no one line

September 11, 2009, 1:44 pm
Filed under: Kissena, track bikes, track racing, velodromes

I took my camera to Kissena far more times than I actually used it to take some photographs this year, but since I was pulling some photos off my camera in order to add some flair to my previous post (Goodbye IRO), I figured I’d share a few that I snapped at some point this summer. May shots of a carefree summer evening to bring you warmth on a rainy September morning.

Here’s my oft-mentioned buddy-teammate Al messing with Dan C.’s bike. Dan wins the award for being the least sentimental about the nicest bikes. That’s the Nagasawa that he messengers on.

Gui setting up his bike. He and I are the same size, but somehow all of his bikes are much larger than mine. He rides 53-54cm bikes, and I ride 50-52cm bikes. His legs must have some extra hidden length – we both ride long but his saddles are a lot higher than mine. His Felt is a 54, mine is a 52.

I’ve ridden a bunch with Gui over the past year or so, and he’s given lots of good advice throughout my learning process.

Shooting the breeze with Gui and Kissena’s Delroy Walters, a 70+ World Champion and total track star who’s always around to offer a smile, kind words, and timely advice.

Head to Head with a National Champ?
September 8, 2009, 2:36 pm
Filed under: Kissena, Natty Champs, sprints, track racing

One of the things that JP said earlier in the year in his shoes as the club’s development director was, “You might be a sprinter with your friends but that’s a lot different than being a sprinter in a race.” The lesson is that you might have a sprint but in a race there’s bound to be somebody bigger and stronger who can apply that pure power better than you can. Most people’s best bet is to try to force a selection from which they can try to place, rather than to sprint against the whole field. The difference between a honest-to-goodness sprinter and someone who can occasionally sprint became obvious to me this weekend at the track, my first time out as a Cat 3. Unfortunately, only two other 1/2/3 riders had registered. One of them threw down the track’s fastest Kilo time at Opening Weekend in April and a few weeks ago at the State Championships. The other is a Master’s National Champion in the match sprint.

Oh well.

I had been hoping that a small field would be combined with others so that we could race some mass-start races, but it was only to be a handful of match sprints.

Oh well.

What played out “sprinting against” Andrew Lacorte reminded me of a scene from The Wire, when McNulty, roughly handled by bosses, and his partner Bunk are working their way toward getting belly-up at a bar. “You know why I respect you, Bunk? Because when it came time for you to screw me, you were very gentle.” Bunk – as drunk or drunker than McNulty – replies, “I knew it was your first time. I wanted it to be special.” Lacorte wouldn’t let me slip away when I hammered from the whistle, so we danced around a little bit, kept the pace high, and when I started sprinting, he just held me on his rear wheel, increasing the pace deftly. He didn’t ride away from me, which was either gentlemanly, or kid-glove treatment. Maybe both.

Later, in a 3-up sprint, I drilled it from the line as Colin tucked behind Lacorte, hoping that he would tire. Interested in an even playing field, I was trying to give Colin a fighting chance, which he had, though Lacorte held him off when they started sprinting in earnest (at this point, well ahead of me).

Afterward, Colin paid me a nice compliment. “When I was trying to come around him his arms were shaking. He looked tired at that point.” Lacorte, overhearing this, responded, “That’s a tactic.” Maybe, but leading your competition to believe that fatigue is not fatigue, but a tactic – that’s a tactic, too.

I made third place look easy yesterday, and besides, I got a chance to top off the tan line on my thighs.

And even though it was probably a stretch to say that I raced against Lacorte, it’s still pretty cool to go head-to-head against a National Champion.

Photos linked from Mike Mahesh’s blog.

Twilight Series Win
August 31, 2009, 9:07 pm
Filed under: Kissena, track racing

9 17 2009 ny kissena season awards 017
I try to keep ‘race reports’ brief to avoid boring teammates, friends, and family members. I also try, by and large, to avoid making them the subject of this blog. I enjoy reading other people’s stories from their races, and I enjoy writing about races I’ve done, but it’s not my intended focus for this blog.

So you’ll have to forgive me for my last post, on last week’s scratch race out at the velodrome. It’s got a fairly high word:distance ratio, considering that the race was under two miles (if you’ve ever wanted just the meat and potatoes, as it were, of a bike race…).

But it was an important race: winning it made me win the evening’s omnium, which clinched my victory in the 2009 Twilight Series. I also won the remaining points I needed to upgrade to Cat 3 on the track.

