This year’s trip to track worlds was different in a number of ways. For one, my travel was smooth and my bike arrived with me so I was off to better start already. I had lots of time to think about my race, and there’s both good and bad that comes with that. I’d already won a rainbow jersey last year, yet the pressure was on to win another. I knew more people and a number remembered me from last year’s win so it was a completely different experience this time. I’d written the Lava magazine article about my quest to find the 2 seconds that separated me from the 40-44 3km world record last year. The testing and training was done, and it was time to see how it would go.
3km 40-44 individual pursuit, 12 laps
I won this event last year, but this year’s field was larger with 26 entries. I’d have the benefit of going in the final heat as defending champ so I’d know what qualifying time was needed to make the final. I’d decided ahead of time I was targeting the 3:24.95 world record which I missed by 2 seconds last year. Bob Francis would call my lap splits, and my plan was a 24 second opening lap followed by 16.3 seconds a lap until the finish. I only needed a 3:30 to make the final so if I blew up I should still be able to hold on to a spot for the final.
Qualifying Heats – Countdown, gun, and I’m off. Smooth start and next thing I know I’m climbing into my aerobars on the back straight. I go slower than most on my opening lap since I find it pays off in the long run with a faster time. Bob called a 23.3 opening lap so I could relax a little. Lap 2 was 16.5, so I put on the gas a little to get on my schedule. The next 2 laps were 16.2 and 16.1, and in the end these laps would prove too fast. I was starting to burn – the kind that means a blow up is coming sooner rather than later, but held the pace I could one lap at a time. Laps 5 and 6 were 16.4 and 16.3. I suffered through laps 7 and 8 with 16.5 splits on both, pace slipping as I was going all out at this point desperately trying to hold it one lap at a time. I came through 2k in 2:18 and while I didn’t know it at the time I ‘only’ needed 16.6 second laps from here to break the record. Lap 9 was ugly, I came off the turn too tight and ran through 5 of the bumpers that line the inside of the track, split was 16.8. I’ll always wonder how much time the bumpers cost me, but my hunch is not as much as you think. I straightened out and with blurred vision and shaky steering continued going all out. I caught up to the Swiss rider who’d started opposite me and I now faced a tricky pass not wanting to give up any time. 16.5 seconds on lap 10 before the pass as I moved into his draft. I unfortunately had to pass him high on the banking which cost time, but just stayed in full all out mode when I got around him. Lap 11 was 16.8 with the pass. I was already all-out and knew I was slowing when the bell lap sounded. I rammed into 5 bumpers again, but this time on the opposite side of the track. I was lucky I didn’t go down and straightened out in time for the finish. Final lap 17.1 for finish time of 3:25.7. I had a 5 second gap over 2nd place, yet came 0.7 seconds short of the world record. Go big or go home right? I was happy with the PR and looked forward to the final, but there will be no shortage of power file studying to figure out what could have been had I not gone too hard early. Perhaps not leaving my tire marks on those 10 bumpers would have helped too. Oh, and by the way the low atmospheric pressure system that was here yesterday was gone today, driving the barometer from 29.68 to 30.13 at my start time in one day. That’s exactly 1.0 seconds per 3k faster track had I raced the day before, but hey you can’t pick the weather you race in, even when you’re indoors!
Gold Medal Final – I was really cooked after the all-out qualifying heat and only had 4 hours to recover before the final against current UK masters national champ Robert West. This would be the second year in a row I’d face the UK champ in the final which is nice and fitting considering we’re racing in the heart of UK track cycling’s busiest and most famous velodrome in the world. I set my schedule at 16.7 seconds per lap pace for a 3:28 target I felt would give me the win with some breathing room. Gun went off and I stayed extra controlled on the first lap. The first few laps were right on pace. I didn’t feel as bad as I feared and was confident I could hold this schedule. After each lap split Bob would also tell me if Robert was up or down on me. 1st 6 laps were up, up, up, up, up, up come on pick it up, it was nerve wracking being down for so long and not knowing by how much. I’m at my limit knowing it’ll take everything I have just to hold this pace and just pray he falls back soon. While Bob gave me my splits I also had Karl Baumgart – having just won the bronze medal in a convincing upset ride just before me – yelling “stay there!” each time I passed him on the back straight. He knew my schedule and speed and could see I’m taking time back each lap. This helped control my panic, and by lap 7 we were even and then I slowly pulled ahead. I kept on my same 16.7 lap splits with remarkable consistency until the bell lap sounded. I suddenly saw Robert ahead of me for the first time so I could soft pedal the final lap. He’d held the faster pace for as long as he could then lost the 4 second deficit in the last 1km. I enjoyed the podium ceremony and another Rainbow jersey for the world title. While last year was all celebration, this year was relief and celebration mixed. I now had a few days to recover before my team pursuit. Perhaps a quest for 0.7 seconds article will need to follow this winter.
