Monthly Archives: September 2012

Track Nationals

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My first sighting of the track at the Home Depot Center in L.A. As soon as you get there, I guess you’re supposed to claim a spot with your stuff or a sign or something. Here’s our professional sign:

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And then if you’re really pro you bring your rollers and a bike lock and leave your rollers locked to the fence until the end of the week. Track racing involves a lot of gear changing…

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and standing around. Sometimes people occasionally ride their rollers at 50 watts.

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My first days on the track had a some ups and downs. Nicola asked me to write about my experiences because of the unusual situation I’m in: I’m new to the track, I’ve never done a team pursuit before, yet I flew out here to win the team pursuit national championship. I’m just going to copy and paste here:

Day 1

Today I had team pursuit practice with my Exergy TWENTY12 teammates, Lauren Tamayo, London Silver Medalist, and Carrie Higgins, reigning Omnium National Champion. My boyfriend and I flew to L.A. from Atlanta yesterday so I could have a couple days to get a feel for the track. My track career thus far has consisted of an individual pursuit at 2006 collegiate track nationals, a handful of weekday races in T-town in 2007, and six nights of racing at Dick Lane Velodrome (famous for the tree in the infield) last month. I’d never even laid eyes on a 250 before today, but I wasn’t about to pass up this opportunity. As they say, 90% of success is showing up. After that, at least 5% has to be pretending like you know what you’re doing. I’d watched the London Team Pursuits on TV. How hard could it be?

Thirty minutes after hopping on my first 250, I found myself going all-out on Lauren’s wheel in my aerobars anticipating her exchange, and I felt completely out of control. What did I get myself into? But there were no breaks, there wasn’t time to look back, and there wasn’t time to learn slowly. All I could do was cross my fingers and hope I didn’t crash everyone. Just when I thought things couldn’t get any more nerve-wracking, someone turned the indoor lights off! Heart attack! After practicing exchanges, the lights came back on and we went on to some standing starts. I learned how to breathe with the beeps of the start clock, push my hips back, and anticipate the starting beep. I was learning from the best, and feeling confident.

Day 2
I thought my second day of practice would be easier since I was now infinity times more experienced at team pursuiting than I was before yesterday. I was so wrong. The track was more crowded, which made me nervous. I instinctually maneuver my way around people on the road, through the grass, and over cobbles. You’d think a bike is a bike no matter where it is, but it’s not. It’s easy for me to spot newbies on the road. I couldn’t tell you what exactly I was doing wrong, but I’m sure my newbie signals were broadcasting loud and clear to everyone else on the track.

So today was just the same as yesterday but with more people until someone suggested we do a trial run in our TT helmets. We started two separate flying six laps, and I embarrassingly flaked out on both. We were going much faster than yesterday, I was having trouble seeing with the TT helmet on, and I was one hundred percent convinced we were going to plow someone over. A gap would open between myself and Lauren, and I was petrified Carrie would pull off, swing up track, and swing down into me. It was stressful. This was our last practice session and I needed to get it down right.

Lauren and I went back out again, this time without TT helmets, and did two more flying six laps without any hitches. Our times were good, which was comforting.

Tomorrow is the individual pursuit, so I’ll focus on that for now.

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Day 3

Today went well! I have a very specific warm up for prologues, so I figured I’d do something similar for the pursuit. I did the first part on the track and was planning on doing the second part on the rollers while the first heats went off, but I didn’t anticipate the wave of nerves that came over me! My heart rate was skyrocketing, so instead of finishing my warm up I decided the best thing I could do was to sit down and take some deep breaths. Regretting that coffee I drank this morning! I ended up doing a 3:53 which was good enough to put me in the final for 3rd place against my teammate, Cari Higgens!

The final was so-so. I went two seconds slower than in the qualifying round, but I didn’t have time to dwell on it. The scratch race final was in twenty minutes and I needed to change my bars, pin my second number on, and recheck my bike with the official (all without the help of my boyfriend/mechanic/psychologist who was in the process of doing his own scratch race final). My bike was too light when Nicola and I went to weigh-in, so we had to tape a stem underneath my seat to meet the 6.8kg requirement.

Everyone got in position for the scratch race start. I thought all my mechanical were behind me, until we left the rail and immediately my bars moved in my hands. Had I really forgotten to tighten my stem bolts? I raised my hand in the air as if expecting the team car to pull up behind me. I did a couple laps on the apron until I finally figured out where to go and what to do. I made it to the pit, some friends tightened the bolts, and I was back on the track.

I ended up lapping the field with Lauren Hall, someone who I’ve raced a lot on the road. I wasn’t quite sure what to do tactically, so I tried to go with my instincts. She ended up beating me in the bunch sprint, so I had to settle for a silver metal. Creeping closer and closer to a jersey!

The next day…

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Dan and I both won the Team Pursuit. Our morning ride wasn’t very smooth, but we still qualified for the gold medal finals with a 3:41. Ben Sharp and Neil Henderson both advised me to put on a bigger gear, saying it would help me stay on Lauren’s wheel. I did, and it seemed to work! I still don’t know how exactly that helped, but it worked!

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The next day I had the 25k points race. It was 100 laps (since each lap is 250 meters), with a points sprint every ten laps. At the halfway point I had zero points, and my teammate, Cari, was doing really well. I assumed my race was over, and decided I’d do my best to help her. I followed a move with Beth Newell, and we ended up lapping the field. I made her do most of the work, but she was strong enough to do it on her own. When we caught the field, I kept being aggressive. I ended up off the front again in another group which I then attacked and soloed from. When I crossed the finish line, I thought to myself “there I go again treating a points race like a scratch race. The first person across the line doesn’t always win.” it wasn’t until after a couple cool down laps that they announced my name. Cari and I had tied in points, but I must have won more sprints. Wow. This is the beginning of something good.

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Track Mayhem

As I begin my one-month, end-of-season track racing career, I’ve got Bike Snob’s take on the crossover knocking at the back of my skull. If I do TOO well at track nationals this month, I can no longer claim it’s just training for the road. People will actually expect something from me in a track race from then on!

I’m actually running out of several of my go-to excuses for being slow on the track as we speak.(1) I don’t live near a track. Wrong! Dan lives in Atlanta which means I’ve been spending a lot of time really close to Atlanta’s infamous Dick Lane Velodrome. (2) I don’t have my own track bike. Well, check out this baby Exergy just sent me in the mail last week:

(3) I don’t do any track racing. Three nights of racing in the last two weeks sounds like some racing to me. Last but not least: (4) I don’t know anything about track racing! Well, this still might be true since everything Dan says seems to go in one ear and out the other. I’m beginning to understand why yelling at the newbie UF students doesn’t automatically make them “get it”. “Put your weight on your outside foot” or “don’t wear underwear under your cycling shorts” are simple enough, but how about “wait till the field swells to attack”?

Track racing is weird, bro. All the intuition I thought I had – gone. It looks fine and dandy and simple when you’re watching it, but as soon as I’m in one I’m clueless.

Long story short, I have nothing to lose at track nationals. If it goes poorly for me, no one will think much of it. If it goes well, then you can bet every failure in my 2013 road season will be written off to “just training for track.”