Friday, July 19, 2013

Masters State Track District Championships, Hellyer Park Velodrome, 7/13-14/2013

By Dennis Pedersen

Some of you know that I have changed my training regimen quite a bit this year. This move was based on my performance at the State Track Championships last year, and was designed mostly to help me win mass-start races at the velodrome, with very hard efforts separated by limited recovery. And perhaps even to win myself a California State Champion's jersey, with luck. My new training has definitely helped me in many ways, but not always in the ways I had anticipated.

Last year I only took 6th in the State "scratch race" but truly felt I could have done better. Last Saturday morning I felt confident in my fitness and looked forward to the scratch race (a simple 21-lap race). But this year was very different from last year. The 2013 State scratch race had a formidable field, with proven champions like Andrew Nevitt, Dan Smith and Larry Nolan... we even had an Olympic medalist and track legend; Leonard Nitz! The race was very fast at times, with just a few laps allowing us a bit of recovery. I tried to go with attacks a few times and stayed near the front, but I found myself gapped (and gassed!) as we entered the last lap and had to settle for 4th.

I had also registered for the "match sprints" (two-man races, for just two 335m-laps) on Saturday afternoon, but without as much confidence because my training, while also including sprints, didn't really target this type of specialized race. Even so I wanted to be as prepared as I could and was lucky enough to be able to borrow my teammate Nils' Giant Omnium to ride in the flying 200m time trials we use to "seed" the riders first. My Felt TK2, while an awesome bike, isn't actually designed for the high speeds of these short, violent time trials, and usually allows my front wheel to wobble at times, forcing me to back off my power to stop it. The Giant has a longer frame and is more stable which turned out to be perfect for me as I was second-fastest seed and set a new personal record of 12.26 seconds, averaging almost 37 MPH!

This also helped me by matching me against the slowest-seeded rider for my first two-lap match, against André Jackson (14 seconds). I drew the #1 poker chip from the bag that USAC Official Peter Bohl held out, allowing me to take the "pole" position at the start of our race. I lead André at a moderate tempo for a while before upping the pace and dropping him on the last lap for 1st.

Next I was matched against the next-slowest seed, Bill Nighan (12.5 seconds). I again drew #1 and was able to hold Bill against the rail, riding veeerryyy slowly at the top of the track (almost completely stopped at times so I could prevent him from dropping down behind me and seizing the lead), before executing a basic sprint out of turn 1 on the last lap to beat him too.

One better than last year!
Now I was in it for the finals against Rich Rozzi, who was fastest-seeded at 12.1 seconds (he trains specifically for match sprints and it shows!). I knew it would be tough to beat Rich, especially since he hadn't even had to race yet, while I had already done the fast scratch race plus two matches. This was partly because we were an odd number of entrants, and also because Dan Smith dropped out rather than try a hopeless race against him (I don't blame him, but it hurt my chances). I somehow drew #1 again and lead the start. Rich tried to come around me to seize the spinter's lane at the bottom, and up-track a few times, but I held him off until the back-straight where he sprinted down the track's banking out of turn 2 to come around me. I was prepared for this, but even so I wasn't able to match his speed and he passed me in turn 3 which he held onto for the win. Darn! But this was to be best 2 out of 3, so I still had a chance.

For the second match against Rich I drew #2 and had to take the top of the track for the start. But I was able to sprint past him right away to seize the lead (the thinking being that the slower seed shouldn't accept being behind as they then have to make up the extra distance later in the match). That surprised him and I held the speed higher to try to tire him a bit... but I was probably the one tiring more because of the extra races I'd had to do! This time I also started my sprint very early, from high in turn 4 on the first lap, again surprising him. But the result was distressingly similar as he passed me into turn 3 again for his second win. My day was over, but I was still proud (and surprised) of my silver medal!

Good times!
I hadn't signed up for any of the Sunday races but I decided to go to Hellyer the next morning anyway, partly because Nils had volunteered to help work the event, partly because I got drunk (just kidding) at a party the night before and met Tim Montagne there, by complete chance, who talked me into entering the "team sprints" with him and Allen Vugrincic. These guys are both very experienced track racers and have multiple Championships in their palmarés. I couldn't pass up the chance to race with them, and I had fun racing team sprints before so I looked forward to it.

The two other times I did team sprints (three-man races, for three laps, 1 km, for only the third rider's time) I've been the starter, which is easier as you just ride all-out for one lap and then pull off the course (your time doesn't count). This time I was second rider so I had to match my speed to Tim's as he started and then draft him for one lap until he pulled off. That worked well and I was even able to accelerate at the front for the second lap as I lead Allen out for his solo lap (my time still wouldn't count; the first and second riders really just serve as a "lead-out" for the third rider, though my tiny size doesn't help much at speed!). We ended up with a personal best for me of 1 minute and 11.5 seconds. I know we could have gone faster if we'd ever practiced together, and Allen had some tips for how I could have used my extra energy to set a faster lap 2 (he figured we should have been able to be 1 second faster), but both had high praise for me and I was very relieved not to have let them down. That was fun, and good enough for another silver medal!

Le Petit Sprinter.

So what did I gain from my weekend? Two silver medals ain't bad, but more importantly I had a blast and learned once again that I really am a pure sprinter (my tininess notwithstanding!) with little hope of ever competing against top racers in mass-start races, my mass-start wins being atypical. More than ever I am seriously considering actually following a pure track-sprinter's training program for 2014. In the past I haven't been able to convince myself I'd enjoy that, but now I am slowly changing my mind; the numbers argue in favor of that, for sure. We'll see how it goes next year!

1 comment:

Jim Langley said...

Great race report, Dennis, and I don't want to hear you calling yourself "tiny" ever again. Nabbing 2 Silvers at States is a giant achievement, CONGRATS!!