One of our resident track racing super stars, Ingrid, recaps her experience at Masters Track Cycling National Championships. Our team was well represented and we came back with some serious bling!
I competed in Masters Track Cycling National Championships at the 7-11 Velodrome in Colorado Springs at the end of July. I also run a software company in downtown Boulder. One of the benefits of running a company is that I was able to take a week off to race. One of the downsides is that as soon as I got back, I was right back into the thick of things. Here’s my delayed recap of the racing, and luckily, most of it was written right away while it was still fresh…
With some upgrades in training and equipment, I looked forward to hitting some PRs on the timed events and my goals were to win the Individual Pursuit and Best All-around Rider competition.
Tuesday, July 24th was the first event for me, the 2 kilometer Individual Pursuit. I was hoping to win this one, but I missed the win by .2 seconds. It’s probably the most disappointing silver medal I’ve gotten. However, it wasn’t all bad, I did set a personal record at 2:38.98.
I refocused my efforts on the 500m TT the next day. While the 2k pursuit favors riders with more endurance and road training, the shorter 500m TT favors sprinters and those with powerful, explosive starts (and that also means good starting technique). While everyone utilizes aero bars in the Pursuit, the field is split in the 500, with pure sprinters opting for their sprint handlebars as they wind up their larger gears. I use aero bars in the 500m, and rely on my top end spin at the end of the race to keep me fast. My cadence peaked out at over 130 rpm by the end of the effort.
Although I’ve never thought of myself as a sprinter, I’ve been working on my standing start quite a bit the last couple of years. It seemed to pay off and I set a PR at 40.20 seconds (I was hoping to get under 40 seconds–next time!), which earned me a silver medal. It’s amazing how excited I was about this silver, quite a contrast from the disappointment from the day before.
Thursday afternoon was the Points Race. This is a mass start race where riders sprint for points every 6 laps. The rider with the most points at the end of the race is the winner. It can be a pretty complicated race because you have to keep track of who has points–not easy when you’re riding hard and gasping for air, let alone doing math! The level of experience between Vera and I allowed us to dominate the race, putting her into the top spot on the podium, while I held on for 4th place (and another podium finish!).
Friday was another mass start race, the Scratch Race. This is shorter than the Points race and whoever crosses the line first at the finish wins. It tends to be more of a sprinter’s event, and the pace can often times be slower overall until the final sprint. Endurance riders try to keep the pace high to tire the pure sprinters. Because we dominated the race so strongly the day before, we knew our work would be cut out for us, and sure enough, an early attack by the Boulder Orthopedics team set the tone for the race. I was trying to work as little as possible and save my strength for the final sprint, but because of the small field, I had no choice but to work, as we reeled in the break. As soon as that was accomplished, her team mate countered–textbook perfect–only a few laps to go. After my previous efforts and my poor choice of gear (too hard), I missed the jump. The field was shattered, but I held on for a Bronze medal.
To be honest, at this point, I was starting to feel pretty bummed out, and tired. I’ve never won an individual national title as a Junior or a Master, and the fact that I’ve got so many silver medals was starting to get to me. (To top it off, after finally getting food, I arrived at my hotel at 7pm to find that they had canceled my reservation 30 minutes prior to my arrival.) Although the distances of these races is short, the power output and intensity is extremely high. The fatigue is on the level of doing a stage race on the road. Once I finally got a new room and cranked up the AC, I focused on getting a good night’s sleep (and watching the Olympics opening ceremonies!). Saturday would be a long day–the longest of the week–with the Match Sprints.
Saturday morning was a little rough, but cured by a trip to the coffee shop. The day started with a 200m Flying TT,w which is then used to calculate the seed position in the match sprint tournament. Having a good line and technique is really important and I can’t say I had either that day. But, I managed to pull the 2nd fastest time, to Shannon Moak, the same woman who beat me in the 500m TT.
After a full day of sprinting, warming up, cooling down, eating, drinking and trying to get any semblance of rest in the heat, Shannon and I met for the gold medal round Saturday afternoon. I was pretty intimidated given her speed in both the 500m TT and the flying 200m TT. I knew I’d have to outsmart her to win, all the while I was hoping my legs wouldn’t buckle at being in the heat all day. The first round ended in a disqualification when she came down into the sprinter’s lane on top of me. This caused me to slow down and roll into the cote in order to avoid crashing. In track racing, once you commit to taking the pole lane, not only do you have to stay in it, no one is allowed to pass underneath you. They must go completely around you and pass safely by coming above you on the track. It’s hard to say who would have won had there been no foul play, but I had to quickly refocus and get ready to sprint against her again–the winner would be determined from the best 2 out of 3 in the heat.
So many things were going through my mind. Knowing my luck, I’d lose the next round and then have to sprint for a third time to break the tie. And after all, I’m great at getting the dreaded 2nd place. It was hot out and I really didn’t want to have to do a 3rd round, so I was determined to win this one. To make it even more interesting, I had to lead this heat, meaning I had an obligation to ride in front of her for at least 1/2 a lap, giving me a disadvantage in that I could not see her every move. She could presumably jump when I wasn’t looking, and have just enough gain that I could not come around–and given her speed, that would be a disastrous outcome for me.
I rode slowly, not looking where I was going so I could keep my eye on her behind me as best I could. I felt like I was going to crash myself out from nerves and the slow speeds on the banking. I picked things up a little and with 1 1/2 laps to go, I jumped from the front. She matched my jump and I could hear her coming up next to me. I slowed just a little to gather my composure, before I poured it on with 3/4 laps to go. This was a long sprint already, and I don’t exactly know how, but I managed to keep ahead for the win!
Finally, my very first individual title, and all the consistency lead me to win the Best All Around Rider designation that I had hoped for!
Sunday closed out the week with the team events, and it was a great chance to end a long week with my teammie! Vera and I were defending champions in both the Team Sprint and Team Pursuit competitions, but the other teams came very prepared this year. Vera and I took 4th in the Team Sprint, and a Silver in the Team Pursuit (with Therese Johnson from Pro Design Cycling). The team pursuit, despite not bringing a winning time was smooth and the team worked very well together despite the fatigue we all felt from the week of racing.