Saving the best for last, or how I am getting to love points races.
The last post was obviously from my buddy Chris/Bushy, posted from the track on Saturday morning while I was warming up for my points race qualifing race. Strange to be circling the track and see him typing away on a computer below me in turn 1.
Good to see things from another perspective.
Worlds Masters track champs are done for another year and we are back in Golburn relaxing after a great adventure. I can’t believe how 10 minutes of racing can make a whole season of training so worth while. Yesterday, that is on Saturday, both Chris and I had points races scheduled. The schedule is always fluid because the officials are changing things based on riders dropping events mid week, something neither Chris or I can understand, come all this way, sign up for an event and then drop out at the last minute. The last week has been a good week but coming into Saturday I just didn’t feel like I did the best efforts. Those I did were good but I expected more personally. Not having a chance to race sprints because the officials changed their minds at the last minute and cut my age group rounds from 18 races to 12, leaving me no races but a Flying 200 qualifing time was sad and left me wanting more track time. I came back Friday morning to warm up early before the spring finals to make the last gear decision for my points race. I settled on a 50/15, the gear I was planning to use all the time.
Saturday morning came bright and early again, all week we have been up at either 5:30 or 6:00 to get to the track for proper warm ups because our races have been early and the track has only limited amounts of time for real warm ups. Even then, the track fills to 70 plus riders by the 9:00 A.M. start times and then there are only occasional 10 minute warm up sessions later on that fill the track with riders. My 40 lap points race was combined with the 65-69 age group so that meant we needed to do 2, 30 lap heat races to narrow the field to 24 for the final.
I was schedule for the second heat about 9:15 or so. Coming here after racing at the USA Masters races I felt I had a chance to be competitive or I would not have come. After the last few days, I knew I was at a different level here so there have been the constant thoughts of can I really ride a mass start race with these guys and not get dropped, can I stay close in the field and stay safe, confident and relaxed? The thought of having to do a heat and then another race also added some insecurity. I haven’t done a mass start race for over a month, only working on sprint efforts so even though I felt confident, I was not 100% confident. Anyone else every felt like that?
Not long after my warm ups, I was listening and watching for the sign on procedure. Previously, we went to a spot below turn 4 for a bike weigh in, helmut check and sign in. I started to head to that area and found no one around so I circled back to the results and officials area only to find new sign in sheets and a slightly different procedure. I’m sure they must have annouced it but the accoustics in the velodrome aren’t great and with the Aussie accent, it is hard to know what and when things are happening. I signed in with about 5 minutes to spare and heard that the heats were in question, more DNS riders. 10 minutes later, no heats, only a final. It is now 9:00, I am warmed up and ready to race and my race, the final is at 2:30 in the afternoon. We are checked out of the hotel and stuck at Dunc Gray for the day. No races at all until about 10:30 when some of the lower age group heats were run.
The big challenge is to stay motivated, energized, hydrated and fueled all morning long and be ready at 2:30. Lucky we bought and brought food and beverages along prepared for a long day. My anxiety level dropped for the morning knowing I was in a final of 24 with some riders probably above my age group but not knowing who or how many. The morning actually went by quickly, on and off the rollers, eat, drink, relax, watch some races and see how the action played out, all points races today. I am amazed at how even at these levels, there are dumb mistakes being made and resulting crashes in the mass start events. So we watch as a few races were marred with crashes. Equally, I am amzed at how hard and fast some of the older age groups go. Eventually there was a warm up period from about 12 to 12:30 during the lunch break, again the track was packed with just about every rider in the house. Crazy but good to help relieve the jitters and to get use to pack riding.
Bob, from the track, has a friend, Warren, racing here and I have been trying to find him all week. He is in my age group and won the Pursuit round. I just haven’t been able to connect but surprise, as I am rolling around the infield right before my race I spy his number and we catch up. I introduced myself and we talk for a while right before the race. As we roll around there are 2 more crashes in prior races so there is more time to waste as the officials clear and inspect the track and riders are taken care of.
My plan is to start near the front but behind enough riders to stay in someone’s draft until the sprints occur. I am the first one to line up on the rail in the infield and try to strategically place my self near the front but far enough back so I have some protection. My plan isn’t perfect but close enough, finally, we roll up the ramp onto the track and I am amazingly calm and clear headed, I am about 10 riders back in a pack of 24. One thing I’ve learned is that no one rides at the measurement line in mass start events here in Sydney, they are always at the read line or higher, leaving a perfect gap to close into. That’s about where I am and so eventually, I move up the pack. The pace is high but not crazy so I am good for now. I am watching the lap counters, which is something I’ve learned to do better this season and see that the first sprint is about on and I am kind of trapped. I make it across the line probably about 10 or so, hard to really be precise about this. After the effort I realize there is a gap between the guy ahead of me and the front guys, he is riding close to the black line but moving up and down. Going into 3 I take a chance and ride below him and actually end up on the gray warm up area going quite fast through 3 to 4 and then back up and in front of him, no warning so I guess I am good to close the gap. Can’t believe I did that and actually made it work. The next laps are a blur, every sprint is faster and I feel like I am close on getting points but just not quite there. A group gets off the front and I am at the lead of the second group and close the gap and the roll off and back in line. At one point another gap forms from the group in front of me and the guy behind me yells to catch them, I’m thinking, screw you, why should I do the work for you? but I give it some gas and we are back on again. The race finishes and I am still in the top 10 or 15 I think so I may not have placed but it was a GREAT race for me.
So to come full cricle, how can 10 minutes of your life make a whole year worth while, do something that makes you feel so completely alive and energized that you can’t hardly contain it. I’ve heard a lot of pro bike races say in magazines and videos that it isn’t about winning but about doing the best you can, not leaving anything behind and that’s what this race was all about for me.
Bushy was up for his 60 lap points race right after me so I got to the bottom of turn one in the infield and yelled and screamed at him as he did a great effort staying with another big group. He eventually got lapped twice and then pulled with about 18 to go but that was about twice as long as he did last year so he’s got to be proud of that. He only entered this race because he didn’t want to sit around all day with nothing to do while I was racing. This was just a training race for him.
After his race, we packed up quick to get to his duaghter’s, Stacy and husband Chris, house in Sydney for a BBQ, we were already way behind schedule.
We arrived about a half hour later starving and ready to eat. Thanks Stacy for a great feed, which we really needed. After dinner, a ride back to Golburn and a casual Sunday.
Time for the vacation to begin.