I won by just a few inches (Matt Martinez had set up an iPad to take finish-line videos; see it here). Whew, close! Surprisingly, we only hit 35.8 mph max.

Heat #2: 
I was started low this time. Jeff pushed me hard so I could seize the rail ahead of Brian, another expression of Jeff’s tactical sense. We both rode up there, slowly, I weaved a bit to confuse him. To avoid letting him attack first, I sprinted hard out of turn 4 to maintain my lead. He went up-track, while I floated through turns 1 and 2. Out of 2 he was quite high, but I thought too far back? I stood up and sprinted, a rare thing, and he couldn’t come next to me in turns 3 and 4. Up to the line he started to come around but ran out of track. I won by a half bike length (hitting 37.0 mph max). And no need for round #3… I had the gold!

I was so stoked; what a change from last year’s mistakes. I really understand how Jeff’s advice helped, too. Last year I tried to listen and learn, but didn’t. It’s very cool to see the improvement.
Our sprints podium

Sunday, Timed Events: 

The weather was a few degrees cooler on Sunday morning, but less windy, and clear. I did a few rolling starts during warmup, and spun easily on my trainer. Then changed into my 96.4” race gearing and carbon wheels and another warmup start.

500 m Time-Trials

I was the defending champion in the 500 m time-trial (one rider at a time, against the clock, done from a standing start), but was not confident in my starts since I haven’t trained those very much this year.

I felt my start was a bit tentative, but the rest felt fast, in spite of the wind. Fortunately I was still able to win another gold with my time of 36.60 seconds, I think at 37.5 mph max (not a PR for me). Brian Moore took silver, with 37.29, Ted Kicey took bronze with 38.11. (Martin Harris, silver last year behind me, is still in the 50-54 age group, and rode a 37.02.)

I then had several hours before my next event started, so I had a little lunch, chatted, took photos, and rode on my trainer to keep my legs “open,” as we say.

Team Sprints

This is my priority race type for 2016, and my teammates for Nationals, Ray Gildea and Brian Moore, would lead me out for our race. These are very fun! The three of us line up next to each other on the start line for a standing start. On the whistle we ride all-out, with Ray leading us out for one lap before he pulls off, his job done. Brian continues racing, with me following, for another lap before he, too, pulls off. I’m then alone, to finish the last lap and stop the timer. The blend of teamwork, timing and personal contribution is exhilarating.

Video of our team sprint
We were defending champions, though we were unopposed last year. This year we had a worthy team to fight, with Erik Salander, Bill Brissman, and Kurt Bickel. They turned in a nice 1:14.75 second run. Our start was well-nigh perfect, as we all stayed grouped and were fully drafting in about 1/2 lap. Brian did a great job of smoothly taking over the lead after Ray pulled off, leading me into my lap, and my legs even felt pretty decent as I completed the last lap alone, into the wind. We won gold, in 1:10.96... a PR for us, and a great sign of our form as we approach Nationals!

So, some amazing racing, three golds in three events. And renewed motivation and confidence for Nationals. What a fantastic weekend of racing!