Friday, April 26, 2013

Wednesday Night Racing, Bs, Hellyer Park Velodrome, 4/24/2013

By Dennis Pedersen

The last few years most racing at our closest velodrome, the banked concrete oval in San Jose, has been on Tuesday nights. This year they have shifted it to Wednesdays, while other events, like team pursuit and training sessions, occupy the other days. Nils, Vlada, Ken and I have already been getting in some good track racing this season. Last Wednesday night we had Larry Nolan promoting, and we had enough entrants that I could race in the combined Category 3 and 4 "B" race.

He started us with a 10-lap "scratch" race; a regular mass-start race like any criterium. I like short races like this, about 5 minutes of fury! Our field of about 15 riders set the pace really high, something I've noticed that has improved this year; we don't have any riders just sitting in and resting. Well, I got caught out by the speed and while I was able to move up from the back with about 2 laps to go, I was too tired to fend off the guys who came around me in the last lap and I took 5th.

Next we had a "win-and-out" race, a rather calculating race like so many at the track. It's like a scratch race, but only for 1st place, the winner then pulling off the track while the others keep racing. Then the winner of the next lap takes 2nd and pulls off, then it's another lap to determine the remaining places. It's tricky, because if you try for 1st and don't take it, you may be so tired you finish last. I installed my new 50-tooth chain ring, but didn't have time to swap to a 15-tooth sprocket, so my gearing was quite tall. I was able to draft near the front for a while, then marked Stefan Eberle, who I know is fast, 'allowing' him to lead me out for the final sprint. I'm happy to say I didn't have to race any extra laps at all (meaning I took 1st)!

Between races I got to swap to my 15-tooth gear. Then we had a "miss-and-out" race, which is also known as "Devil take the hindmost" because the last person on each lap has to pull out in ignominy. I think I have finally figured out the best tactic for this one, at least for who I am: I ride slightly up-track, near the back of the pack. I am in the wind a bit, and ride a longer line than those down-track (in the sprinter's lane) get a slight draft at times, but I'm able to always ensure there's somebody behind me, usually down-track, who I can block at start/finish so they get pulled. But once we were down to three riders and they started the final sprint, I had nothing left. I was still really happy with 3rd!

For those still standing we had a 15-lap "points" race, in which 5, 3, 2 or 1 point is awarded to 1st through 4th place every 5 laps, and I took a 2nd and a 3rd... but only after totally getting caught out by the speed set in the first few laps and getting zero in the first sprint.

For the night I finished 3rd in the overall "omnium," which tallies our points from all our races.

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Monday, April 15, 2013

Santa Cruz Classic Criterium XLV, 45+ 1/2/3, 4/14/2013

By Dennis Pedersen

I never feel too optimistic about this technical race in my home town, but I do enjoy it anyway! Now in its 45th year, and my 9th try, I know the 9-turn course on Santa Cruz's historic Beach Hill like no other; it is not a sprinter's course at all with its hairpin, many turns, hills and wind.

I always try to get my wife, family and friends to come out to spectate and this year I succeeded again. It is truly cool to have people yell your name from the side of the course as you suffer through yet another attack from those crazies up ahead!

I just knew I had to stay near the front and never, ever get stuck behind somebody who would allow a gap to open ahead of him. On the very first lap I executed to that plan and moved all the way to the front of the pack. Then as they ramped up the speed I ducked in behind the leaders to start my survival game.

It sure felt fast, as always; our average speed was over 26 MPH (assuming 20 laps, each 9/10ths of a mile, in 40 minutes). Several times I was close to giving up but then I'd get a few short breaths to recover and feel like I could eke out another lap. A few laps I had to let the leaders pull away so I could recover, but every time I managed to find the strength, and openings in the pack, to move back to the front.

Unbeknownst to me Larry Nolan and a guy from PrimeTime somehow managed to pull away from everybody for several laps.  Mind-boggling. Anyway, their teammates blocked for a while (one of them aggressively, I'm told) but Larry dropped him later on and was holding a nice lead over us, barely.

Well, I was getting a bit weak, and on the last lap I tried unsuccessfully to move ahead... it's hard to steer safely when you're cross-eyed from effort. Max Mack nearly came to an unpleasant end in the gutter just before the hairpin, but I don't think anybody ever crashed in our race. One side of me kept trying to advance while the other side of me kept advising to keep 1% in reserve for the sprint. It never seems to work here and I was still a ways back, maybe 20th as we rounded the final turn.

But I did see Larry win up ahead, just ahead of Patrick Briggs and Steve Heaton, just as I finished, feeling surprisingly strong, in 16th place, so for me it was a personal success! Even better was cheering on Nils and others in the Pro/1/2 race, and getting together with friends afterward and celebrating another gorgeous day of racing.

A journalist wrote a nice race article in the Sentinel too (I'm in photo #2). And Margaret took a bunch of photos that I have saved to a Snapfish album.

I guess I'll be back next year!

CCCX Circuit Race #3, 45+ 3/4, 3/9/2013

By Dennis Pedersen

I knew I was running a tight schedule, but I was still shocked when I checked my watch, just seconds after jumping on my stationary trainer to warm up for this race in the rolling hills of Fort Ord; only two minutes before the 9:40 AM start time! Instead, my warmup consisted of me sprinting into the headwind to the start line!

Fortunately the previous race was running a bit late and I had time to settle in for the start. This was on the new "Seaside" course, a single section of road with a U-turn at either end on gently rolling hills (3 miles per lap). The weather was a bit gray and mid-50s, with a fairly strong wind out of the Monterey Bay just to the southwest. The field was only 15 riders, which I like.

The race unfolded somewhat like CCCX #2 did for me, with the riders being strong enough to catch guys, like me, who tried to break away from the pack, but unwilling to try it themselves with just a few exceptions. And with the strong wind it was impossible to break away on the southwest-bound half of the course.

I tried to form a plan with a rider from Peninsula Velo, but he didn't understand that I wanted to attack with him with the tailwind on a climb because of the advantage that would give us... actually it's more that there's no draft for others to latch onto with a tailwind on a climb, thus we'd be making it harder for them to follow us. Anyway, it didn't work, though several of us did keep trying to bring the pace up at times. The guys from Cushman & Wakefield (formerly Taleo) made some nice attempts too. At other times I was at the front riding into the headwind as slowly as I could, with nobody willing to go around... a lot like a match sprint at the velodrome!

For the finish I tried to learn from CCCX #2, where Keith outsprinted me. This time I just stayed about fifth place through the last U-turn (barely avoiding a guy who slid out just behind me), held back a bit up the last climb while others jumped, and then launched my own attack on the 'step' just before the climb steepens up to the finish line... it worked beautifully and I was even able to look back a couple of times and raise up my hands in victory!