This years masters track nationals were in Indianapolis on the 333-meter Major Taylor outdoor concrete velodrome. I was in good form coming off a silver medal in the 4K at Elite Track Nationals 2 weeks earlier, so was looking forward to racing the 3k pursuit and 4K team pursuit. This would be my 2nd of this season’s target events – the 3rd and final being masters track worlds in October.
3k Individual Pursuit
I’d won this event the last two years, but the competition seems to keep getting deeper. The clear notable newcomer that everybody was watching was Matt Gates who’d won the masters national time trial championship each of the last two years – the same event I’d won in 2014 before I started racing on the track. His path sounds very familiar, and I knew he’d be fast. Karl Baumgart was a close second to me last year and stronger this year. He’d win the 1k “kilo” the following day, would race the team pursuit with me later this week, and today would start in the final heat opposite me on the track. Stages Cycling’s Ben Sharp and Andy Lull were on the podium last year and also here again in the second to last heat. Nobody was missing. I was in the 8th and final heat so would know all the times except Karl’s before we went off.
We’d race 9 laps total. James Kramer was calling my lap splits – James founded the “Faster” wind tunnel facility in Arizona so was a great guy to talk with too. Based on typical speeds and research on this track I’d be targeting splits around 23.0 seconds but if the first few were slower I wasn’t going to panic. Lap splits typically tell me how much I have to back off early on, so if they’re higher early on it’s probably the track itself.
The first big notable to race was Matt Gates a few heats ahead of me. I watched him turn consistent lap splits for a 3:39 final time – a bit slower than I expected which was likely the track and weather. That was still the fastest time so far this week and faster than any 3k times a few years ago when masters nationals were last held here. Ben Sharp and Andy Lull then turned 3:42 and 3:43 head to head in the close heat before me. They both went faster last summer so more evidence of a slower day today. All that was left was Karl and I in the final heat, so I kept my 23 second lap targets which would land me around 3:35 and hopefully hold Karl off.
The countdown went and I did my standing start yet was slower out of the gate than usual. I’ve been experimenting with a higher left pedal position for the start and think I found what was too high. It wasn’t a big deal – just a slight wobble coming out of the gate and felt a delay before I started my standing acceleration through the banked turn. I sat and relaxed in the aerobars and finished cruising up to full speed by the end of the first lap. My first lap split was 31.3, which was nearly a second slower than T-town two weeks ago yet I don’t react to it. Next lap was 23.1 and I certainly felt like I wasn’t holding back so kept that cadence going. I must have pushed a little harder because Lap 3 was 22.7. I focused and held that speed to 22.9 splits on laps 4 and 5 as my legs filled with lactic acid and breathing had long since switched to hyperventilating. 5 down, 4 to go I can start ramping up anything I have left. I held my best aero body position that I’d spent so many hours testing this summer and pushed out my fastest 3 splits 22.6, 22.4, 22.5 before fighting through the last lap in 23.0. I finished in 3:33.9 for first place with Karl taking 3rd in 3:39 behind Matt. Ben and Andy rounded out the podium in 4th and 5th. While I didn’t realize it at the time, Karl had gotten a full 2 seconds up on me at the 1 kilometer mark but faded in the second half. It made the race exciting for the spectators and announcer, yet I’m glad I didn’t know since I was able to just focus on my plan.
I was also excited that my time was a fraction of a second faster than I went at nationals last summer on a track where most others went slower. This was more evidence that my aero position and equipment improvements are indeed faster since my power is the same. This sets me up very well for the worlds in just 7 weeks where I hope to improve on my winning time from last year.
1km “kilo” – 11th place
While I didn’t do any specific kilo training I was still hoping to improve on my 1:13 time from last summer with smarter gearing and pacing. I’ll cut to the chase where my start and windup was fine, until I instinctively sat down and climbed in my aerobars too early which robbed me of more acceleration. I realized it as soon as I sat down but it was too late and I went with it the best I could. I kept accelerating in the aerobars on the backstretch and through turns 3 and 4 to come through lap one already in a world of pain. The goal of lap 2 is to keep raising and holding speed as high as possible as it’s clear you’ve already blown up and are starting to slow down. The 3rd and final lap you’re certain you’ll never get to the finish line, but pray that you somehow do so the suffering can end. The fixed gear pedals are now basically spinning your legs around as the bike is pulling you and your smashed body to the finish line. The finish line finally came and my time was 1:13 again – not bad considering my sitting too soon mistake but a couple seconds off the podium. I ended up 11th place well off Karl’s winning time of 1:09. While I feel I can go a couple seconds faster with better technique and some kilo training, this may be my last kilo for a while 😉
Unfortunately rain washed out the final three days of races so we couldn’t race our team pursuit. The USA Cycling staff did a great job drying the track, squeezing races in where they could, and continuously re-shuffling the schedule around the rain but in the end Mother Nature won out and all the team events lost out. It just wouldn’t stop raining and it’s too unsafe to ride on a wet banked velodrome.
I was very happy with my 3k and feel we had a great chance to contest the team pursuit title yet that will have to wait. 7 more weeks until I go back to Manchester England for masters track worlds where I’ll race the 3k and hopefully have a great team pursuit squad formed which is already looking good.
Thanks for reading!