Friday, November 25, 2016

Masters Track National Championships Make-up, 11/20/2016

By Dennis Pedersen

If you read my Track National Championships race report from August, you'll know that one of the three races I registered for in Indianapolis, team sprint with my Masters teammates Ray Gildea and Brian Moore, my top race priority for 2016, was cancelled due to rain. We were told by the organizers that they would try to create a "make-up" event for the canceled races. I didn't like that I'd have to travel once again for a single very short race, but we'd had a really good chance at winning in Indianapolis. Ray and Brian are already National Champions, so I'd have hated even more to miss out on the chance at my first National Championship. After a few weeks we were told the tentative make-up event was on!

In team sprint (also known as Olympic sprint), the three of us line up next to each other on the start line, seated and fully strapped into our pedals, 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!

Dennis Pedersen at 7-11 Velodrome, Colorado Springs.
7-11 Velodrome, with dome
I worked with my coach, Jeff Solt, for the 3 months this event added to my season, and awaited the final word. But when I got the details, it was set in the 7-11 Velodrome in Colorado Springs... not the beautiful indoor wood velodrome in Carson (near Los Angeles), within easy driving distance that I'd hoped for. This meant that I had to get a bicycle case from Spokesman Bicycles again, and deal with shipping.

The 7-11 Velodrome is very similar to the Major Taylor Velodrome in Indianapolis; a 333.3-meter banked concrete oval, but with steeper 33° banking. The velodrome is outdoors, but last year they added a removable dome that can be erected during the winter months. The heavy vinyl dome material has a partial greenhouse effect, which keeps it moderate even in the winter, but allows noise from outside traffic in, while also echoing from the considerable inside noise, augmented by the airflow needed to keep the flexible dome fully inflated. A bit distracting. The dome also blocks the grandstands so the track is not spectator-friendly in the winter. But it wasn't hard to adapt to, except for the noise, and the concrete surface is quite smooth. And the thin air at 6,035' reduces aerodynamic drag, too, for fast racing.

The 7-11 Velodrome is also associated with the nearby U.S. Olympic Training Center. One benefit of this was that the officials didn't need to travel, and the Athlete Center's dorms were available to us. Ray and Brian stayed there, while I elected to stay with our friend Ken Lo in a dingy motel nearby, with their coach, Lee Povey, and Mark Andersen as neighbors.

I flew out on Friday afternoon, thus missing the snowstorm that hit the Denver area the night before. I enjoyed the snow on the ground during my drive down to Colorado Springs, in the rush-hour traffic. I met up with the gang and had a nice dinner, followed by the first time I ever had ice cream in sub-freezing temperatures!

Kenneth Lo at Olympic Training Center, Colorado Springs.
Ken, at the Olympic Training Center.
On Saturday we had a nice breakfast, and Ken helped me locate my bike which turned out to be stored in the Peter Ueberroth building's mail room, in the Olympic Training Center. I then assembled it in our motel room, drove it over to the velodrome, to prep for my Sunday race. I did some warmup, followed by two rolling starts followed by a flying effort to test the banked turns. This session was marred by somebody who went down during their training... later I heard it was our friend Beverly Chaney with a broken collarbone, the poor thing! She had been practicing team pursuit exchanges with Molly Shaffer Van Houweling (who held the UCI Women's World Hour Record until earlier this year!) and accidentally clipped her rear wheel. Another nice dinner followed, minus Lee, who was driving Bev around to "chemists" ("pharmacies," in his Queen's English).

Dennis Pedersen at 7-11 Velodrome, Colorado Springs.
Inside the dome, warming up on the infield track.

On Sunday I had a leisurely breakfast, and then drove with Ken to the velodrome to get ready for my race. Ray was there, and Brian with his super-supportive wife Patti (née Cashman, a former Pro cyclist and coach). I did about 20 minutes in my warmup gear. I felt good, switched into my race gear (48x13 teeth, 100 gear-inches), and got to do two held standing starts with Ray and Brian. I felt great, and sat down to relax and focus. Then Mark suddenly appeared with his Mavic Comète Track front disk wheel, worth almost as much as my whole bike, and told me to use it... cool!

