Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Masters NCNCA District (State) Track Championships, 9/9-10/2017

By Dennis Pedersen

This year I had a number of setbacks that delayed or interrupted my training, and I had elected not to participate in Nationals this year as a result. So I was skeptical I’d be able to do as well at our NCNCA District Championship track races as I did last year. But, as always, I try to race my best and did my best to prepare, with advice from Coach Jeff Solt.

Saturday, Match Sprints

I only entered one race on Saturday; the match sprints (read track race type descriptions here). These short two-man, two-lap races are explosive, exciting and very tactical. Last year at Districts I narrowly beat out Brian Moore, who ended up with Silver at Nationals. This year there were seven riders entered. The weather was clear, and it got up to 86 degrees.

Me and my Dixie Flyer
Like usual, we started the match sprint tournament with a flying 200-meter time trial. One at a time we try to cover 200 m as fast as possible, and the times are used to “seed” the riders. I could only manage a 12.35-second run (at 38.0 mph max, with my 96” gearing), putting me in 3rd seed, with Bill Nighan 4th just 0.01 behind me! George Miranda was 1st (12.01), and Brian was 2nd (12.02). I was disappointed, but I never give up, as I know that these results are merely the opening shots of the battle and much can change during the individual matches.

Quarter Finals:

As the 3rd seed, I was matched against 6th-seed Jeff Vanderwerf, a former racer returning from the real world. Bill raced 5th-seed Randy Armstrong, while both George and Brian got “byes” (meaning they didn’t have to race that heat) because the 7th-seed rider elected not to race, and they needed an even number of matches for the elimination rounds of the tournament.

I drew a “1” from the official, Matt Martinez, which meant Jeff V got to choose where to start from. He elected to start as #2 at the top of the track while I started to his left, lower on the banking, with my Coach, Jeff, holding me. We both varied our speed a bit, swerved a bit, but for the most part it came down to Jeff V trying to pass me out of turn 4 just before the last lap, while I held him off using as little energy as possible so I could save some for the next rounds. I hit 35.6 mph max and took the win to advance to the next round.


I was next matched against George who now raced his first match, against me, because of the “bye” I mentioned above which he earned because of his faster 200 m qualifying time.

George drew the lead and rode slowly in the pole (sprinter's lane) at the bottom of the banking while Coach Jeff delayed releasing me in order to allow me to have a gap between us. So I rode slowly behind him at the very top to maintain the advantage of altitude. I had allowed the gap to open a bit, and he soon went fairly fast so I had to drop into his draft to avoid wasting more energy at the top, but was easily able to close the gap by dropping down the banking. He gave another acceleration out of turn 4, I allowed a small gap to open, but in turn 2 he hesitated and moved slightly up track. After a brief hesitation of my own, I quickly accelerated into the gap, over him, and held him off, barely, to win by half a wheel, hitting 36.5 mph. I think I probably could have raced slightly smarter, but it was enough for me to advance to the final heat, for the Gold round!

As I cooled down in the infield, I watched Brian and Bill race… much to everyone’s surprise, Bill managed to outfox Brian and take the win, meaning I'd be racing Bill for Gold.


So the 3rd and 4th seed had beaten the 1st and 2nd seed! George and Brian would fight for Bronze, while Bill and I fought for Gold. A bit of an upset. The finals were decided by best two out of three heats.

Heat 1:

Bill lead the start, and Coach Jeff held me back again like before. Like George, Bill went slow, but in turn 2 he noticed I’d let the gap grow too big, so he started to accelerate harder. I had to drop down into the sprinters lane and take a dig to make sure he didn’t escape. When he saw I was drafting him he turned hard up in turn 3, I think to force me to lead him out. But I squeezed over him, to his right, just as he looked left. But he continued to move up-track, and we ended up bumping each other, and my right leg and pedal scraped the rail. We kind of looked at each other, he asked if I was OK, and I promptly attacked out of turn 4, and won by a big margin, hitting 37.3 mph max.

Heat 2:

For the second heat, we switched start positions, and I lead Bill. I went slow again, but in the pole, while Bill stayed up-track a bit behind me (but maybe too close). After a few feints, I was able to keep his gap small, but without slowing so much that he could pass over me. Out of turn 4 I went fairly hard, while looking back at him, and managed to out-sprint him out of turn 2, hitting 37.4 mph max, and won by a bike length for my second win against Bill, so no need for a third heat... Gold!

In the meantime, George beat Brian in the Bronze heats. So the final podium was perhaps not what anybody would have predicted.

The 55-59 match sprint podium:
Bill, me, George.

Sunday, Timed Events

It was hotter, up to 94 degrees, but I would be spending less time on the track for these short, explosive, individually timed races. As a special bonus, my wife stopped by to cheer me on!

500 m ITT

This race is solo, from a standing start. We had a relatively packed 55-59 field: 9 riders. That doesn’t sound like much, but it included world-class riders like Kevin Metcalfe, Larry Nolan and Don Langley, as well as the guys I usually compete with. I was of course worried about them all, as these short, intense drag races require extreme focus and it’s easy to let distractions and such prevent you from going all-out.

Strapping in for a standing start.
At the start line, as I was held up, tightly strapped into my bike’s pedals, I tried hard to focus and channel my power. My start was perhaps slightly tentative, but I powered pretty well after that and kept my bike as low on the track as I could, almost hitting some of the sponges in the turns. But at the finish, I could tell my legs were pretty well fried, and my line a bit wobbly. In the end, I managed only a 37.23-second run, at 36.2 mph max. That was disappointing, as my best is a full second faster. That's a big difference. Still, it was enough to gain me another Gold, by just 0.01 over George Miranda! while Don Langley took third at 37.39. Whew, tight racing!

Team Sprint

George, me, and Ray, waiting for our team sprint.
For the 55-64 age group Team Sprint I'd been talking with Ray Gildea, George, Brian and a few others, partly for Districts and partly with an eye toward forming a team for Masters World Championships in October. But in the end it was down to Ray, me, and George. We were the only team in our age group, but we wanted to use this as training for Worlds. Our run actually ended up being pretty good, and we got smoothly up to speed without any big gaps, maintained it, and even had some very nice exchanges using the latest rules from UCI. It was pretty cool! While we were slower than my team from last year (1:11.82 vs. 1:10.96), our time was the fastest of any of the teams that day in any age group. That was also pretty cool. And another Gold. Let's hope we can do better at Worlds; we will likely improve, as we did at Nationals last year.

So, the weekend was a surprising success for me, and great prep for Worlds. My next racing will be at Masters World Championships in October, to be held in the beautiful indoor wood track in Carson, just north of Los Angeles. A stretch goal for sure.


  1. Holy Smokes, Dennis! You are the Man!!!

  2. Wow, Dennis, great race reports and awesome racing, Champ! You make it sound easy but I know how much work you put into this and how fast and smart you are. Congratulations on your hat trick of Gold medals!!

  3. Great Job Dennis. Congrats. Good to see a race report. I hadn't seen one in a while and was thinking of writing one on my Zwift race. Ha.


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