With a clean sweep on day one and racing going well past 9 pm, falling asleep was seriously difficult. A 6 am morning the next day made for little sleeping, and creating the famous day 2 feeling of “I don’t even want to look at a bicycle again”.
Opening event was the Flying 200, which is a timed event in which the last 200 meters are timed of 900m. In the U17 category, there seems to be a 11.7-second barrier. In all three years of me competing at the u17 nationals, none of my competitors were able to crack 11.7. This year was no different. Being defending champion, I was the last rider, with the fastest time posted of 11.7. My lead in was good, my pedaling was smooth, and I held the black line. Coming across the line I knew I had a faster time than posted, but I didn’t think it was as good as it turned out to be. Posted time was 11.0, or about 4km/h faster than the next fastest rider.
1/8th final of the match sprint was immediately after, and with the new rules the riders are more closely matched. In the old rules, first would compete against sixteenth, second against fifteenth, etc. In the new rules, first competes against ninth, second against tenth, etc. Since I qualified first, I was matched with ninth. Through bike check and I was faced with the Ipad again, this time with 2 cards. I drew position one. Drawing #1 in a qualifier against an opponent a fair amount slower, makes the easiest tactic a razor. What often happens is the faster rider does not respect the slower rider enough. If you don’t respect the slower riders ability, you won’t accelerate to the proper speed with a lap and a half or even a lap to go with the idea that you can just cruise to the line. The slower rider is able to jump you, and with one lap to go if the slower rider takes the sprinters lane in front of you, it becomes very difficult to pass. This almost happened to me in my 1/8th final. I wasn’t way to slow, but I wasn’t very close to proper speed either. Luckily I reacted quickly and didn’t let him have enough room to move down in front of me, and I was able to move on to the ¼ final.
My Points Race was 60 laps (15km) with sprints every 10 laps. Doing too much work in a points race seems to be my specialty, for in this race, just like westerns, I did way too much work. Doing too much work does have an advantage, I get a lot of early points. Unfortunately, I start having difficulty getting points at the end. This wasn’t much of a problem in the old rule book, now however, the last sprint is worth double. This creates the issue of me contesting 4 sprints, and having a total of 11 points. Second place rider contested 2 sprints and had a total of 7 points. Even though I had 4 more points than them, and contested double their sprints, they could still beat me from a single placement in the final sprint. If he won the final sprint and I got second, he would win the race. The last sprint was a struggle to win, but I pulled it out of the hat for the fourth title of the weekend.
In the ¼ finals Kurt recommended I try controlling the race from behind if I draw position two. There were a few possible tactics, but since we had never attempted one of them before, we might as well give that a go. The plan was to force position one to go early, by gaining height on the opponent. With just less then 2 laps to go, I drove up the banking hard, force one of two reactions. The opponent either attacks early, (the prefered) or picks up speed and follows me up track. When the opponent attacks early, I have vertical height on them and with that the speed of going down the banking. As well, I have a draft slingshot when they become fatigued. The other situation is they move up track to meet you, This opens the door for you to go early. When someone moves up track, they slow down, If they are slowing down while you are accelerating, you can open a very big gap, very quickly. So what did my opponent do? Nothing. He was perfectly happy rolling around on the bottom of the track. At this point I had absolutely no idea what to do, since it wasn’t one of the two options. He pretty much took the book of “how to Match Sprint” threw it out the window. Flabbergasted, I just went for it. I flew around him at mock one, and just rolled to the finish.
The Quarter Finals had 2 great examples of people not respecting their opponents, one didn’t razor fast enough, as well didn’t stand up to accelerate once he realized his mistake. The other believed they could pass on the last straight away, so just sat in the draft.
There was a 3 hour break after the conclusion of the morning session and with so much time Hushang, one of the coaches, filled up a garbage can with water and ice. Ice baths between sessions, and at 4pm the second session began.
The first event up was the Match Sprint semi-final, and seeing how we had difficulty assessing the effectiveness of the attempted strategy in the quarter-final, we decided to give it another go. At the exact same time as the quarter-final ride, I gunned it to the rail, and what response do I receive? The exact same. By this point I started to get a little annoyed, so I went. Better in this ride however, when he saw me going, he turned 90 degrees up track. Maybe he was trying to spook me into not going, but as far as I was concerned he was going uphill while I was going down. It was a cruisy spin to the finish.
The semi-finals however, are best of 3. Which means we would have another go at each other. This time, I was leading it out. It was a boring ride as far as match sprints go, with us just rolling around for a 1.5 laps. There was a pretty obvious lack of understanding of match sprinting by my opponent in this ride. He was either told or picked up through Match Sprinting videos that you stay back from your opponent in second wheel. It seemed he didn’t understand why however. With a lap and a half to go there must’ve been 25+ metres between him and I. Which may have not been much of a problem if he had 5 or 6 metres of vertical elevation on me, But he didn’t, he was below me. I just went, this is stupid, and faked a hard attack. He jumped after me, and I just slowly accelerated all the way around the track until the finish, making him unable to pass.
Next up, the good ol’ elimination race. The only Individual event I didn’t win, and the only event I didn’t medal in, and it was 100% my fault. Early in the race I stayed top 5-10 ish, A bit further back than I would have prefered but it was a very active bunch which continuously folded over itself. The pace was relatively slow however, which didn’t make positioning easy. With 10 ish riders to go, was where the problems started occurring. People close to me started to get eliminated and I got boxed once. I was able to push my way out of the box when a hole opened up and I slipped out. Most people, especially smart people would go, that was close, let’s get somewhere safer. Not me though, no, I went straight back to where I was previously. Error number one. I managed to stay safe in another elimination after someone fell off the pace of the bunch. Coming around with 1.5 laps till the next elimination, Kurt, my coach, yelled “there are two riders behind you, get out.” I heard him absolutely perfectly, and I knew exactly what to do. So what did I do? Absolutely nothing. I just sat there, and was eliminated. I can’t even put into words how I felt after that race. I wasn’t tired physically, but I must’ve been tired mentally. since it wasn’t a conscious decision to go, “my coach is wrong, don’t listen to him”. That wasn’t the mind process at all, but that was the outcome. It was a great learning experience, but still beat myself up about it for days afterwards.
With a little bit of cool down time, and a few people teasing me about being an idiot I accepted it was my fault, and that I have to get over the poor poor me I didn’t get another medal. I laughed along with the teasing, since some of them were pretty good, including Félix Pelletier’s comment; “Now you know how we feel!” due to the fact that Dylan Bibic, who won the race, was a U15. “Riley got Riley-ed” was repeated a fair amount.
After the medal ceremony, during which my mother and teammates teased “hey aren’t you about to go on the… oh wait”. Pretty used to the teasing and being the one who often teased others I was ok with it, and was getting pretty excited. Fellow British Columbian, Ethan Ogrodniczuk, was in the final against me which made strategic talking slightly awkward as I often walked right between him and his coach during such talks since we shared the same pen. This often led to absolutely barbaric tactic ideas when I came close, just to tease. Included ideas such as sticking a pump into my spokes while we were riding or losing my wheels on the start line. Ethan being my sprint and pursuit teammate, I knew they were all jokes and nothing of the sort would ever happen.
Ride one and I drew second. Kurt and I, annoyed with the fact that this strategy was still working, and nobody was countering properly lead to us agreeing to do it again, hoping Ethan was more experienced. Exact same thing as in the quarterfinals and the semi finals, and Ethan did handle it better. Not enough that it changed the effectiveness at all, but the reaction was sorta in the right path. As I went up he did too, but nowhere near fast enough. He also stopped looking at one point, not so much a fault, but it probably still cost him the race. I dove underneath him, and being the final, didn’t soft pedal until I saw Kurt on the home straight away telling me to chill.
The second ride was pretty well ridden by Ethan, he controlled it from the back, pushing me up track by raising his own height behind me. Coming up to one lap to go I was riding the rail looking over my right shoulder. I was able to see him stand up and initiate, diving down toward the black. The rule with the sprinters lane (the space between the black and the red at the bottom of the track) is whoever is in it first has the right of way. In which case, I did a sharp descent and sprinted down, taking the lane first. Knowing he would be close by, I went max all the way to the finish to be safe. I took the win and with it my fifth title of the weekend.