3km 35-44 Team Pursuit, 12 laps
There are far more tactical considerations in the team pursuit that can take ages to discuss. There’s also a lot more that can go wrong. I could write pages on it as I have in the past, but for your sake won’t right now. It’s simple when watched – 4 cyclists work together to cover the 3k distance as fast a they can. This event has been a monkey on my back for several tries now, so any medal would be a big relief and reason to celebrate. The 7-hour flight home gave me plenty of time to reflect on the details of both the heat and the final. J
Qualifying Heats – We had a strong team in Karl Baumgart who’d I raced with several times and can always count on, Jeromy Cottell – a great all around racer who has several national and world titles on the track, and Ethan Boyes – our last minute wild card addition who owns just about every 35+ US sprint record I’ve seen and a bigger pile of jerseys than any of us. The qualifying heats are tough because you don’t know how fast you need to go to make the final. We decided on a 3:20 schedule, which we believed would be enough to hold off the British 40+ squad. The British 35+ squad were favorites on paper and would drop 2 seconds off the world record with a 3:16 in the heat just before us. We lined up in our carefully thought out order – Jeromy, Karl, Ethan, then me. I’d be the most protected at the start, but planned to take a 2-lap pull followed by a 3-lap pull at the very end when I’m strongest. You need to be ready for the unexpected in these team pursuits and I’ve experienced many races that don’t go according to plan. The gun went off and I noticed Jeromy got a big jump on Karl at the start. Ethan, who knows he can easily chase back to anyone, hesitated and waited for Karl so he could get on his wheel, and I found myself ahead of both of them highest on the banking with Jeromy cruising ahead. Long story short, I hesitated slightly during my acceleration when I shouldn’t have, Karl and Ethan immediately hit the gas to catch back on to Jeromy, and I got gapped badly on the back straight. I chased hard all of lap 1 – Jeromy came off the lead and had to wait for me before he could slide in behind me, and now was at a slower speed than me so then got gapped behind me but eventually caught on. We were in a mess just one lap in, but had the experience and headroom to recover. I chased the full lap 2 as Karl pulled off and Ethan took the front and I didn’t finally get shelter on Ethan’s wheel until the end of lap 3, when it was time to take a 2-lap pull myself. I was already well into the red but kept our 16.2 lap split for my double and finally lead changed to the back of the train. It was such a nice feeling resting in the draft after what was basically full gas nose into the wind the first 5 laps which put me at my absolute limit. The three guys pulled through, Ethan pulled off as planned leaving us with 3 and now I had fresh”er” legs for my triple lap pull at the end. We’d slid to a couple 16.6 lap splits mostly due to the rough start, and I managed to bring them back down to 16.2’s before lead changing for the bell lap. Jeromy hammered lap 12, with Karl then myself pulling up through with a nice fan formation at the finish. Our 3:21.9 time was slower than we’d targeted but we had our shot and now had to wait for the final UK team to challenge it. It was 3 tense minutes watching the UK team finish 3:22.1 – just 0.2 seconds off our pace. A few high fives as we’d race the gold medal final, then straight to planning how to fix the messy start. The fix for me was simple – don’t let off the gas no matter what happens at the start.
Final – We switched things up for the final. Karl would start us, Ethan would pull a double taking us a bit over target speed on lap 2 if he could (an idea I’d encouraged yet would pay for it), then Jeromy, and I’d have my double followed by a 3 lap pull at the very end. We targeted a 3:16 pace to match the Brits, and on paper we’d do this with 15.7 second lap splits. On paper we had the riders to do it, felt this was our best time to shoot for, and the Brits gave us the perfect excuse to try it. We had nothing to lose, silver medal guaranteed, another go big or go home race.
The start was smooth, I stayed on the gas and slid into the train half a lap in. I was relieved all I had to do was ride steady in the draft next 4 laps before my turn at the front. Karl pulled up after lap 1 and Ethan picked the pace up higher, the degree of which I wasn’t ready for. I should have been more ready for it, or at least wish I was. A small gap opened, I picked it up as I would to close a routine gap but it kept growing. That’s the thing with team pursuit, it’s all about small changes when at very high speeds. Too abrupt a change and the train yo-yos, you risk bunching and crossing wheels, and ultimately slow down. So back to the situation, I saw the gap grow more so I chased harder yet it kept growing. I chased all lap and the gap was up to several bike lengths, so now I’m going all out chasing as hard as I can when I should be recovering. Karl is safely on my wheel, but looking ahead at the big gap between the Ethan/Jeromy pair back to our pair. It was déjà-vu of our heat but at higher speeds this time. Ethan swings off for good and his second lap split is 14.5 seconds! Post power file analysis shows I topped out at 40 mph during this surge. Jeromy is now riding his monstrous 1.5 lap pull trying to hold speed but he’s solo as I’m still several bike lengths back with Karl on my wheel. My 56×14 gear has never felt smaller as my cadence tops out at 126rpm during this minute long chase. By the time Jeromy pulls up I’m still a couple lengths back and it’s time for me to pull 2 laps. We’re actually 1 second ahead of the Brits now but all matches have been burned. If you’ve paid attention I’ve been all-out with my nose in the wind for nearly 5 laps! I stayed on the front just 1 more lap, and pulled off early knowing we were slowing. The 3 of us rotated through the last half, but could never get the speed going again. The Brits took about a second per lap on us to lower the world record even further down to 3:15. We finished in 3:20.3, which despite the disaster is the fastest US masters 3k time at any worlds. US records are for 4K though as only 3k is raced at worlds. I was pretty down as soon as we finished. I was the one that got gapped badly, and because of it we lost our chance at the gold which I felt was in our reach. The guys were supportive, I shook it off (kind of) and we celebrated our silver medals at the podium ceremony that we’re very proud of. I’d love to race on a team like that again!
My season is over as I fly home with a gold and silver medal in my two favorite events. It was a memorable season highlighted by a silver medal at Elite nationals and defending a world title to close it out.
Huge thanks to my incredibly supportive family at home with all my time away racing this season, the amazing support from Marty and the guys at Fit Werx, and the Foundation for American Track Cycling for helping make the trip happen.
Thanks for reading!