End of Summer Ontario Grand Prix – 2011

I had just raced the Encino velodrome the day before so my legs were really tired. I had signed up for two races today: 50+ and the Category III race. The first was pretty fast race for a bunch of old geezers. I didn’t have the legs to go for primes so I just stayed in the pack. A six-man break-away got away and with four laps to go I decided to try and bridge. I hammered as hard as I could and got about 30-40 meters away from the break, but unfortunately died. No more legs. Luckily I had stimulated the pack to chase and we caught the break with a lap and half to go. I just didn’t have the speed to contest the win but ended up 9th. We averaged 27.4 mph and my max speed was 37 mph.

Another horrific crash!

I normally don’t watch the sprint in the races before mine in case there is a crash. I don’t like seeing anyone crash, especially before I’m about to race. However, in this case, there were to guys, Mike Johnston and Chris Demarchi who were about two minutes ahead. With such a lead I didn’t think anyone was going to kill themselves for third. For some unknown reason, some racer who was about 40 places back decided to sprint. When he did, he clipped out of the pedal, lost control and banged into another racer causing that racer to crash right on his face! Again, he wasn’t moving…… Two days in a row this happened….. Again, we waited until the paramedics took him away. Was this a sign? Should I not do this race? Cat III races are normally very aggressive and since most of the racers are twenty and younger they ride erratically and often with no logic at all.

CAT 3 Race.

I almost didn’t start, but as the gun went off I found myself in the pack again. My legs were toast so I figured I would try for the primes and at least come away with something. Ontario is a six-corner crit and it was now windy. I didn’t have a good position for the first prime but got a really good jump on the backside of the course for the second prime. I’m turning the last corner when a buddy of mine (Bart) dragged a couple of other racers up to my wheel. He smiled as he passed me as if to say “that’s racing.” I’ll remember that next time he goes for a prime. Two laps later I repeat the same attack on the backside of the course and this time I get a huge gap. When I come across the finish line to win the prime you can barely see the pack. After that, I sit up, move to the back of the pack and decide to save it for the sprint.
About halfway through the race I’m on the outside in turn five and I hear a crash happening on the inside. I floor it– move to the gutter and by-pass the whole thing. As we come around the next lap I can see a rider in a fetal position on the ground. Since the crash was far from the start/finish no one knew someone was hurt. There he lay until finally an official arrived and basically guarded him for the rest of the race as we flew around him.
With two laps to go I move up. As we cross the line for the bell lap, I move up to the third line, right on Bart’s wheel. He’s pretty strong and had been resting at the back of the pack with me so I figured he’d be a good wheel to follow. We fly around on the inside of corner one at about 32 mph and all of sudden, the front line just sat up! Not good. Bart starts yelling “C’mon…..this is bulls!@#.” On the bell lap, it’s like sharks looking to feed. Any smell of blood and they attack. The outside section of the pack sensed the slowing of the inside and they gunned it. Within five seconds I went from the third line to about 20th…..argh! As we fly into corner two I can see and hear a melee of racers crashing. Bikes and racers were flying into the air! I jammed on the brakes and started to slide. Luckily, I navigated past a few guys and slid in between a few bikes lying on the road. Right behind me, a huge racer (probably 6’4) t-boned something in the road— was thrown from his bike and flew over my left shoulder! I was able to unclip from my pedals and not fall down. There I was, standing in the middle of six to eight riders all on the ground in pain and I was unscathed! I raised both of my arms in the air and yelled “YEAH!!!” The guy behind me did the same and we high-fived. I know it seems insensitive, but in the moment, it was such a relief, especially after the two horrific crashes I had witnessed in the last two days. I got back on my bike, rode slowly to the finish (passed the poor rider who was still on the ground; found out later he had broken his hip), collect a pair of nice tires from my prime and headed home. Whew…. Safe to fight another day.

