Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Friday Night Track Racing, Hellyer Park Velodrome, September 17th

By Dennis Pedersen

The NCVA race calendar for the Hellyer Park Velodrome includes Tuesday-night races, as well as many Wednesday and Friday nights. The September Friday-night races were held under USA Cycling permits, and were for Category 4 and higher racers only, so we were required to bring our race licenses and adhere to our categories. I was recently upgraded to a Cat 4 track racer so I was able to enter the Cat 3/4 race.

I was very impressed with the production value of the Friday night races. They somehow managed to get enough sponsors that they could provide a DJ, several USAC officials, a video crew, a cool poster and even free food and beer! A really neat atmosphere that gave me a sense of what the old 6-Day-Race scene must have been like. My teammate Nils was there soaking up the vibe, and free goodies, while I tried to warm up and focus a bit. I entered just the basic "omnium" event, which was still a huge chunk of high-intensity racing.

1-mile Scratch Race
This one was a bit scary; just five 1/3 km laps of all-out attacking (actually just a bit over 1 mile). I started at the back, which became standard for me on this night because we racers got called up suddenly, in quick succession, with very little warning. Ken Sato (Cal Giant) and I just used this as warm-up and I finished mid-pack.

25-lap Scratch Race
The usual fun, criterium-style race, which I again started near the back. I finished nearer the front this time, but not impressively. I am certainly still just a new Cat 4 racing against more-experienced Cat 3 racers.

30-lap Points Race
Lots of exciting action, with attacks everywhere. The sprints for points every fifth lap really keep the action non-stop and each sprint seemed to be followed with breakaway attempts that we had to chase down. I started out well-positioned this time and almost took one of the sprints after taking a solo flyer for almost 2 laps, but got caught. I was just happy to be able to follow as they flew by me. Ken did say he thought I positioned myself very well, though I'm not sure I even got any points to show for it. But I was always near the front and my consistency is promising for the future.

10-lap Miss-and-Out Race
A first for me, these races are decided by eliminating the last-place rider on each lap until just three riders remain, and they duke it out for another final lap (usually; the format can vary). I almost missed the start, had trouble clicking in (I didn't even get to hold onto the rail and worried I'd get DQ'd before even starting!) and had to chase a bit. I kept staying near the rear to save energy as the pace was consistently very fast, but was careful to not be last. Then, on about the fifth lap (my last lap it turned out), I passed two guys who were up against the rail so I thought I was safe... they struck by accellerating down the banking out of turn 4 and passed me at the line! "Number 556" the announcer called and I was officially out.

Oh well. Nils, Lauren and I watched some of the other races while snacking, including the "Hellyer Crawl," which was a hilariously confusing race where on some laps they tried to be last across the start line and first on others. Plus they had a fun "Kiddie Kilo" for the youngsters; one lap on the banked oval riding anything with wheels... so cute!

These track races have a very different feel from a road race, or even a criterium, with more adrenaline, tatoos and lactic-acid. It reminds me of the downhill mountain-bike racing scene vs. cross-country. Man, I sure did have fun and am looking forward to the 2011 track racing season. Also, I am planning on attending some of the training sessions during the winter and if any of you are interested in going with me feel free to ask.

No comments: