Race Report from Vera Divenyi
US Masters Track Nationals
Masters Nationals Points race: National Jersey 1st
To continue your track education, I will explain the points race. Remember how I said I prefer the mass start races? Well, the points race is a mass start race. We all sit up at the rail and roll off for a neutral lap and then begin to race. The race is like a crit with primes except you do not get a free massage, sunglasses or money, you get points. Five for first place, three for second, two for third and one for the fourth person across the start finish line at pre-determined times. The race was 30 laps and there were points every 6 laps. This creates a lot of surges so you have to determine whether you have it to get the points or if you need to just position yourself when others are sprinting. If you lap the field you get 20 points. If the field laps you, you lose 20 points. It’s a cruel world.
The fields were combined so we raced 30-45 age groups. This put about 17 people in our race which I prefer as again, I did not want a recipe exchange. The varying abilities of each person were an unknown to me. We started pretty fast and at lap 4, it started to get faster. Dana Walton in the 40+ group is strong and I knew that she would be out for gold and she was. Racers usually want to be in a good position come points lap so with two or three laps to go, people start to position. I went down to the sprinters lane with one lap before the first points were awarded and ended up getting boxed in and stuck. Dana took max points and I was behind someone who essentially stopped trying with a half a lap to go. I stopped trying to sprint as I was going to get nothing.
OK, at lap 10 I decided something: I decided this wasn’t going to be my race. I should just finish, but my legs were really tired after a lot of racing earlier in the week. I spent Thursday and Friday in Philadelphia and the day before, my ride with my friend Rafael had felt good, but the weather and consecutive jumps were starting to take their toll. I had not had as much of a warm up as I wanted and now I was wondering if that was going to be my downfall.
At lap 12, I moved to the front but did not contest any points. Ingrid was in the mix and I think she got one.
What I find so amusing about bike racing or maybe just me is that I can make a true determination about my fitness and believe it. In the first three laps of a crit, I used to convince myself that I sucked and that no one else was suffering. But, a few laps in, and I was fine and maybe I would even win the crit. The same thing was happening in the points race, but rather than believe that I was not going to get any points, I just hung around in the front. One thing about me is that I am very competitive and when someone goes off the front, I tend to want to chase them. I ended up being in a good spot at lap 18 and took one point without too much going on. OK, I have a point. Now what?
With about 15 to go, a girl from Seattle hit the gas and went. Her goal was to try to get away and lap the field or take max points at lap 18. I chased and had Ingrid chase with me. Ingrid and I worked together taking turns on the front pulling. We caught her with a lap to go before the sprints. She was slowing and in the sprinters lane. I yelled for her to move and work with us (this would have been to her benefit) but I think she was very tired and just trying to take the shortest trip around the track. Ingrid had passed me a while back and I was on her wheel, Ingrid and I went around this girl and then I rode the red line (just the edge of the sprinter’s lane) to make it a little harder if someone was going to try to pass me. Ingrid got the full 5 points and I got 3.
With 6 more laps to go, we were now in the running. I no longer felt like I couldn’t race this as I was RACING this race. The pace was getting quicker and quicker but I was in a good spot. I did a little math and figured I was in second or third place. As we were racing with other age categories, we were all racing for just one set of points and honestly, the aged 40-44 ladies were kicking ass and taking names. I knew that in the first three sprints, they had taken the majority of the points. I needed some more to solidify, but I was also happy to take Ingrid along the line with me or behind her. I am more comfortable in the pack frenzy so I had already told Ingrid I would protect her and for her to just find my wheel. We are an excellent team as our racing styles compliment one another. She has a solid punch and can maintain the speed while I have a sprinter’s punch and need a wheel to follow.
I had learned from the first 10 laps to not ride in the sprinter’s lane as I did not want to get boxed in. I was riding around the blue line so I could cover anyone diving down the track from the rail. (The rail is the top of the track and when you dive down from the top you can get a lot of momentum. Why do a lot of people not do this? It’s more difficult to ride at the rail as it’s up track.) Someone went and I went with her and I thought that Ingrid could come around, but there were too many people around her.
I sprinted and was 3rd over the line. I knew that the two ladies ahead of me were 40-44. I was going to come around one but I heard from Olga that she was relegated a place for coming around someone out of the sprinter’s lane and I didn’t want that to happen.
I continued to cool down in one lap, but I wasn’t sure where I had placed. With a points race, there is confusion in the sprint. I wasn’t sure where I stood and wasn’t sure where I placed. I held up a 2 to Andy, Ingrid’s husband. Back at the rollers under the tent, I started to wonder if I had potentially won.
How did I find out? The USADA people decided to drug test Ingrid as she was second in the race and I looked at the results on their board… and I was first! My second national jersey!
And gossip at the track… apparently someone decided after asked by USADA to test that he was not going to submit. This is an automatic two-year suspension. Way to go, dude! Racing at masters track nationals and doping must make one feel really good about themselves. I know who the guy is and let’s say that he resembles a football player. This is not new. In 2009, a world record was broken at Master’s Nationals in Colorado Springs. A broken world record requires a doping control. A few months later, we learned that this particular racer had taken human growth hormones. Sad, but true.
Big thanks to James Weeks, husband of Olga Weeks of SVMIC Cycling. Olga was Rachel’s former teammate and current coach from Tennessee–small world! He took some amazing pictures at Master’s Track Nats. Check out the rest of the week at www.wolfsplace.net. Thanks James!