2017 USA Masters Track Championships, Rock Hill S.C.

This is the second time Rock Hill has hosted this event, last time in 2015 and the event dates conflicted with a USAC permitted event I was doing for the Mounds View Festival in the Park. The FIP event was my first USA Cycling permitted event and I felt like I needed to be around in the closing weeks prior to the event to make sure it came off ok. Plus, August in S.C? Can you say my least favorite temperatures possible for racing a bike. Heat in a cement bowl didn’t sound very productive for me. Kind of sad not to add another track to the list of 250 tracks I’ve ridden and to not follow up a great 2104 event and try and improve my standings.

As it turned out the Mounds View event, for a number of reasons occurred but was not much of an event. It was a start to get into a community festival committee and figure out how that works which has played out well into the 2016 and now 2017 season to produce more crits.

The end of my 2016 season, especially at the World Championships in Manchester found me looking for more speed and better training so I hired a Training Peaks coach for 2017 who started me training 2 weeks after getting back from Worlds. 2017 was also my big Europe trip with my best friend Chris, from Australia. 7 weeks in UK, France, Belgium, Germany and Holland exploring, riding bikes, watching pro bike races and just learning about Europe. You can read more about that under the Traveling Around tab of this blog if you want.

I’m starting to put my retirement plan into effect so that frees up more of my time to do things like the Europe trip but it also allows me to plan to drive to Rock Hill S.C. instead of taking a plane. Planes becoming one of my absolute least favorite way to travel, especially when you need to haul all the bike related gear to race.

3 days of driving, leaving on Thursday, my races starting the following Wednesday, allowing me time to get there without total exhaustion plus some time to relax and ride along the way and then do some easy training once in Rock Hill to get used to a cement 250 meter track. Originally my Aussie friend was planning to drive with me but plans change and I was on my own. One long day’s drive to Lafayette Indiana, another shorter day to Berea KT and then a final push through the Smokey Mountains to end in Rock Hill a small town near Charlotte. I don’t think I have ever driven in as much rain as those 3 days, bucketfuls coming down for hours at a time wipers on high speed.

Driving allowed me the luxury of bringing all the regular equipment, spares wheels, rollers, ice vests, pop up tent, cooler and a road bike along for easy recovery rides at the end of 2 of the drive days, one in Berea and one in Rock Hill the day I arrived. Plus it gave me a chance to do recovery and opening rides to stay as fresh as possible for each race day. The easy non race rides adding a ton of enjoyment to the overall trip. First time I’ve done that, well worth it.

The short and sweet results report for now stands;

Sprint Day, Wednesday. Qualified 6th with a 13.734, fastest was about 1 second faster than me. Certainly not my best but with all my endurance training since Jan 1 of this year, I felt good to be in the top 8 qualifiers. My first rounds were against a guy I met last in 2014 in Marymoore. Three matches, win, lose, win for me got me into the evenings top 4 riders. It wasn’t easy, Malcom had his coach along plus he was .3 of a second fast in his 200. A few hours break to go home, shower, ice pack my legs and then back for a short warm up and then rides against a T-Town rider who beat me twice putting me into a next ride for the 3/4 position. 3 rides again, win, lose, lose got me 4th overall. Lost 3rd by less than a half a bike. Those rides should have been entertaining, lots of sprint tactics from slow to track stand to up and down the track, locked rear wheels and full on power. In the end, a great day of racing, 8 matches plus a 200 equaling a ton of TSS that I’m sure I would pay for in the real of my races. The day started at 6 A.M. and eventually ended with dinner and a beer in a Mexican restaurant and finally to bed about midnight. Lucky the next two days I had evening races.

