Tuesday, May 31, 2011

GRFS #4 Track Racing at Hellyer Park Velodrome, 5/28/11

By Dennis Pedersen

I've been racing at the velodrome almost every week, starting in March, this year. Most of the time I enter the Tuesday night races, as they fit into my schedule best. But the Get Ready for Summer series, on weekends, sometimes fits in nicely too. And since they are USAC sanctioned, I can get upgrade points if I do well.

Vlada and I carpooled, and met up with Nils at the track. They were both racing in the Category 4 and 5 races. I was in the Category 3 and 4 races. The weather forecast did hint at a chance of rain, but it was pretty nice. Unlike all the other bicycling races I know of, rain cancels at the track... another reason to love it! We signed in, suited up and warmed up.

Kierin race

Our first race was a kierin.
This Japanese version of the Motorpace, which is subject to pari-mutuel betting in Japan, has become very popular in the US, although, so far, without the betting. Keirin races, in which all the riders on the track jockey for position behind a single motorbike, sometimes most closely resemble the "Roller Derby" of old, with riders jostling and jabbing each other with elbows to get into the "sweet spot" behind the motorcycle. Then, just before the last lap, the motorbike pulls off the track, and the riders sprint madly to the line.
They split the nine Category 3 and 4 riders in my group into two heats. We drew numbers to determine what "lane" we started in on the track. I think it's better to draw a high number so you can start higher up on the track's banking. I drew number 1 for the first heat. We were held by assistants for the start, then jumped ahead on the pistol to grab the draft of the motorcycle. After four laps the moto pulled off the track and we were free to attack, which we did. I am still learning this stuff and ended up 2nd place out of five. In the second round I finished just 4th, even though I drew number 6. Still learning.

Scratch race (24 laps)

I'm not a big fan of these, as they are simply ordinary races; cross the finish line first and you win. Which I did... I like them more now for some reason.

Miss and out race

Next we all lined up "on the rail" (single file along the top edge of the track, holding on to the railing) for our "miss and out:"
Another variation of the Mass Start race that's sometimes called "Devil Take The Hindmost," because the last rider to cross the line after each (or every other) lap is taken out of the race. The field diminishes rapidly, until there are only a few riders left to contest the final sprint. This is always a very exciting race and crowd favorite.
The trick, well, one of them, is to not get stuck in the sprinters lane (the inside edge of the track), as it's very easy to get boxed in there by others who then pass you on the line... which is annoying because you can be fresh, but unable to sprint around them and then get pulled out of the race. I ended up in 3rd, after I was forced to lead out the other two survivors on the second-to-last lap. They were strong, and I just couldn't get around them.

Points race (30 laps)

We had a points sprint every ten laps, which isn't a lot; usually we sprint every five laps. I was 2nd in the first one (I thought), further back in the next, then 1st on the last sprint, with the spectators screaming at me to go... that was so cool! But it turned out they scrored me 3rd in the first sprint, and that moved me down in the results, into 2nd.

In the end I got 2nd overall, in the combined "omnium" scoring. Still, pretty cool!

Results and podium photo

See you out there!

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