Thursday, September 18, 2014

LAVRA Sprint Open Powered by Momentum, 9/14/2014

By Dennis Pedersen

Gorgeous bikes, down HWY 5.
This was my second visit to Carson, near Los Angeles, to race on the intimidating 250-meter wooden velodrome at the StubHub Center. I had a blast on my previous visit, but wanted to improve on my performance there.

My friend Rich Rozzi invited me to carpool with him, so that made the decision easier, and we drove down Saturday morning. That afternoon we got to ride in their open-track training session. I rode my new Dixie Flyer BTB that I had built up just after Track States (it arrived too late for that). It handled superbly, and it allowed me to focus on my form instead of worrying about the bike.

On Sunday morning we got up at 5:30 a.m. so we could have plenty of time to eat breakfast and schlep all of our gear to the velodrome for the LAVRA races. The track opened up for warmup at 9:00 and we were soon prepping our bikes and doing some efforts on the track; I started in a low gear for warmup (49x16; 82.7"), then switched to my race gears (49x14; 94.5") and Zipp wheels.

The Velo Sports Center lobby.
At 10:00 they announced our start order for the flying 200-meter time trials, used to "seed" us for the actual sprints tournament where we usually race two-man races of three laps. Only the top-18 riders (out of about 35) would get into the tournament, so I felt some pressure to go fast, and my 200-meter time of 12.312 seconds was just enough for 17th! Rich also qualified, but had some speed wobble... something I've often had too, but not this time thanks in part to my new bike.

So the standard tournament format matched me, the second-slowest seed, against second-fastest seed Ethan Boyes (who qualified with 10.99), and Rich against the first-seed rider, Nate Koch, a candidate for the Olympic 2016 games (who qualified in 10.92 seconds).

Rich tried his best against Nate, but not too surprisingly couldn't beat him; it's very hard to overcome a speed differential of 1.5 seconds!

I didn't feel too much pressure racing against Ethan; I just wanted to do my best and learn the differences of riding on such a track; the biggest one being that we can't just roll through the steeply-banked turns without slipping down! I wanted to make Ethan earn his win too, even though I drew the second spot, giving him the 'pole' (lead) from the start. But I feel I did well, as I seized the lead from him immediately, and ramped up the speed to make passing harder. But while I still had some reserve he passed out of turn 4 just before the last lap and held me off.

Rich, Ethan and Dana (on rollers).
I was still in the competition, but only in the "repechage;" it's a sort of 'second-chance' round. I was up against Aron Seiken who had lost to a faster qualifier just as I had done. But Aron qualified with 11.86 so it wouldn't be easy for me. I drew the pole and led from the start and held him off with varied pacing and swinging. I attacked in turn 4 just before the last lap and held him on my hip (just to my right, slightly behind me), but he passed at the end, beating me by about 4 inches. Oh well. I feel that the steeper banking and the extra height of the outside rider make it easier for them to pass there than at Hellyer. I'm learning.

Lunch , complements of Ethan! 
Ethan ended up in the final rounds, and got to contest for the overall win ... against favorite Nate Koch. It was fun to watch, but while Ethan settled for second he still took home $500! And bought us lunch!

So in the end I had a blast, and was so happy with how my bike handled and my own riding that I drove home in a great mood. I'll definitely be going down there again!

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