I was nervous going into the night’s races, knowing that first place could either be won or lost. For the past month I’d raced knowing that winning was within my reach, as long as I didn’t give up too much ground to my nearest competitors. But instead of giving up ground, I looked at the schedule of races, said to my teammate Al, “I need to win this scratch race,” and I won the scratch race. And won the Twilight Series.

Like I said before – no victory salute when I crossed the line, but it feels pretty good.

8/27 Scratch Race
August 27, 2009, 2:06 pm
Filed under: Kissena, track racing

The Twilight Series is over. Long live the Twilight Series. I love having a night of track racing each week but by the end of the season it gets hard and exhausting. Add some internal pressure – I really wanted to win the scratch race. I really, really wanted to win the last omnium of the regular season. That Big John upgraded to a 3 made it a little easier, but there are some definite powerhouses. Giancarlo Bianchi of WS United is a particular racer to watch and to fear. In the second half of the season he’s done very well and makes the races very fast and very hard with some devastating attacks that usually wind up with him riding away from the field. To wit, the 8/12 feature race.

Some sleek, lean new rider I’d never seen before went off the front immediately, opened a quarter lap gap, and stayed there, and a lap later I was monitoring a concerted chase from three wheels back. When the rider was reeled in there was a bit of cat-and-mousing on the front, some accelerations, but I watched for Giancarlo’s counterattack, and when he stood up on the inside, slightly boxed in but coming out of it, I jumped right after him.

He goes fast. I’m sprinting at 90% after him and he’s holding it, flying. He looks back, sees me, accelerates, I stay on his wheel, barely, he holds up and he accelerates again, keeps trying to snap the whip as it were. The 11-rider pack is a long, thin line. He’s got one more acceleration but I won’t let him go. He’s trying to break me and everyone else but tonight I just don’t want to let him… but I’m so near the end of my rope just holding on to his wheel.

And all of a sudden, there’s one lap to go, Giancarlo’s attack is neutralized, and I’m three wheels back again, with the first breakaway first wheel, the guy who wouldn’t let go of my wheel when I was following Giancarlo, and me. It’s been hard, the pace is slow, and we’re rounding turn 2 going into the headwind on the backstretch and I jump at the 200 meter mark, come around lime green, sprint through the corner in a wide lane, Austin on my hip, and enter that mushy, slow-motion high-speed headspace that I go in a sprint. And I throw my bike and win the race by a half a wheel.

I kind of wanted to put my hands in the air or something but the times I’ve won a race out at Kissena, I’m not elated – I’m just relieved that it’s over and that I didn’t screw something up. Last night I didn’t screw it up – and this morning the elation comes.

Kissena riders at Masters National Champions!
August 21, 2009, 4:44 pm
Filed under: Kissena, Natty Champs, track racing

The news broke recently that regulars at our humble velodrome have represented well at the Master’s National Champships.

Andrew “Cupcake” LaCorte defended his stars and stripes in the Men’s 35-39 Sprint.

Christine D’Ercole won gold in the Women’s 35-39 Sprint.

And Alex Farioletti, who’s out in LA receiving intensive training as part of a Gatorade-sponsored reality TV show, took silver in the Men’s 30-35 Sprint; Dan Lim got 5th.

Big congrats to you three!

Cadence Cup
August 12, 2009, 12:39 pm
Filed under: Kissena, road racing

The Cadence Cup is our hometown series, so it was really exciting that in the last race, we showed up well, raced hard, and won a few prizes.

David Gardiner Garcia took the leader’s jersey in the Cat 5 field. We look forward to having you in the 4’s, David.

Al Barouh took 2nd in the King of the Mountains competition in the Cat 4’s, wearing the polka dots on the final day since the leader, Larry Urhlass, was also wearing the overall leader’s jersey, and second place Victor Lopez Polonia was wearing the green sprint leader’s jersey. Al initiated the decisive break of the race that went ahead and collected important points, and held off Lopez when he bridged up to try to win more KOM points.

Yack, meanwhile, bridged up to the break during a lap for Green Jersey points; with double points on the line, he attacked the break and took the points. In the next sprint he snatched a few more, reclaiming the Green Jersey and clinching the win.

Throughout the race the rest of the team raced admirably, doing all the right things. Eloy marked Lopez when he tried to bridge up to the break during a points lap; I dogged Sniadowski a few times; and Josh and Charlie led the charge to bring back the break when the Green Jersey. When it was over, prizes were awarded, and the case of wine was hoisted. Charlie Issendorf paid us a really great compliment: “Yack wasn’t the fastest sprinter, but he won the Green Jersey because of teamworks and smart tactics.”

