• Bloomer Park, Rochester Hills, MI

  • Racing the Provincial's Crit 2014

  • Forest City Velodrome - London, ON

  • Larkenville Challenge, Buffalo, NY

  • Winning the Sprint at the ForestCity Velodrome

  • Track Nationals 2014: Keirin

  • Track Nationals 2014: Points Race

  • OCUP #1: Feb 2015

[Warning: I failed spelling in grade school]

When heading out to London, ON on Friday night, I got a bit nervous. Odd, considering I've done that drive now 1-3 times per week for the last four years. I set track provincials this year as my only "A" race. Everything else I did this year was more about skills than winning. I like racing the track and winning in London would be something special. Since I never do well under pressure, so told myself racing this weekend was all about training. It didn't matter what the outcome was. I mean, I've been racing the track in International Velodrome at Bloomer Park in Michigan for most of August and two weeks ago spend the day racing the track in Cleveland, OH. So, unlike last year when I came to track provincials with no experience at track time trials and hadn't riden a track bike in months, I did a few TT events this year and raced many points and scratch races. I even raced the A group at Bloomer Park and the CAT1/2/3 (A group) races in Cleveland with some good results. But, the Forest City Velodrome always adds a new element to track racing because the 138m track has really tight corners.

So, while I was able to calm myself down, racing on Friday didn't happen for me. I failed to place in the 500m event and I did some stupid things, for example, like hammer on the front of the pack, chase guys down, etc. in the 70 lap points race. Further, I actually was the very first guy off on the 500m event for the weekend: something I hope never happens again. So, I left Friday evening with no medals and no podiums.

Saturday was a bit better. The 2K Time Trial, and 70 lap scratch race were the races of the day. I was first up for the Master's group and not first off for the day. I pulled a time of 2:45 - which isn't great. I've done better. I watched as my time wasn't challenged until the forth rider off. After the seven riders in my age group were done, I was in fourth place. It was a spot to stand on the podium, but not a position to receive a medal. I was going to do the sprints in the afternoon, but after reviewing the track guide, I saw that only four riders from the flying lap qualifiers would move forward...and I knew from experience that with five guys in the group, I would be the slowest. So, I just elected to not compete in the sprint tournament. Then, after my ride at about 9:30am in the morning, I went back to the place I was staying in London (Thanks Conrad!!) and spent the day snoozing. I got back to the track around 5pm to watch Conrad in the gold medal ride off (he beat me in the 2K TT) and watched the rest of the races waiting for 8:30pm to roll around when the Masters and Elite Women scratch race would begin. 

While I was sitting there watching the races, I had a few feelings: I want to be sick; I want to go back to bed; I would rather be home right now; and, oddly, it's going to be a good scratch race with a win. I don't know why I felt all that. But from experience, I tend to perform better when I've tired, yawning, and would rather be somewhere else. These were the feelings at everything Thursday night time trial each week that netted a new PB every week. Things just seem to work out. So, by the time I got through warming up, I was feeling damn good. I sat and watched the Junior women's scratch race rather that ride the rollers like everyone else. I had worked out a plan: Stay off the front, do no work, and let everyone else chase riders down. I would like to credit Richard from the Wheels on Bloor for this idea. He did that in the points race the night before and won it. My plan was to follow him around. Right before the race, I put on the helmet, got the gloves on, and just felt completely ready to go. It's hard to explain. The good feeling just stuck with me.

Of course, 5mins before race start I jumped on my bike to head to the roll around, and found my rear tire had a hugh bulge in it. I looked at it. It appeared it was about to blow. Great. That would make two rear wheels that I'd gone through in two days...and the one I was riding was my spare! I managed to snag a wheel from Ed Veal (Thanks Ed!!) who was racing his disk wheel, slammed it on, didn't care what gear was on it, and made it up to the rail in time for the race start. Oddly enough, that surprise didn't phase me at all. I got on my bike, got to the race, and I was ready to go. I never gave it a second thought.

