Canadian Track Nationals.
The monday morning flight out of Victoria with a bike box seems to be when the excitement for track nationals starts to build. With an uneventful flight, and everyone’s baggage arriving, it was a fairly uneventful day. Bikes were built and we got on the track to get rid of our “airplane legs”. The next few days were a mixture of chilling around the rented house and riding the track, while panicking every hour or two about how bad our legs feel and second guessing ourselves.
Friday rolled around and people would have been far more excited had it not been the most dreaded event up first. The IP or Individual pursuit is one of the harder events of the weekend and due to a new rule change the U17 now have to do two rides, a qualifier and a final where the top two qualifiers ride off for gold while the next two ride off for bronze. Being defending champion I had the advantage of being in the last heat, which allowed me to go only as fast as needed to make the gold final. The fastest time posted, the one I had to beat was a mid 2:23. On paper, it seemed easy, and when i am able to do sub 2:20, I also thought it would be easy. What I didn’t realize however, was a 2:19 and a 2:23 feel exactly the same. The 2:19 is obviously harder but it doesn’t feel that way, they both hurt, a lot. I went into the final not like it was going to be a walk in the park, but I didn’t think it would hurt like it did. I made the gold final by about a second with Sydney flageole bray, my main competition in the IP, qualifying first just under a second in front of me. The panic button was being pressed full tilt by now, with the mindset that I should be able to do 2:19, 2:18, and that a 2:22.6 hurt super badly, it was not good on the mental side of it.
The IP final was after the Keirin which forced me to put away my panic button and be completely confident in my abilities. With the new rules of the Keirin the dangerous sketchy fight for position on the bike is avoided, which is quite lame. As well, the speed is slower due to the motorbike spending less time accelerating, and the actual “race” (after the motorbike pulls off) distance being increased. Before every race you have to go through “Bike Check”, which is pretty much the anti-doping for bicycles. They check that the geometry of your bike is legal, and the gearing (for U17’s) is the proper length per one pedal revolution. After that, depending on the race, position on the line must be drawn. At local competitions, playing cards, or poker chips with numbers written on them are used. At nationals however, it was fancy. An Ipad with red squares equalling the number of positions in the race. As each person chose their name and then pressed a red square a number would appear, and be linked to their name. The next person would have one less red card to pick, and so on and so forth until every rider has a number. In the qualifier heat I drew 6th but with top 2 qualifying and in a easier heat it wasn’t a big deal. In the race I started moving up with 1.5 laps to go, taking the lead with 1 lap to go. Just cruising to the line after that secured me a spot in the ½ final.
A short break and I was back into the IP, I was a little distraught and second guessing myself. During warm-up I had a chat with Kurt (coach) about what I should shoot for. We settled on the idea to go for a 2:20, with the idea that he was maxed in ride one, and there was no way he could go 1.5 seconds faster. If he could however, then he was the stronger rider and “good job, high five, you did everything you could do. Put it to bed and be a good loser”. I used a slightly longer, intenser warm-up then ride one, to really make sure the lactate wasn’t a shock to the system. Five minutes before the start, and I was in the ready area, chilling and acknowledging how much this was going to hurt. Kurt made one last comment before moving up into the gate. “You two are quite evenly matched, the last 3 laps, those are just going to be a slugfest of who wants it more, therefore, the real question is how much do you want it?” Kurt left me to ponder that during the time period of loading the bike into the gate. The 50 second gate timer is the biggest anxiety builder ever. Most of the time you sit there for 50 seconds thinking of everything that could go wrong. I can’t remember sitting in the starting gate at all in preparation for that event. Whether it was because I did so many standing starts that weekend I don’t remember any of them or if I was just in “the Zone” no clue. I had a great start and settled right on pace. That was really the first time I had done two pursuits in one competition, and I didn’t realize how much the first pursuit took out of you. By lap 3 I was seriously suffering. Focusing on my breathing and trying not to panic I was able to maintain my splits of 16.7 (54km/h) for another 2 laps. In cycling they have this saying “going cross-eyed” I thought it was just an expression for the longest time. It’s not an expression. By lap 5 everything was super blurry. Just as I begin to feel my legs lock up, or refuse to pedal at the 128 rpm needed, I realized this is when the slugfest actually began. Convincing myself I wanted it more and maintained the cadance, barely, for two additional laps. After that pedalling was reduced to weak attempts at moving pedals. The last lap was horrific with the last half lap pretty much just the momentum of the bike rolling to the finish. The Guns sounded so close together I didn’t know which gun was for me and which was for sydney. Since I started on the back straight, the screen in front of me contained the live timing results. I was so happy to see the screen with a green +0.000 meaning I was the fastest time.
Exhausted but super wired a long cooldown before podiums and back onto the rollers for Keirin 1/2 Finals warm-up. Through bike check and in the waiting area, just as an official is coming around with an Ipad. The last one to pick and unluckily enough I picked first. Other positions you have some wiggle room on possible strategies. Position one you only have one strategy. For the most part, if you’re in the lead in a Keirin, and someone passes you, it’s bad. In which case, in my semi-final the moment i felt someone was moving up I accelerated to the point of them sitting at my hip with right at the place where they feel they can pass eventually, but will never actually pass. Sitting at that speed prevents anyone else from passing since they would have to go three abreast, with one to go, I picked it up a few times. Giving the pace a few defiant “kicks” to distance any riders or prevent anyone from passing once the kid at my hip finally began travelling backwards. I cruised into finals without much difficulty.
Finals were only 10-ish minutes after the completion of the semi, pretty much enough time to do nothing but stay in the waiting zone. I hopped on the rollers for a few minutes before heading back through Bike check and roll out and the magical Ipad. This time position 6 was flipped up. Good ol’ last wheel. Once again Kurt talked me through strategy for this race. Coles notes were as follows; leave a gap, wait until last lap unless an opportunity arises, then rush like a madman. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to use my madman rushing abilities. Tyler, the 5th placed rider, moved up early. This can cause a chain reaction of people trying to get on his wheel creating a wall 4 people wide. Hopping on, or more correctly close to his wheel allowed me to rush around him slightly but still prevented the human wall from blocking my way to the finish. I came around tyler, who was leading with a quarter of a lap to go and rolled to the finish with a comfortable gap.
Following the trend of the day with the events happening in rapid fire succession, the scratch race was up shortly after the kierin. It was an extremely boring race as far as races go with few attacks being attempted and people just rolling around nicely. With 21 laps to go however, i was riding near the blue line. The rider below me stood up. This isn’t a cause for concern of course, riders often stand up to deal with accelerations in the bunch or to stretch their legs. However, just after the rider stood up he made a sharp right, directly into me. Before I had even realized what was happening this rider bounced off me like a pinball taking himself out, along with 5 other riders. The race was neutralized while one of the riders was taken off the track in a wheelchair. The race resumed and once again people rolling around nicely. With 3 laps to go, there was a lull, during which, another British Columbian, Mr. Ethan O made a mad flyer at the perfect moment. He gained almost half a lap on the main group in less than a lap, but by that time a mad chase had begun. With one lap to go i attacked over the top of the Chase group, Ethan only 60 metres ahead of us. I managed to pass Ethan with 60 metres to go taking the win with 4 others passing Ethan before the line.