A fine finish to a fun local series.

Roadie? Trackie? Sore?
July 28, 2009, 5:28 pm
Filed under: Kissena, road racing, teamwork, track racing

Every activity has milestones for its participants. Rites of passage. In my racing season, I’ve ticked off a handful: going from pack fodder to being a contender; my first crash in a race; first mechanical that took me out of contention; and so forth.

This weekend I had one more: the first time a saddle sore made riding on my bike absolute and abject torture. It was the Cadence Cup and I couldn’t cancel, not while trying to defend my teammate’s green jersey. But there was this angry boil protruding from my nether regions, a nodule of fury and pain, growing worse by the minute to the point where I was pretty sure it was about to sprout fire-red eyes and a mouth, to spit profane invectives at me and the notion that I would innocently and without the expectation of pain straddle a saddle and attempt to ride.

Maybe that’s why, other than two leadout attempts and a sprint, I spent the race cowering at the back of the field, content to catch a snippet of conversation from a teammate to be assured that yes, our team was represented in the break. Good. I wouldn’t have to get up to bridge or chase. That might anger the sore.

It is with thanks to Gui that I can share a somewhat successful strategy for dealing with inflamed saddle sores. Dissolve plenty of epsom salts in very hot water, to which I also added a generous shake of Tea Tree oil. Soak a washcloth in this concoction, press against the offending infection, and do your best to avoid letting your very patient housemate overhear you yelling “Oh the humanity!” as the mean old lump withers and begins to leak blood and pus.

Battle waged, I had achieved enough victory to head out to the velodrome that afternoon for VeloCity, Cyclehawk/Squid’s excellent introduction to competitive track racing. Mike Mahesh has some video of track director and all-around All-Star John Campo talking about the event. Two years ago, VeloCity gave me the confidence to take those first tentative pedal strokes on the banking, and since I’m returning to the track after a frighteningly long midseason hiatus, I took the opportunity to race, brushing up some of my form for the ongoing Twilight Series. And John Prolly got a photo of me warming up.

It was a good day.

Back to the Track
July 23, 2009, 2:19 pm
Filed under: Kissena, teamwork, track racing

Sprinter Della Casa shared a nice quote from Miguel Indurain a while back:

“I’m fascinated by the sprinters. They suffer so much during the race just to get to the finish, they hang on for dear life in the climbs, but then in the final kilometers they are transformed and do amazing things. It’s not their force per se that impresses me, but rather the renaissance they experience. Seeing them suffer throughout the race only to be reborn in the final is something for fascination.”

Last night was my first time back at the velodrome in nearly two months. Rain-outs, scheduling, and work conflicts have gotten in the way, and I’ve missed it. I’d heard that the field had changed a little bit, that some new, strong riders have been coming out, and that the races have gotten faster. I thought back to an 8 lap scratch race from a few months ago. Our team, with five riders on the track, pushed the pace relentlessly and William set me up for a sprint win. Afterward Dan C looked at his cyclocomputer and announced that the average speed had been between 27 and 28mph. And then I thought about the races getting faster since then, and I quaked and wondered if I’d be up for it.

During one of our three races last night, a 3 lap tempo (I called it a “mass start kilo.” A regrettably short race, but the official had to cram a lot of races into one short evening), we managed to average 30mph. And for the duration of the race I was gasping on the back.

But the other two races went well. In the win-and-out I was able to bridge up to a three-man break that took off after the first sprint. Two were teammates, and the third was a Cat 2 road racer who can ride away and stay away. Outgunned, he led out the sprint and I came around him for 2nd (he stayed away for the rest of the race to get 3rd). In the scratch race, teammates attacked at the gun and towed the Cat 2 and a big, strong sprinter around, and four or five them launched repeated attacks and chases while I, once again, spent most of the race gasping at the back. But with 2 to go, I was able to move up to 6th or 7th wheel, drew up another few wheels at the bell, and picked the right wheel to follow. At 200m I was second wheel, well-sheltered, and suddenly, for the first time all evening, felt fresh and ready to go.

I jumped, sprinted, won, and remembered what Indurain said.

Bike racing gets tiring. I love racing but a heavy season clutters a schedule and gets fatiguing. That said, it was great to return to the track. The road season is winding down for me, but there’s still a month or so left of track racing and I’m looking forward to riding it out.

