When I was making up my racing calendar in the early spring, I put down about four track days at T-Town, the Valley Preferred Cycling Center, in Pensilvania. I got a chance to race this track at the end of the last season, and I had a blast, so I was excited to come back. It is a bit of a drive to get there, and no one took me up not my offer of a ride, therefore, I got in touch with Victor Chan, who has been taking photos at the Kissena Velodrome, to see if he wanted to come out and shoot at T-Town, and he agreed.
The racing is scheduled to start at twelve noon, and I was shooting for an arrival time at the venue of about ten in the morning. This would give me ample time to unload the car and get my space setup. I even brought my tent since it was going to be quite sunny. After arriving and getting things squared away, I was able to get on track to warm up. I had been off the bike all week due to too much rain, therefore I was not sure how my legs were going to feel.
This track is rated at 333 meters in length with twenty eight degree banking in the turns and twelve degree banking on the straightaways. Needless to say, that this track is faster then Kissena, and the bankings play a much bigger role in the races.
Due to the higher speeds, I decided to gear up to a 49×14 which comes out to a 94.5 gear inch. I was not sure how well I would get on with it since I feel that it is still early in the track season. But after a bunch of laps, I was settling in quite nicely, and this would be a good choice for this track. A quick mandatory rider meeting was held by the Chief Referee David Underhill before the racing could get underway.
- Race #1: Men Category 4: 12 Lap Points: Sprints every 3 laps; 5, 3, 2, and 1 point awarded for top 4 in each sprint. Riders gaining laps on the designated field will earn 20 pts; riders losing laps on the designated field will lose 20 pts. Ties in points are broken by finish of last sprint.
I quickly learned that on this track, they seem to launch their move coming out of turn four, which would mean an attack and sprint for just over a lap. On the first sprint lap I was caught a bit off guard but I chased on, and managed to bag one point on this lap finishing fourth. The second sprint, I was more prepared and I got a third place which brought my points tally up to three. The third sprint, I pushed hard but managed only another fourth place finish for one more point.
At this stage I was quite blown and I also was a bit confused. Oxygen depravation can do strange things to your faculties. For some strange reason, I thought the race was over. Sadly for me, we still had three more laps and a final sprint on before the pain would end. Thus I fell back in the pack and when realization set in that it was not over, it was too late to get back in. In the end, I finished the race in fifth place thanks to my four points.
- Race # 2: Men Category 4: Elimination: Starting at end of lap 2 the last rider across is eliminated (as judged by the trailing edge of the rear wheel) and must withdraw from the race. Riders are pulled until 2 are left, and next lap determines 1st and 2nd place in the race (as judged by the leading edge of the front wheel).
Elimination or Miss & Out races are by far not my favorite races. I tend to get very nervous in these events. I decided to employ the ride high tactic. This would prevent me from getting boxed in, but it would cause me to have to surge at the end of each lap in order to keep me in contention. As the laps progressed, I was doing well, but definitely feeling it in my legs. It is easy in a race like this to poorly judge how many are left in the race and suddenly be eliminated because you assumed there were still more riders behind.
With the pack down to six, I was able to outride James Lyman by inches, causing his elimination. Going into turn one, he rode close to me and due to confusion he bumped me and yelled at me. I was okay with the bump, I was more surprised that it happened, and it had me hesitating and pondering if I had done something wrong. I think he then realized his mistake, and urged me to chase and get back on the group of four pulling away from me. Unfortunately I did not have the legs and even if that incident had not happened, I do not think I would have survived the next elimination. Brean Shea told me later that he figured I was done at the point. Another fifth place finish. A pattern is quickly emerging.
Race # 3: Men Category 4: 6 Lap Scratch: Race runs the determined number of laps; top 5 taken at the finish.
By now I was stating to wear down. This race started out quick for the first few laps but then the pace eased off allowing the field to bunch back up. As expected, with two laps to go, the pace picked up. I was fighting for position and, coming out of turn four I was up quite high. Going into the final straight, I got a hefty amount of momentum from the drop from coming out of the turn, and I was able to slingshot past James Lyman again, just edging him out for another fifth place finish.
Race # 4: Feature B: 12 Lap Win & Out: First sprint at 9 to go; winner of that sprint wins the race and must retire. Second sprint at 6 to go, winner of that sprint is 2nd place in the race and must retire. Third sprint at 3 to go, winner of that sprint is 3rd place in the race and must retire. Remaining riders sprint at the finish for 4th place on.
I always have had mixed results in a Win & Out. I might not be able to contend for the first two spots but I do have the ability to get third. This field was going to be big. It featured competitors from across the categories. As expected the first two spots got taken by some fast guys. At this point I was in a good place to contend for the third place sprint. A group of four of us were on the front taking pulls. With two laps to go, I pulled off the front going into turn one since I did not want to deal with the strong headwind on the back straight. James Lyman took up the front, and I waited for the other two riders to go by and drop back into the draft.
This was my mistake. The third rider was letting a gap open. What I should have done was to slot in between rider number two and rider number three. But I did not, and when I realized my mistake, I had to recruit energy to get around the third guy. At this point, James and the other guy had too much of a gap for me to close on the back windy straight. As much as I tried to catch the group, all I could do was watch James get a third place finish.
However, I was not out of trouble just yet. I was now stuck in No Man’s Land for the next three laps. I decided to put my head down and ride as hard as my legs and lungs would allow me to at the bottom of the track. By the time I was entering turn three on my final lap, a couple of guys had bridged the gap and passed me up track. At the end, I think I finished maybe seventh or eighth. Lesson learned, be less nice.
At the end of the day, I placed sixth in the Omnium. I do not think that was too shabby of a result. I am hoping to go back maybe this coming weekend. Racing is addictive. Thank you Victor for the photos.