I was last to the rail so I ended up near the back which was kinda odd, because I'm usually one of the first ones to the rail (maybe I should stop doing that?). After one neutral lap, the race was on and Loren "The Prrrrofesssssssor" Falkenstien attacked off the front. Given that the day before he ran out of gas after 8 laps in the points race doing exactly the same thing, my only thought was: "Go, have fun. We will catch you". The next 20 laps were not very eventful other than everyone fighting for position. I only took half-lap pulls when I got to the front, and tried to stay off the back. Then, around lap 20, Richard blew out his front tire in turn four, slide down the track and CRASHed. Everyone managed to avoid him and no one else went down, however, Steve Grrrrrrrundy happened to be in front of the pack ahead of the crash and took off. Everyone else was just kinda dazed and seemed to wonder if the race would be restarted: but it wasn't. Grundy very quickly got a 1/2 lap on the pack and didn't take long to catch the back of the pack before the pack got organized and took off. However, Grundy was already on the back of the pack and had lapped the field. Apparently, Loren also manage to lap the field, but ended up DNF because of a mechanical. I continued to do half lap pulls when I had do. At one point midrace, I was second wheel from the head of the pack, and the CHCH girl at the front was "directed" (why?) by her coach to attack. So, she attacked from the front of the pack driving the pace up. She got a 1/2 wheel gap on me when I thought this was stupid: she will burn herself out, so I swung up and let someone do the chasing. At some point, five of us were up the road taking 1/2 lap pulls. As it turned out, beside Steve Grundy, I was the only master in the break away group. So, technically, I had second placed nailed down. Candice V. was on my wheel reminded me of this fact and charged me to not chase. It was Grundy and the CHCH girl driving the pace on the front at their coaches orders. I will never understand why the CHCH couch would do that because Grundy already won the race and the CHCH girl almost didn't finish the points race the day before. Eventually, Mike Nutell bridged up to us and I had some competition for second place. There was still some 25 laps to go. The pace of the race felt slow, ever though I was told after the fact it was about 43km/h. I recall feeling rested - normally, I run at threshold for the entire race on the track - not this time. I guess that is what happens when you chill in the middle of the pack. There was a time during the race where it felt like a Sunday paceline session. Everyone taking their turn at the front, nice and safe, etc.. No doubt, boring to watch.

So, but this point, were are all watching the lap counter down. If I recall correctly, the pack was all together or the chase group had almost caught the pack when at 9 laps to go, I swung up off the front, and just attacked off the blue. I don't recall thinking about if it was a good idea. I knew the pace wasn't very high. I just thought: GO, DAMMIT, GO. Got out of the saddle, and hit the pedals as hard as I could. As I rolled down off the front of the pack down to the black I do recall thinking that I will get caught. 9 to go is a long way: over a 1km. From what I was told, the pack was left in shock and was so disorganized, I managed to get a 1/2 lap lead or more on the pack very quickly. I can recall looking behind me every lap and seeing no one. All I new was I had a lead and I was going all out. As you can see from the video below of the last two laps, I held them off until about 1 to go. I can recall looking behind me with a 1/2 lap to go in the race and seeing the pack charging up behind me fast. I was dying. I had nothing left. I could barely turn over the pedals. I was getting slower and slower and the pack was getting close. I almost got caught at the finish line. Had the finish line been about a meter more away, I would have gotten beat. The video of the finish shows I won second by a wheel. 9 laps TT and I won the race by a wheel.

I would like to say the attack was planned, but it wasn't. I just went. Didn't think about it. I just went. I had the sense in my head that it was now or never because someone else might attack, but there was no decision to be made. No thinking involved. I just went. I just went and it worked. It is the first time that happened.

[Click VIDEO OF LAST TWO LAPS by Jess Puddifant or cut'n'paste the URL: http://www.facebook.com/video/embed?video_id=10151883363405479]

I would like to say that I've been racing a lot this summer. I did a lot of crits mostly for experience. If there is one thing I learned from my experience if you have to think about what to do in a race, you've already lost. Experience teaches you to feel out the situation and to be able to react without needed to think about what to do. Books I've been reading on training top athletes say the same thing. One just comes to a point when you just know what to do. And while travelling 43km/hr on a 138m Velodrome means the corners come up every 3-4 seconds and laps every 13 seconds or so, there is no time to think.

Of course, everyone throught I won the race. But, I knew Grundy lapped the field, so I got second.  While Gold would have been nice, winning a podium position and a silver medal in a championship race on my home track against the same people that I've been racing against for some years now means a lot. My 9 lap TT to the finish line will be stuck in my memory for some time. 

My ultimate goal is to be able race competitively for Canada at the Master's Track World Championships. However, I set some mildstones for that to happen. I figure I had to be able to place at the Provincials and then follow that up with placing at the Nationals. I have to be able to race the A group at the FCV. So, I have a medal at provincials. I've raced the A groups at Bloomer Park and Cleveland. I'm think that perhaps I'll actually make it to the Worlds before I'm out of the 45-49 age group.

 Silver Medai

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