Monday, August 11, 2014

Masters District Track Championships, Hellyer Park Velodrome, 8/9-10/2014

By Dennis Pedersen

This season has been all about track sprinting for me. The only priority cycling races I had were the California state Masters championship track races (NCNCA District) at Hellyer Park's banked velodrome. I wanted to improve on my results from last year's state championships, hopefully with a gold, for that elusive state champion's jersey.

Dreams are nice, but to make them real requires action. I hired Jeff Solt (a nationally-known sprinter and record-holder) as my coach, and completely restructured my training to mostly include only short rides with all-out efforts, and heavier weight lifting at the gym (Capitola Fitness, owned by our teammate Mike Bodge). It also affected the races I have entered, so I skipped many races that I would have done in the past.

During the run-up to States I had the misfortune of losing my Serenity Marvel track bike from my car's roof rack; it was totally destroyed. While I was able to get AAA insurance to compensate me, the replacement bike I ordered didn't arrive in time for States. Fortunately teammate Nils loaned me his Giant Omnium to use... now that's what I call a teammate!

Lap split times from the Elite team sprints.
Since the Elite Track States were the weekend before Masters Track States, I entered the match sprints, team sprints and keirin race for practice and fun (read descriptions of the race types here). While I did fine, it's hard to compete against guys 20 years younger than me. Still, I ended up with a bronze in team sprints, racing with Tim Montagne and David Broekma. Since there were only three teams that wasn't very awesome, and I was riding as the third guy and thus had to ride the full three laps (1 km)... not my forte! But my lap-3 time was faster than fast-guy Larry Nolan's... a nice indicator of my fitness and something that makes me think I should try the individual "kilo" too, next time.

For the Masters States I entered the match sprints, 500-meter individual time-trial, and team sprints.

Match sprints: 
This is the Olympic one-on-one race, for two laps. We first "seed" the riders with a flying-200 m time trial (see race descriptions above, or extremely detailed info here), and I could only manage a 12.3-second run; 0.21 slower than my best. My first match was against Bill Nighan, who tied my 200 m time, while defending champion Rich Rozzi (12.0 seconds) raced against slowest-seed Martin Harris (12.6 seconds). I had the "pole" position at the start (we drew lots) and my coach, Jeff, was my holder. I was able to keep Bill behind me while I watched carefully for any attacks. Bill tried to pass me a couple of times, but I was able to fend him off while keeping a gap behind me that was hopefully the right size. On the last of our two laps I was able to move him up-track a bit in turn 1 and then attack down into turn 2. I held him off in turns 3 and 4 and won. This moved me up to the final against Rich. I drew "2" so he started in the pole. I tried to get past Rich at the start, but he was alert and accelerated to keep me behind him. I rode up-track to gain the advantage of height, and made a few feints to keep him down-track so I'd have more room, but he did ride smart. Even so I caught him off-guard in turn 4 and was able to quickly drop down from the banking and pass him before turn 1. That was cool, but since we'd been going fairly fast I was worried I'd be too tired to hold him off at the finish, so I backed off a bit. Exiting turn 2 I knew I had to be careful, because that would be the perfect place for Rich to attack, and so he did; he blew by me and into the lead; darn, I must have slowed too much! I couldn't pass him again and he won. Usually we'd compete for the best two out of three matches, but this year it was just that one match so he got gold and I got silver.

Masters match sprints podium.

500 m individual time trial: 
This is one racer at a time against the clock, from a standing start as we are held up, fully clipped into the pedals. I took a few deep breaths and focused on my form. I channeled my inner Incredible Hulk and pulled off a personal best of 37.2 seconds! Cool! And something I credit to the training Jeff has prescribed. But that only gave me silver as Rich beat me by 0.4 seconds.

Team sprints: 
Masters team sprint splits.
We have the track to ourselves and only the last rider's time after three laps is counted; the other two riders merely help him get up to speed. For the Masters States my team was with Rich Rozzi as the second and Martin Harris as the third rider (funny how we're suddenly friends again!). We were the only team in the 45+ age group; even less compelling than Elites, but there was still some coolness to be had from it as we of course compared ourselves against the other age-groups' teams. I led our team for the first lap, and my lap-1 time was the second-fastest of the teams. Only the youngest team beat my #1 lap (by 0.37). So while I finally earned gold, and a California State Champion's jersey, it's not one I can brag about... except that my lap was pretty fast and one I'm proud of.

USA Cycling Masters Track National Championships are at Marymoor velodrome, just south of Seattle, starting next week. And while I did consider going I think that will have to wait until I can justify the expense. Maybe next year!

A humble Masters gold medal.

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