2015 Masters Track Nationals Report
Track Nationals were held at the fantastic Giordana Velodrome facility in Rock Hill, South Carolina. It’s a new 250-meter concrete track, which has steeper banking then the 400-meter Marymoor track I raced on in Seattle at last year’s nationals. I stayed with our regional track guru Kurt “Chopper” Begemann who’d been there racing since the start of the week. We headed over to the velodrome the night before my pursuit to watch the evening races and I was amazed at the steep banking and speeds. I was excited and incredibly nervous at the same time.
3k Individual Pursuit – 1st Place 40-44 – Velodrome Record 3:34.1
If there was a goal race of my season this was it. I don’t like to put all my eggs in one basket, but all my recent training had focused on this event. I’d ride a 54×13 gear for the pursuit. I told Chopper my target lap split was 17.2, and he would call them out each lap. I’d spent months thinking and analyzing power, gearing, cadence, aero drag values, rolling resistance, intensity/impact of standing start, etc and ultimately it came down to this number for that day’s weather – 17.2 seconds per lap. I felt more nervous than I’d been in years in the hour before my start. This upcoming 3-minute event was my target race of the summer and my mind raced in the minutes before my name got called – “How did I feel, good? Yes, I felt good. Legs feel good. Standing start will go smoothly. Smooth steady riding through the banked turns. Tight on that black line. Don’t go out too hard. Don’t go out too hard. The lap splits will control the pace. You’ve done all the work. Just ride”. When you stand there in the track infield every rider flying around the track looks so fast. Carl Baumgart put up a 3:38 in the heat right before mine – my best time from Seattle last year. There were several fast guys in the heats after me. Time to go as fast as I can.
The 15-second final countdown started. The beeping starts at 5 seconds to go, 4, 3, 2 (stand up on the pedals, 1 (lean back and get ready to pounce), Beep! I stood up and yanked the pedals up to speed standing through the banked turn. I stood until about halfway down the backstretch then slid into the aerobars before turn 3. I was off. Chopper called a 24.5 lap 1 which was faster than I’d planned. Great. My lap 1 is always very slow because of the standing start and my choice of running a larger gear. I’d make up for it in the final 11 laps. Lap 2 was at target around 17.2 despite a couple messy turns and not feeling great “steady”. I then heard 17.0, too fast, “float”, 17.0 again on lap 4, “float, still too fast but this is good. Still not feeling it”. The next few laps were on target around 17.2, and legs were starting to burn. I passed my opponent at this point on the banked turn. You can feel the slight draft as you approach him, but it still costs you more when you need to ride around him on the banking. 17.4 split with the pass. Back to 17.2 with 6 laps to go. Half way. 5 laps to go. Legs are burning now but I’m excited. I’m on pace and know I can muscle through the final 1k. Now I’m wrestling with the bike to hold speed. I think I hear the announcer calll out my 2k time as the fastest so far. He sounds so calm. Legs are screaming now. 3 laps to go, Chopper yells out another good split. All out on the 2nd to last lap, you’ll find a way to finish the final lap. 17.1 as the bell sounds. Keep the turns tight. Yank, yank, yank down the homestretch. Done! Up the banking I go, focus shifting on hyperventilating and steering the bike now. I take a couple laps to slow and finally roll into the infield.
Final time was 3:34.1. A new 3k track record after Daniel Casper put up a 3:35 in the 45-49 race the day before. 1st place and a track record! Daniel was actually super helpful giving me tips leading up to the race and how to handle the technical aspects of this track. I’d met him in Seattle last year after we put up the 2 fastest times there. I was so excited and relieved, immediately calling home. I felt everything went perfectly – training, warmup, execution, pacing, steering, and Chopper’s lap splits were critical. I enjoyed the Stars and Stripes jersey ceremony and looked forward to the next couple days with all the pressure now behind me. So happy!
“Kilo” – 1km time trial – 7th place 40-44 – 1:13.5
I’d always wanted to ride the kilo and fortunately it landed the day after the pursuit. I knew this event would take it out of me so wouldn’t have done it before the pursuit. I’ll save writing a book on all the pacing strategies and suffering involved in the kilo, but there is a lot to talk about in such a short event. Most coaches will tell you the strategy is simple – go all out from the standing start, and stay all out until the finish. You’ll of course blow up royally well before the finish, but your momentum carries you to the end.
I used too big a gear – I dropped to a 52×13 gear since when I did my one and only kilo practice last month I was spinning out the 52×14 so quickly I felt I needed something bigger. I knew my first lap would be slow, but hoped to make up for as much time as I could on the last 3 laps.
Countdown. Beep! I’m off yanking that gear as hard as I can this time, and damn do I feel like I’m in slow motion! I stayed standing and yanking through the turn banking and all the way down the backstretch before sitting and settling into the aerobars. Now it was time to continue yanking as hard as I could in the aerobars and I was already feeling smashed with 3 laps to go. I just kept turning the pedals as hard as I could. 2 laps to go and you’re wondering how in the world you’re going to get to the finish. Final lap and somehow you’re still turning the pedals and steering the bike through the finish line. 1:13.5 was my time, which surprisingly was the fastest time so far after 4 heats, but in the final few heats the ringers started putting down fast times – 1:09, 1:08, and I by the end I was off the podium. I finished 7th out of the 15 starters. I was happy I went as hard as I could on the day, but feel I could definitely ride a better race with a different gear and some more kilo training. If the timing is right I’ll certainly try this again.
