So, last night (Friday) I found yet another racing venue. The second Friday is Amateur Race Night at Boulder Indoor Cycling (www.BoulderIndoorCycling.com). I almost dropped in last month but it just didn’t work out. But during the day at work on Friday, I could feel myself getting the itch. I debated with myself briefly, but deep down, I knew that I was going to do it.
I showed up at the track about 20 minutes before the warm-up / open ride hour at 6pm. Races were scheduled to begin at 7pm. Don’t know why, but there were only a small handful of other cyclists and none of them were planning to race. No problem, I stuck to my warm-up plans and put in a nice long 20 minutes of easy riding. Then added some higher paced laps with a few almost-all-out sprints mixed in just to get the juices flowing. I admit it, I was excited. Even a bit nervous. It was my first time racing on the track. There were similarities to how I felt before the Frostbite TT — but the experience itself was vastly different. First and foremost — there was no wind! And, there weren’t nearly as many people around. There were three groups of races. Men’s A, Men’s B and Women. Each group raced the same type of event, just different number of laps in some cases.
The first race was an 8-lap race where a point was awarded to the rider who crossed the start-finish line first on each lap. Easy math — the rider with the most points at the end of the race wins. I was glad I got to watch the two men’s group go first. In one of those races, a rider started taking laps early. He continued to ride hard and collect laps until he had enough that there just weren’t enough laps left for anyone else to have more than him. I decided that I would adopt the same strategy. My number would be 5. That way, if I had 5 laps, it wouldn’t matter how the other laps got split. Easy math and I didn’t have to keep track of who else was collecting laps. When the race started, I found myself behind Cathy and Ellen. I was a bit boxed in but decided to stay put for that lap. As we got into the second lap though, I decided to start collecting. I came up track from behind Cathy just enough to ride between them. From there, I turned on the ‘after-burners’ and pulled away. Once I had a little more than a bike length lead, I dropped back into the sprinter’s land and just kept going. It was not easy to see what was going on behind me, and I kept envisioning them catching and passing me so I just kept focused and rode like I had a bear chasing me! A hungry bear! As I was out-running the bear, I collected laps…. 1, …. 2, …. 3,….. 4,….. and finally 5. Once I had all my laps, there were still 2 left to go in the race, but I pulled up to the blue line and took my foot off the gas. No need to worry about the bear anymore. I had what I wanted. I had won the race.
I think I surprised the other gals. All of them had raced before and knew each other, and each other’s ability pretty well. I was the great unknown. Until that race, of course. Suddenly, I became the one to beat!
The second race was an elimination race. Every 5 laps there was a sprint and the last rider who crossed the start-finish line was eliminated. We started at the top rail and rolled down into a neutral lap. Then the race was on. After the neutral lap I found myself behind Michelle and Cathy (again!). This was not a good place to be. I was also boxed in a bit as Ellen was up track at my right shoulder. I stayed where I was and tried to figure out a strategy. Clearly, I didn’t have one going into the race so I’d better come up with something pretty fast…. lap 5 was upon us! Luckily, there was one gal who was slower than the rest of us and she was easy prey for the first elimination. Then, on to the next 5 laps. I still lacked a clear stategy and I was still at the back of the pack. Nothing came to me and as we went into lap #10, I was at risk of being last. I had to move up track to get around anyone. That took extra energy. My sprint power saved me as I motored past Ellen on the straight away right before the line. I could feel that the extra sprint and having to take the long route took its toll. Michelle and Cathy were in a nice rhythm and I was trying to catch my breath and find one. It never quite happened though. Before I knew it, we had gone another 4 laps and I was in the position of having to go up track and around Cathy again. This time, I couldn’t quite pull it off. As a result, I was eliminated. Michelle and Cathy fought it out for the win, but Cathy was no match for Michelle who took it easily.
Two races down, one to go. I found that I was less nervous now. There was only one 30-lap race left for us. This was a scratch race where the first person to cross the line after the prescribed number of laps wins. Period.
There was an interesting twist. Cathy was going to all the racers before we started suggesting that we work together for the first 20 laps and make it a 10 lap race. Looked like she got buy-in from the other racers, which meant if I didn’t go along, it would end up being 4 against one, me! I decided to just ride my race and if it looked like I couldn’t go off the front and stay out, alone, for 30 laps, then I’d play along for a while.
A Scratch race sounds easy enough but there are lots of factors to consider in such a long (relatively) race. Should you try to stay out front? Should you work with other riders in a pace line? And, if so, how much work should you do versus them? Who’s wheel is it good to be on and who should you avoid when it gets to the last 3-4 laps? I knew I didn’t want to be behind Cathy if there were other riders in front of her. I was most concerned with Michelle. She has sprinting ability and good endurance. But, she wore the same outfit as 2 of the other riders so it was hard to pick up on who was who easily. We started from the rail again — nice, clean start (during one of the men’s races, a rider slide out twice as he left the rail — go women!). After a neutral lap, we did settle into a pace line with riders generally taking a 2-lap pull at which point they’d swing up track, allow the line to ride by beneath them then drop down at the end of the line. We went around and around this way for close to 20 laps. I did a little bit of math and figured that if things kept going the way they were, I was not going to be in a good position when we got down to 3-4 laps. So, when it was my turn to be at the front, instead of taking a 2-lap pull, I took a 1/2 lap pull. This did surpised the group — but hey, we’re racing, right!? Now I was at the back with about 8 laps to go. I watched at the other riders continued to work together. I was plotting for when to make my move — now when my next turn to take a pull was! With a little over two laps to go, I swung up track and started to rev the engines. Cathy was directly ahead of me and I think Michelle was on my wheel. I pulled past Cathy in a couple of pedal strokes and dropped back down into the sprinter’s lane. This left Michelle with no place to go for a few seconds until I pulled farther ahead of Cathy and a gap appeared. I kept the pressure on though and try as she did, Michelle was unable to stay with me or pass me. I crossed the line first and claimed my second win of the evening.
It was a whole lot of fun. Very different than time trialing, that’s for sure. So far, I’ve enjoyed both of them. I’ve got to wait a month for my next track race. I think there is another outdoor opportunity the end of March. Stay tuned!