Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Masters District Track Championship, Hellyer Park Velodrome, 7/11-7/12/2015

By Dennis Pedersen

Last year was a bit of a breakout season for me, as it was the first one in which I focused completely on track sprints. This year I fully expected that my continuing specific training would result in further improvement, though not likely as dramatic as last year's improvements.

My main focus for 2015 was this race weekend in which our NCNCA district Master (State) track champions would be crowned, and I also wanted to compete at the Elite States three weeks before it. So my coach, Jeff Solt, made sure that I did a proper "peak" and "taper" for this. That is, I trained increasingly harder for a time, then backed off in the weeks before this.

Elite Districts, 6/20-6/21

The Elite races were mostly just training for me, but I truly wanted to podium, at least, as I did last year... this was not to be.

Match sprints: I was seeded (qualified) at seventh out of 11 riders with my flying-200 m time of 12.1 seconds (37.8 mph max). My first round was against Victor Tort, who I dispatched by half-wheeling him around the track. My second round was against Lee Povey... given that he teaches our sprint clinics, I knew beating him would be tough. I rode pretty well nonetheless, but made the mistake of going too slow out of turn 2 in the last of our 2 laps, and he was able to pass above me and take the lead even though I really tried to get him (we hit 38.1 mph!). Finally, I was in a four-up match (my first such) to determine 5th through 8th place. I took second to Stelios McDonald and thus ended up 6th.

Keirin: I was able to grab sixth place behind the motorcycle, did OK, but when the motor pulled off, Bill Nighan, two riders ahead of me, kept looking back and a gap formed ahead of him. That left me stranded because I wasn't able to pass, close the gap, and then still outsprint the fast guys ahead of me. I think I finished 6th out of 7, hitting 37.1 mph.

Team sprints: My team dissolved so I didn't even get a chance to try to improve on my bronze from last year.

Masters Districts, 7/11-7/12

Match sprints: 

This was my only event on Saturday. I was seeded tied-for-first (out of just 3 riders) with my flying-200 m time of 12.2 seconds (37.7 mph max). I had tied with Bill Nighan, but lost the coin toss, so I had to race while he rested. Even though I was now at a disadvantage I felt pretty good and confident and had trained a lot for this. Jeff, my coach, was kind enough to attend and be my holder for the starts. Each race would be just two laps (770 m total).

I won my first round (semifinals), against Mark Gomes, starting from second position. Swooping up and down right from the start to avoid being pinned against the rail, I dropped below him and seized the lead. He had no gap to run, and when I jumped out of turn 2, he tried to pass in 3 but I held him off, hitting 36.1 mph max.

Since I was now in the finals, against Bill, it was to be best two out of three races. In my first finals round I started from second. I stayed up by the rail, while he rode slowly in the sprinter's lane below me. I rode even with him out out of turn 2. This allowed me to jump past above him and keep the lead for over a lap, even as he tried to pass, until he gave up out of turn 4 (36.7 mph max).

In my second finals round against Bill, I started second again. We went rather slow, almost stopping, then I seized the lead out of 1 by dropping below him. He tried to pass on the back straight, but I half-wheeled him into turn 3, then stayed fast throughout the last lap-and-a-quarter... I really thought I had him in this long sprint, I even had visions of my States jersey, but in the last few seconds he got next to me and won by about 8 inches (36.9 mph max).

Now we were tied (again) and had to race a tie-breaker, yet I was still confident as Jeff gave me some tips (avoid long sprints!). We were both tired, but I had one more race in my legs than Bill did. At the start Lee Povey, who was holding Bill, held him back as I rolled ahead. Very slow start! I tried to pin him against the rail but he held back. Rather than engage in track stands I simply went a bit faster into turn 3, then backed off a bit for the last lap unlike the previous round, I thought. Then, I went hard out of turn 2 into 3and 4 (36.0 mph max), but he pipped me by 2 inches... argh!

So close, but my States hopes faded away... I had started my sprint too early again, in spite of Jeff's advice, and my attempt to heed it. I was done for the day, and really bummed as I drove home. I tried hard to focus instead on my next events, on Sunday, but I was depressed. 

500 m time trial (sprints): 

This is a standing-start individual time-trial, for 500 m, just over 1.5 laps.There were six riders entered, so I warmed up well. Yet when I lined up for my start I felt a bit out-of-body. But I pushed hard from the start and focused ahead of me, rather than looking down (a tip from Jeff), and I think I had good power though the turns, even some oomph left for the finish. That made me worry I hadn't given it 100%; I cruised around, totally unsure, but I'd soon know. When I read the official results I was stoked: 36.2 seconds, a new personal best, by a full second! I reached 37.1 mph max, nearly as high as my flying-200 m! Yet Martin Harris was just behind, at 36.3... also a personal best for him! Just the previous weekend, he'd surpassed my best time, so I'd been skeptical I could do it. But now I was 1st out of 6, barely, but the many people congratulating me confirmed I finally got a States jersey I could be proud of! 

Team sprint: 

This is the three-man sprint, where only the third rider's time counts; the first and second riders are merely lead-outs. Tim Montagne was our #1, me #2, Bill Nighan #3. Tim's lap #1was 29.02 seconds, my lap #2 was 22.75 seconds (51.77 ET, at 34.0 mph max), and Bill's 22.75-seconds lap #3 stopped the timer at 1:14.47 (ignoring some minor discrepancy in the splits). We took 1st in 45-54, but unopposed, so not much glory. But Tim and I are joining Bobby Walthour, the builder of my Dixie Flyer, at Elite Nationals for team sprints, so we used this for training. 

So my States this year were a mixed bag, as sports always seem to be, but I really feel my 500 m ride was a new high, for sure, maybe even competitive at Nationals. A real State Champion, at last!

On the top step of the podium! With Martin Harris and Ross Tinline.

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