First USA Cycling Race at the Encino Velodrome August, 20, 2011

I’ve been training at both the Encino velodrome and the ADT velodrome for a while now. Last year I had borrowed a bike at the Master’s Pan American Games in Cuba, qualified for the pursuit and then won a bronze. Because of that, I’ve gotten into riding the track. I’ve even done some practice races at Encino; however these races weren’t sanctioned by USA Cycling. Today would be first time registering and riding a USA Cycling track event.

Encino is an outdoor track and today was a scorcher! The track is 250 meters with 28 degree banking in the corners, a bit of a downhill on the back side and a bit of an uphill on the finish straight. I signed in and got my number; 808. Today would be an omnium of three races: a flying 200, a point’s race and a miss and out. The rider who has the greatest aggregate points or places the best in all three races wins the omnium.

A flying 200 “Encino style” is when all the riders slowly ride around the top edge of the track called the Balustrade. One at a time the riders “get the bell” which indicates they should go “like at bat out of hell,” for 200 meters. With only 200 meters, everything has to go perfect. One of the hardest things to do in track racing is to learn which gear is best for each event. Track bikes don’t have gears or brakes, so you have to choose the right gear. I had been using an 88 inch gear or even a 90 inch gear, but today I was trying a 94 inch gear. The inches are how far the bike will travel with one revolution of the crank arm. When it came my turn, I gave it all I had. I finished with a 12.79 (that’s in seconds), my fastest time ever! Only problem was, I didn’t wait for the bell so they didn’t time me. Honestly, I didn’t even care. I was so glad the gear had worked. I was learning how to be a better track racer.

The second race was a 40-lap point’s race. Every 10 laps you sprint for the first three places. At the end of the race, whoever has the most points, wins. On lap 10, I sprinted and got 2nd. On lap 20 I sprinted and got first, but the kid who got second passed me after the line and yelled “let’s go.” I was out of breath from sprinting and was reluctant because there was still a lot to go in the race, however since the kid was pulling and doing the work, I got on his wheel. We got a gap! The field wasn’t really responding. By lap 30 we were gone and I beat him again for the max points. This time he was done and couldn’t keep the pace. I was feeling good being out on my own and I was really close to lapping the pack! I hammered and hammered until finally I was on the back wheel of the pack. On the 40th lap I let them sprint it out and won by a long shot!

The miss and out is a fun race. On designated laps, the officials pull the last rider across the line. Sometimes called an “eliminator” race, you don’t want to be in the front, but you definitely don’t want to be pulled in the back. I went early for the first elimination so I wouldn’t get pulled first. Made it on the next two eliminations and now it was down to three riders. One of the riders (Sam) is much faster than I. He’s a brute. At 23 years old, about 6’3 and 220 lbs, he’s hard to beat in pure speed. He was leading it out; he didn’t want to chance losing. However, he kept looking back to see who was going to jump around him. As we went around the last corner for the sprint he looked to his left as the other racer dived under him. With his attention on him, I gunned it and was able to come around him! Now it was down to the last two Mohicans. The kid thought he could lead the old man out, but the impetuous youth ran out of steam in the last few meters as I came around him to win the race and the omnium! What a great day!

P.S. Well, almost a great day. After my races, I decided to remain and watch the Madison races. I have never seen one before. A Madison is where two or three riders trade off throwing each other to gain speed. It involves superior riding skills and impeccable timing. The last team to go was a man and a woman. The woman was Dena Eaton who in 2010 swept the Master World Track races in Portugal with five world titles. As they came around turn four for their first exchange, she lost control of the bike and crashed at about 32 miles per hour! It was horrific! She hit the pavement so hard that she bounced into the wall and then tumbled and spun around like a rag doll, sliding face down the track. She didn’t move…… Blood was pouring everywhere. The officials were told not to move her until the paramedics arrived. I later found out she broke her cheek, nose and her back! So sad…… It was a poignant reminder of how dangerous cycling is and how, in a split second, a life-altering event can happen. It totally took the wind out of my sails and I had to leave the track. I hope she recovers.