4km Team Pursuit – 1st Place!
As soon as we stepped down from the individual pursuit podium on Thursday, I was approached by Ben Sharp from the Stages Cycling team in Boulder, CO to join them for the team pursuit. They lost their 4th rider, and had been training for this event on Sunday. I’d never done a team pursuit, but have always been a huge fan of the event and wanted to. It’s a very technical event, so while my individual pursuit time was a strength, I had many weaknessses we’d have to discuss and train before Sunday. It didn’t take long to change my flight/travel/rental plans to join them on Sunday. My legs and back were sore after the kilo, so Saturday turned into an easy spin on the open track.
Ben Sharp coached the US women to a silver medal in the 2012 olympics. If anybody could make me a useful team pursuit rider by Sunday it was him. Andrew Lull is the engineer that designed the Stages power meter. Patrick Warner is the senior vice president at Stages. I watched Pat win the points race two nights before, and then take 2nd to Chopper in his huge 45-49 Scratch race win Saturday night. Ben and Andy were 3rd and 4th in my individual pursuit race. I was on a team of engineering superstars, that are also super fast riders. Fit Werx is a top 10 worldwide Stages power meter dealer as well, so it was an added bonus for a manufacturer-dealer team.
We did a key practice session on the track as soon as it opened Sunday morning to avoid as much of the open track chaos as we could. All 3 of them were very helpful guiding me through the standing start, the incredibly important exchanges (exchange is when the lead rider swings off the front on the banking, then swings back down to land on the back of the train) on the banking that make or break a team, and of course riding wheel to wheel in a 34mph paceline through steep banked turns on fixed gear TT bikes with no brakes! We started at low speed and finally had the opportunity to ride and practice exchanges. I found it easier to do everything as our speed increased. I also looked forward to the real event where I didn’t have to worry about dozens of other riders above me on the track swinging off for the lead changes. That was hectic!
We set up our race plan to maximize my strength and minimize my weaknesses. I’d start as 4th rider, but do double lap pulls when I got to the front. I’d go through one exchange, and then – assuming I made it back on – do another double lap pull when I returned to the front, and then peel off for good since only 3 riders are needed at the finish. It was 16 laps total. It’s common for the 4th rider to peel away before the finish in this event. Ben would lead off and set the pace, and this also allowed him to ride behind me and correct me during the race. Pat was 2nd, and Andy 3rd. We were targeting 17.0 lap splits. You also lose 0.1 to 0.2 seconds for any lap you do a lead change. Carl Baumgart’s Arizona FASTER team going in the heat before us was going to be strong. We’d be the 6th and final team so could adjust the pacing plan if needed depending on the fastest earlier time.
The Arizona team went 4:50 for the fastest time. This was good news for us since we were “targeting” a faster time. Ben changed our pacing plan as we lined up. “17.2 lap splits, extra relaxed start, don’t panic if we hear 17.4 or higher splits, just slowly bring the splits down over the course of the race.” Countdown, then fall start. Good tension breaker. Roll around, try not to fall off the bike, and back up to the start.
My holder had to move my bike forward at the line, and this dropped my left pedal from 2 o’clock to 4 o’clock. I said “ready” anyway, since I was 4th and could handle it. Beep! Whoa, that was hard to get started with the bad pedal position. I immediately slid behind Andy before the turn and caught up on the backstretch. I could hear Chopper yelling “catch back Dean, catch back on!”. We settled into our pace on the turn and everything felt great. The laps and exchanges rolled by and we had the lap splits we wanted 22-something, 17.3, 17.2 and so on. Finally Andy pulled off and I was on the front. 2 laps steady, and I felt good. 16.6? “Steady” from Ben behind me. 17-something feeling good, then it was time for the critical exchange on the turn. “Aggressive pull off up the bank, and immediately aggressive turn down the bank. Aim your bike at the 3rd rider’s bottom bracket on the way down”. Too high on the turn and you’ll come down well behind the 3rd rider with slower speed causing you to have to chase incredibly hard for a lap to catch on. Too low and you’ll settle next to the 3rd rider and have to bleed off speed to let him pass, which also ends up with you having to chase back on. The exchange is critical. My exchange was great. Literally better than even in warmup. Right up the banking, turned and straight down at Andy and settled right in behind his draft on the straight(Smiling to myself now, whew!). The toughest part was behind me, and now I pedalled steady behind the train for the next few laps. Lap splits were great. I felt great, and my final turn on the front approached. It was time for 2 laps or more depending on how I felt. Lap 1 and Lap 2 were 16-something again. “Steady” from behind. I went for a 3rd lap in 17.1. I went for one more lap with excitement and then finally pulled off for good. “Three! Three!” I yelled/gasped as planned to let them know they were down a rider. I watched them ride the last 3 laps from above until they went into the finish formation. 4:43. 1st place time by 7 seconds. It was excellent. Congrats from everybody on the exchanges and fast pulls, and of course some remarks about my lousy start from Chopper and peanut gallery above! I couldn’t believe how much fun it was.
I couldn’t be happier to fly home with two Stars and Stripes jerseys in my favorite two events. I won’t commit for a while, but it’s hard to resist the temptation and opportunity to race the World Masters Championships at the Manchester Velodrome in England this October. If I go race the pursuit, I hope to find a team pursuit team as well!
Thanks for reading,