IA: Amanda and I headed out for Tuesday night racing at the 7-11 USOC Velodrome in Colorado Springs, on the 19th. On Tuesdays, they do mixed-gender categories A, B, C and juniors. Groups are self-selected for the most part, but A’s have the most fitness and experience, B’s in the middle, and C’s being the most low-key and great for beginners. The format of the night is usually a short sprint race, a medium distance race and an endurance race. On the roster for the evening was a Chariot, a Miss and Out, and a Points Race. We thought that for this blog, we’d do a play by play for each race, conversation style! It was Amanda’s first track racing experience and there was a nice big field to race with. Being a track racing veteran, I accompanied her for moral support, as well as to ease into the track racing season myself.
IA: Amanda, so, here you are ready to do your first set of track races. What’s going on in your mind?
AC: I would like to say upfront that the phrase “ready to do” makes me chuckle as that was definitely not how I was feeling. But to answer your question the overwhelming thought was “How am I going to tell Ingrid that this track racing thing is just not for me?” I was shaking in my lycra!
IA: If it makes you feel better, I was nervous too, and I’ve done lots of track races. But seriously, there’s something good about being a little nervous. It’s a sign that you still enjoy it!
Race #1, Chariot: From a standing start (with folks holding the racers who are clipped in and ready to go), racers race one lap around the track. First rider across the line wins.
IA: Amanda, what was your strategy for the Chariot?
AC: What is this strategy you speak of? My thoughts were in this order: 1) Don’t fall over 2) Don’t make someone else fall over 3) Pedal 4) Keep pedaling 5) Remember how to stop/get off
IA: I still think about #4 to this day. It’ll get you when you least expect it on the fixed gear. The Chariot was difficult, especially in a mixed-gender situation. In the future, I’d put on a smaller gear so that I can get a faster start to hopefully keep up with the men a little better at the start. Then I’d try to spin it out at the end and hold on to my position. And, I have to say, starting in my regular pursuit gear but not on the black line was really hard! Maybe it was the slight bank, maybe it was the close proximity of the other riders. It was many levels of awkward.
Race #2, Miss and Out: Mass start race, everyone starts at the rail. Each lap, the last rider across the line is pulled from the race. When only 3 riders are left, they sprint for final placing.
AC: So Champ, what different tactics did you use, without giving away all your secrets of course, to try to make it to the final 3 riders?
IA: There are two safe places to be in a Miss and Out, the very front or the very back, but they both cost a lot of extra energy. From the front you can pretty much guarantee you’ll beat someone across the line without getting boxed in–but you’re pulling the whole time. From the back, you can always barely sneak around and beat folks at the line, but you’re usually riding high on the track, which means more distance and potentially more time in the wind as well. I hung out at the back, but there were some folks there with a lot of track experience that matched my moves and I was outsmarted at the end. Additionally, the pace was pretty high over all for a MnO.
Race #3, Points Race: Mass start race, everyone starts at the rail. Every 5 laps, the first 4 riders across the line receive points. Winner is the one with the most points at the end of the race.
IA: Amanda, you did quite well in this race and had a pretty strong sprint there at then end. What were you thinking at that point?
AC: My mind was racing after trying to hang with the pack for the 20 laps de speed so my thoughts were more jumpy than usual. Some of the highlights were “I totally took that dude that I sat on his wheel for 19.99 laps! Did Ingrid see me? I want to do this again! Why am I hacking up a lung? I should have done some things differently to work my way up sooner. Wait what is that burn in my quads? Can’t wait till next time!”
IA: That’s called track hack–the cough. And, it was pretty hot and dry out that night! But, it’s exhilarating when you have those breakthroughs.
AC: Boss, how did you do and how did you feel about it?
IA: It was a pretty fast group, so my goal was to stay with the pack as well. Although I managed to get some points, I definitely have some things I’ll do differently next time strategy-wise. The pace was really fast, so I was thankful for the post-sprint breaks to catch a breath. I had a great time talking smack amongst the other racers during cool down after the race, as well. That’s the thing I love about week night racing at the track. Everyone has fun, rides hard and enjoys each other’s company.
AC’s wrap up: My take away from last night’s race was an extremely positive one. I actually really loved it once I got over the fear of spinning in circles at high speeds with no brakes on a fixed gear. I could have never even gotten on the track without Vera taking me by the hand last weekend and showing the basics and getting me onto that big intimidating embankment. Racing with Ingrid last night was the best intro I have ever had to something that seems so huge. I learned so much not only about track and cycling and nutrition and on and on and on but also about the history of women’s cycling and how far things have come. Months ago I learned that Ingrid is a great cyclist and friend, but being with her at the track last night took everything I knew to be true of her to the next level. Watching her on her bike at the track is like watching a dolphin in the ocean. She has so much wisdom, joy, grace, talent, control, and comfort there and it is incredible to see. She not only lent me her beautiful bike (which she will never get back) but she also taught me about gear choices and setting up my bike and even made sure I had enough water and food. Ingrid went way above and beyond to make sure I had what I needed and it made all the difference. First races are nerve racking and the first race on the track was by far my most nervous race to date but it was also my favorite because of the support. A man sitting next to me turned and said while she was racing the Points Race “wow your friend is really really good” and I said “yeah, yeah you are right she is a bad @$$”! Thanks to Vera and Ingrid I think I may have found my need for speed!
IA: And I made Amanda change her gear and put her wheel back on at the end of the night. Like a boss!