There were only 5 teams signed up, including at least one other very fast team, and we were the fourth to start. I watched the other teams a bit, but mostly focused and relaxed. When our 55+ team was called to the ready area I sat down with Ray and Brian. Then we strapped into our pedals and Lee and Mark rolled Brian and me up to the officials who held us up on our bikes at the start line, while Ray, as our man #1, had his bike clamped into their mechanical starting gate.

They started the audible countdown as we breathed deeply and set up for the all-out standing start. 5, 4, 3, 2 (sit up), 1 (move back), and go! And, stop! Brian had false-started, and we circled around for our re-start. I was fairly unfazed, but of course a bit tense, as we rolled up to the start line again.

Ray Gildea, Brian Moore, Dennis Pedersen team sprint. Photo by Bev Chaney.
Our start, into turn 1.
Ray in the pole, Brian, me at the top.
(Photo by Bev Chaney)
Another countdown, and go! Even in my 100" gearing I was able to match Ray's explosive start, and as we exited turn 2 we were nicely strung out in a tight line. Ray's tall 98" gear made his lap 1 smoother than usual, and Brian, in 100" gear like me, was able to accelerate into lap 2, with me modulating my effort to stay right behind his rear wheel to get the maximum benefit of his draft. Mark's front disk wheel felt just fine, and I prepared for Brian to pull off at the end of his lap. He swung uptrack smoothly in the exchange section, marked by cones. I buried my head and focused on pedaling hard by myself, legs and lungs burning, until I passed the finish line. At that point I had no idea what our time was, but as I cooled down I heard on the PA that we had won the National Championship, my first! That was empowering, and it was so cool to receive the congratulations from my friends and competitors. Larry Nolan also congratulated me, though his Nationals count is more like 52!

Ray Gildea, Brian Moore, Dennis Pedersen team sprint. Photo by Tom Kimmel.
At speed on lap 1, in turns 3 and 4. Ray #1, Brian #2, me #3.
(Photo by Tom Kimmel)

While we knew we had a strong team, it's never a guarantee; we still had to deliver the performance. When I saw the official results I found that our time of 1:07.477 seconds improved by about 3.5 seconds over our winning time at Hellyer, in July! And we'd beaten the strong 2nd-place team by over a half second. My 21.543-second lap 3, while my PR by 1.757 seconds, wasn't the fastest there, so I know I will need to improve. There's no end to training for sports, huh? But that's what keeps me motivated.

Ray Gildea, Brian Moore, Dennis Pedersen team sprint. Photo by Tom Kimmel.
Ray, Brian and me, celebrating!
(Photo by Tom Kimmel)

I had enough time to take a quick shower at the motel before returning to the track. The podium was fun, and we took a bunch of photos. We received Voler jerseys in the US Champion colors, special National Champion RoadID bracelets, and our gold medals.

Ray Gildea, Brian Moore, Dennis Pedersen team sprint podium.
55+ team sprint podium.
Dennis Pedersen in team sprint National Champion's jersey.
Wheeeeee! My first National Champion's jersey!
Now I get to add stars and stripes to all of my jerseys!

After the competition I wished I could have just partied, but I had to disassemble my bike and pack it up for shipping home. Back to the motel, disassembling the bike, and driving the case to FedEx was a bit tiring, but I didn't mind; I was in a great mood. Then I went to the Olympic Training Center's dorms to visit Ray and help pack up Bev's bike. We also got to eat dinner at the Athlete Center's cafeteria, which has a pretty good buffet. I felt so cool, mingling with real Olympians!

Jim Turner in the  U.S. Olympic Training Center's Athlete Center's cafeteria.
Jim Turner in the
Athlete Center's cafeteria.
 Jim Turner, Ray Gildea and Dennis Pedersen watching video of the team sprints, in their dorm room in the U.S. Olympic Training Center.
Jim, Ray and I watching video of the
team sprints, in their dorm room.

On Monday morning I picked up Bev at her dorm and drove to Denver. Everything went smoothly and I finally got to toast my win with a beer over steak and eggs in the airport!

I am still deciding on my racing priorities for next year, though the UCI Masters World Championships in Los Angeles will likely be a highlight. Another goal might be to win another Nationals, but in an individual event. But for now it will be nice to have a long-delayed off-season.

Thank you, to the many people who made this possible!


  1. Awesome race report Dennis and huge congrats on your Championship!!

  2. Most excellent race report. Even more excellent result!!!


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