Scratch Race, 5k or 20 laps. A late start to the morning and then an hour long easy road ride up and around the track into a developed trail area along the Pace River. The whole area around the Giordana Velodrome is all new development. The town of Rock Hill has committed to an area of housing, sport, recreation and some commercial development to open up a great area. Besides the uncovered velodrome there is an outdoors BMX track and a 1.1 mile long criterium bike race asphalt track that has some great fast and slow turns as well as fast downhill sections with an accompanying uphill hard section. Very forward thinking of the community to offer this up to users and spectators alike.        The race sessions started with a half hour load in time when the track would be closed and you could walk across the track as well as use the tunnel to haul equipment to the infield. Lots of pop up tents and big covered areas were available to use so I really didn’t need my pop up. Once the track opened there was about an hour and 20 minutes of open track time to warm up prior to racing. It was open to those racing that same day or any day of the week. Smaller turnout allowed some flexibility, Worlds Championships with more riders don’t allow that much flexible track time. Warm ups done, now to find out how much damage I did during sprint day and how good my endure training was. Results?, not as good as I would hope. I was struggling to stay in the pack, some helpful encouragement from Tim Mulrooney got me back into the race and with a good last lap sprint, 7th overall, missing 6th by about 2 inches to the guy who beat me in two rounds in the sprints.

Friday, 10K or 40 lap Points race, a race I was targeting as possibly my best chance for a medal didn’t play out as hoped. The weather was changing, some rain and some adjustments to the schedule which was hard to keep track of. I got to the track early enough to not make a difference but warm up time was shorter due to a 5 P.M. start instead of 6 P.M. so some rain shorten events could occur keeping the overall schedule pretty much in control. Congrats to the staff and officials for making that all happen. The Points race started fast just like the scratch race, more than I could personally handle so I was falling back fast eventually losing contact with the main pack early on. One other guy and I were caught trying to recover doing half lap pulls to no avail. The pack caught us leaving us 20 points down. I stayed with the pack for most of the rest of the race getting 1 point in the second to last sprint. I got behind a faster guy who eventually told me he was done, I passed him only to have him lock onto my draft and just barely pass me at the finish. Never believe anyone that says they are done. They lie!    End result, 10th of 11 with minus 19 points, very sad!  Time to pack up and go home. Actually go to my second home of the week. Twice now I’ve made Air BnB reservations and messed up the checkout days, once in CO a month ago and now here. I did find a Howard Johnson even closer to the track at a great rate, $65 with breakfast. I had checked into it at 2 in the afternoon so it was easy to drive to and call it a night. Dinner from the food truck vendor at the track.

Saturday, last day of redemption, 500 TT, 2 laps that should be but usually aren’t my best, kind of a throw away event that usually happens at the beginning of a week of racing. This time, my last day of racing. 6 A.M. wake up, breakfast, drive to the track and load in and I’m ready to go by 7:30 or so. The weather is getting less friendly, lots of clouds, some very light sprinkles, higher humidity, not my favorite plus I am really feeling the fatigue set in. Heat, just tired or both, not sure which but here I am, relaxing in a chair just maintaining. A few times on the rollers to stay somewhat active. Then some conversation with some of the other NSC racers that sound like they are fatiguing out as well. I’m the 4th heat up, starting on the home straight, I’m there, ready, bike onto the track, no start gates just locals holding each of us then some of the officials are telling me to get off the track and some are just confused. Eventually, I get off. There is some timing malfunction on the back straight and they need to run the back straight racer from the last heat alone. That done and I’m back on, the count down happens with the count down clock very small on the track so I didn’t even see it but was tuned in to the timer sounds. Good start, straight, hard, out of the saddle until going into turn 3, still on top of the gear on the second lap (thank goodness I didn’t use the slightly bigger gear I had on earlier) speed starts to degrade some and then the race is over.    Results, 7th of 12 at a 42.023 time. Faster guy doing a 40.244. My splits not that far off the fast guys. After all the wait time and putting up with the heat, I’ll take a 7th place and be happy about it.   I’m really happy about the overall weeks results. One of the guys I know only by racing these events summed it up earlier in the week when he said any medal and a chance to be on the podium is amazing, some race for lots of years and don’t make it in a podium picture. I won’t says I’ve won much but I have had some time on the podium, very humbling experience.

Final summary, One 4th and a medal, two 7th place and one 10th. Best All Round rider score in my age range, 8th of 18. Best team score, for PJW Racing, 63rd of 143.

Before awards on Saturday, I have the car packed and am driving out the lot headed back to Berea KT, hoping to get a room before they fill up on a 4th of July weekend. I made it, got the same room as when I cam down, Room 102, easy in and out. Sunday, just started driving, adjusting my route as I went to try and avoid traffic and Chicago, before I knew it I was less than 6 hours from home so after 14 hours of driving I’m back at home, another track champs finished and I’m looking for ways to improve my performance for Worlds in CA this October.