Friday, October 26, 2012

Track Scratch (Race) Fever

I've been hearing about the Cleveland Velodrome probably since the idea was first hatched. I've watched the progress, and seen the building online. On August 27th, my daughter and I went to the grand opening. Not expecting to have an "open ride", I did not bring anything to ride in... my daughter, being the brighter of the pair, did. So she was on the track in short order... since then, we took the 101 course together, and I've been riding there at least once a week in September and October. Lots of laps, lots of paceline practice.

Last night, the weather was wonderful, and I expected a rather large turn out. I'm guessing there were between 20 and 25 riders out for the regular Thursday night "Happy Hour Night". As I was getting suited up, Brett said he was going to get us racing tonight.

We got in a reasonable warm up, though I spent a good deal of time talking instead of riding. At about 6, Brett cleared the track for a 10 lap scratch race. The idea is riders start in the rail, at the top of the track on the finish straight. Official starts the race, we got 2 neutral laps, then 10 racing laps. Mass starts on the track!

So, race 1 was about 7 guys. Dick Brink rolled off the front after the neutral, and I jumped after him about a lap later. I couldn't figure out how to pull through after being gassed on bridging the jump and we were brought back in short order. The best offensive move is to attack as the break is brought back, and Dave Bartels did. While the rest of us looked at each other he built up a nice lead... I did try to pull, but was still recovering. Weston left the chase to late, and Dave easily won the first race.

Race 2: We waited around a bit before going again. This time there may have been 10 of us. Somewhat different tactics, but again Dave jumped with maybe 7 to go, everyone else looked around. I think we picked up the chase but the gap was set. I did sacrifice myself in a long hard pull, and rolled in at the back of the field. Getting off the front was interesting as I pulled off and guys are going around me both above and below.

Race 3: Much faster this time, because it was getting dark. Dave must have sat this one out. Thom Dominic got off the front early, and I ended up third wheel behind Dave Chernosky and Weston. This time, they jumped earlier and I was ready. Ramped up the speed nicely. As we came by Thom it was evident he was not going to follow. I couldn't hold the wheel for the length left, and that was how it finished Dave, Weston, Me.

After each race, we chatted the tactics, trying to figure out this track race thing. Different levels of fitness effects the strategy. You want to know who will/can follow who, so you are ready when someone starts the serious move. Knowing that Dave B can hold those long efforts, we might be a little less willing to give him the early jump.

I'll say it is a totally different level of concentration. You can't grab brakes to slow yourself down, and neither can anyone else. The level of communication necessary is much higher than a road race, and the craziness of being in the field is a new level of "wow". In a way, it was like the first time I jumped in the A field at Westlake, a bit scary because of everyone else around you going fast, and also because you don't want to be "that guy" that screws it up.

Last night was probably the end of the season for me. I won't make it this week because of the 'cross schedule in Cincy, and with the time change looming, I think the day job will interfere with any track time. It's been fun though, and we're looking forward to next season.

Monday, October 22, 2012

State of Ohio Master's 50-54 Cyclocross Champion!

So, I am a BAD blogger. I have excuses! Lots of them, just like everyone. Work changes, family is growing up, sending my son off to college, and training. I've also been sending all race reports to the team. So I am keeping up some sort of bargain. However, this one I HAVE to get out there.

I've been racing cyclocross since the beginning of September. After a "terrible" first race in Elyria, I have had some rather nice results. 18th at a stacked Wendy Park, and 8th at a MUDDY Euclid race. I've also been on the track at least once a week. I might write about that later, though Brian Batke does a better job than I can at this point.

So I had a good day Saturday at the Ohio State Cyclocross Championship race near Columbus. 

We got there with enough time to get in about 5 laps on the course before the start. Since we weren't allowed on the course during races, I had plenty of time to dial in the bike, tire pressure and plan of attack before my race. It was a driver's course with lots of turns, and a few longer power sections. There were only a couple of really technical spots, one muddy 180 turn that I decided to run after watching Ernesto run it in the single speed race, and the other was a tricky off camber that you could avoid by taking a longer line that straightened it out but took a little longer. I did the off-camber ride, carefully, though I may have lost a little time on that on a few laps.

I age up in Cross this year, so I raced with Derek and John Bodell from Spin. Derek and I both got descent starts considering we had a third row position, because they lined up the field by registration order, grouped by ages. So the whole 45-49 field was in front of the 50-54s. We ended up going through the first turn in about 12th, then spent the next half lap working through the remainder of the field. By then the first four spots were gone. Derek and I were leading a group of 6 of us, then there was gap to everyone else. I was nearly certain that we were the only ones from our field left in the front two groups. But figured we would work hard to make sure.

Shortly after the first lap, I passed Derek and attacked hard while he blocked the remaining 4 guys that had latched onto us. Eventually, Rudy and two Biowheels guys got around him and made their way up to me. Rudy passed me on a long straight section, and I held on through that, but lost his wheel around the next turn. I fought like crazy to stay with the three of them, and even got aggressive in the turns with the last guy to keep it together.

After about three laps, Emilio (who worked the pit for me) assured me I was in the lead of the 50+ field. No idea how he knew, but Derek was about 30 seconds behind, with Jeff Craft between us.  Joe Pollato was sitting fourth about 30 seconds up on the 4 of us. Emilio's news must have made me loose the plot for a moment, because I let the three go shortly after that. They actually caught Joe, and duked it out for 4-7th. I managed to hold the gap to Jeff constant, Derek held onto his gap to Jeff. I'm pretty sure the gap to 11th was HUGE.

Once I lost Rudy and the Biowheels guys, I was on auto-pilot. With the exception of having to fight for some corners with some of the lap riders, the last 3 laps were pretty uneventful. I knew I was slowing down, but it didn't look like Jeff was really gaining anything on me. I kept the pressure up, and rolled in alone pretty sure I had the age group, and super happy with 8th overall and Derek in 10th. I checked with the Biowheels guys to be sure that they were both in the 45-49, and that was it!
Saturday was my first podium ceremony, and it was amazing sharing it with Derek. State of Ohio Master's 50-54 Cyclocross champion... sounds pretty nice. A very nice addition to a very successful season of master's racing. I guess I'll have to return to defend this now.

Next up isBrett's Halloween Race Weekend, then it's off to the Cincinnati Cincy 3. I love this time of year.