Velodrome Lesson #2
My second trip to the velodrome was better than the first. Although there were more bike racers present at this session, I tried much harder this time to be competitive. The coach this time was John Simmons. He seemed to be a bit more laid back than Terry Shaw, but had a slightly more competitive coaching style.
During our thirty lap warmup, he seemed to get a good feel for each of our levels. This was quite a difficult task because that morning there were over 40 riders present, and they actually ran out of rental bikes. The track was very crowded, and we had to split up into two pacelines just for warmup. I only got the front position once or twice because of the long paceline.
One of the reasons for the unusual number of riders was a group of women bike racers from the Velo Bella team showed up, and so there were at least 8 of them, but they had alot of energy to contribute to the workout and were some very strong riders, so it was cool.
It took us a long time to get started because there were alot of mechanical problems. Most probably from the fact that literally all of the rental bikes were being used, even the bad ones, so they needed many adjustments and John had to do all of that himself before we got started.
After the warmup, John put us in groups of five, and we were to go all out for five laps. Taking turns on the front for half a lap, then peel to the back. My group started out ok, but on the third lap, our line broke up. I was in the back and the guy in front of me started slowing. I gave him a chance to catch up, but the two of us had dropped several bike lengths. I figured he was tiring, so I passed him on the outside and told him to stay behind me (so that I’d pull him up) but he said his gearing was too low, and just kept slowing. I waited a few more seconds for him to try to get behind me, but he was still slowing, like he was dropping out. So I switched my efforts to trying to catch the other three in my group. They were half a lap ahead by now, and in a very smooth rotation. I stood up for awhile, trying to really push to catch them, but my efforts were in vain as we finished our last lap I was several bike lengths behind.
The next exercise was groups of three. This time we had to pick our own teams. I wasn’t being picky and ended up with leftover guys. One of them said he had raced 10-15 years ago, and the other seemed “enthusiast” like myself. So that sounded even. In this exercise we were to do only half a lap, but start from a standstill off the top banking and drop down into a full sprint to the finish. The order which we started would be important, so I let the ex-racer take the first position. I was second, and enthusiast guy was third. John rang the bell and the first thing ex-racer does is take off hard down the banking. I tried my hardest to stay behind him and into the turn. I was gaining on him, so I swung around the outside of him, and stayed in the saddle as I went high around the turn to pass him. But he knew I was there and he kicked it into turbo or something. I could hear him breathing funny and all I could do was stay alongside him a half a bike length behind as we raced down the final straight through the finish. Even though i didn’t pass him, I felt good knowing he didn’t totally destroy me. The other enthusiast guy was nowhere behind us.
The next race was a 10 lap scratch race. A group of 15 riders started out and the first one across the finish was the winner. There were no teams, so it was like a mini-criterium. I wasn’t in the first group, so watched from the grass. The pace started out slow, and then by the second lap a two man breakaway had formed. A third guy managed to bridge the gap after three laps of effort, and then eventually the entire pack caught back up to all of them. I don’t even remember the finish, but it was fast.
So then it was my turn to race. Our group started out fast. Faster than I would have liked. One guy was pushing the pace hard at the front, and for some stupid reason I was second behind him, but not close enough to draft. I just didn’t want him to get too far ahaed, but I also didn’t want to waste energy to catch up to him. But in reality, I was wasting energy by not being right behind him. I kept this up for a couple laps but then decided not to waste any more energy. So I drifted high up the banking to let some people through. two by two people passed under me, and I actually had nowhere to drop in, so I formed my own line alongside, so at one point we were three wide. Another stupid move. I knew I had to draft behind someone or I might as well drop out. So I drifted back a few more places until I found an opening. I must have been mid-pack at that point.
On the second to last lap the pace picked up and there was an attack. Two people passed me and I just let them go. So I must have been tenth at that point. The bell rang for the last lap, and I decided to give it everything and at least make up some ground. I passed about three people, and then through the last turn, I came around the outside of my last victim, and it felt just like my sprint against the ex-racer. But this time I dug deeper and passed the guy at the finish. So I must have finished sixth. Although sixth place is nothing special, I felt really good about my pass at the end. As I flew by the coach he yelled out “nice move!” so I felt I had made some progress in this workout.
The last couple of races were for fun, John let a few guys do match sprints. A three lap race between only two people, where the first to the line is the winner, but typically the only real sprinting is done in the last half lap. So both riders just slowly make their way around the track, watching and waiting for the element of surprise to jump ahead from just the right position. I saw ex-racer and another guy on the track, and it was quite boring at first, becase they were just slowly cruising around. Then on the last lap, ex-racer was in the second position (the ideal place to be for a sprint) and he shot down the banking to start his sprint, right past his opponent. He caught the guy in front of him by so much surprise, he held the lead all the way to the finish. Ex-racer was a pretty good rider, so I didn’t feel bad for losing my sprint against him earlier.