Union Vale results
July 21, 2009, 11:47 am
Filed under: Kissena, road race

Last Sunday was the Union Vale Road Race, which featured a big finishing climb. I was on domestique duty for my buddy Al, so I’ll let his race report tell the story. As you’ll see, the team was successful. Three of us were in the top 10 and we put Al on the podium.

I’ll try to keep this short and sweet. This was my best result so far and I can attribute it to a few things. 1. I have been training with William and Mattio in the hills near Union Vale in the past two weeks. 2. I was able to pre ride the course a week ago. And 3, I have been eating substantially better in the past 3 weeks. With all these factors coming together, I was coming into this race feeling very strong and confident in my abilities.

The race kicked off at 9:07 on a beautiful Sunday morning. Mattio, David, Brian, Todd, Dan and myself were immediately in the top 20 and stayed there almost the entire time. As with the 35+ field, Kissena was the major player in the Cat 4/5 field throughout the entire race. Not too much happened on the flats of the first stage, including the first climb, but once the second climb came, I took 2nd wheel and then half way up the climb I moved into the lead and pushed the pace a bit, stringing out the field and making short work of the climb. Hitting the top, I continued to set the pace until I heard Mattio yell to me to get back into the draft. Mattio was correct since we had decided prior to the race that I was to shoot for a strong final finish and he would work for me to soften up the field.

Once the third and final climb of the 14 mile circuit came into view I was feeling thoroughly warmed up and feeling that the pace was not being pushed enough. I was also concerned about the approaching descent and wanted to be at the front of the peloton when we took the 50+ mph downhill that would kick off the second lap. I positioned myself 4 wheels back and waited until I was halfway up the climb and then moved to the front and turned up the pace. Arriving at the top, I could hear no one else and looked back. Inadvertently I had opened up a good gap. “Why not make them work?” I thought, and started hammering it on the flat approaching the downhill. I took the down hill solo, commencing the 2nd lap with a rather large gap. After a bit of hard effort I accumulated approx a 20 second gap but decided a solo break was not the way to go. I soft pedaled and waited for the peloton to pick me up.

As I was pulled in, Mattio looked at me, smiled and did what all good teammates do: he counterattacked hard, drawing out a single racer and quickly going up the road. At this point I decided to block for mattio and have the other teams do a bit of work. Mattio and his breakaway companion were eventually reeled in. Brian D broke next at the base of the second climb and brought another rider with him. He disappeared up the road rather quickly. After the climb, Mattio and another rider jumped with the intention of bridging up to Brian. They successfully got away as well.

On the 3rd climb of the second lap, I started thinking about bridging up as well, while also again avoiding a possibly dangerous pack descent. As with the end of the first lap, I jumped on the 3rd climb, opened up a gap, took the descent solo and eventually bridged up to Mattio and his break companion. We worked for a bit attempting to catch the lead breakaway, but then I decided to pull off and move back into the peloton, which at this point was about 15 seconds back.

Fast forwarding to the final 4 miles of the race, everything had been pulled back together and I was feeling confident about the final climb. I had been listening to the breath of my fellow racers on the second climb of the last lap and could tell a lot of them were hurting. I, on the other hand was feeling relatively good.

Finally, the peloton hit the final 1.2 mile killer climb, a climb which had been in the back of everyone’s head all race. At the base, I was 10 wheels back. A good pace was set and immediately riders around me began falling back. Within in a minute or two there were only two riders right in front of me and I could hear the sound of riders behind me shifting and searching for that right climbing gear.

Here is where things got a bit harder. The pace was hard yet managable and I moved up along the side of the NYVelocity rider on second wheel; blocking his possible attack while also watching the front rider who was setting the pace. We climbed like this for minutes and minutes but it actually felt a lot shorter. Here is where I made my critical mistake that cost me the race. Looking up the road, I saw what I thought was the finish; a bunch of racers and spectators sitting on either side of he road. It was about 250 meters away. I waited a few more seconds. “Did the other two not see the finish? Were they too blinded by the pain to look uphill and see the finish?”.

I jumped…….or more accurately, increased my cadence in my 23 tooth and began to confidently spin away from them. They didn’t respond and I put my head down, grabbed the hoods and spun and spun and spun. I could no longer hear them and I began to actually think I was going to win this. The finish was less than 100 meters away and I had it….

I was wrong. It wasn’t the finish, it was just a bunch of spectators. The finish was at least another 500 meters ahead. Realizing this I pushed on, bordering on a total blow up. I could hear the two gaining and eventually one came around and then the other at the 200 meter mark. I was able to hold off another racer charging hard for my 3rd place.

All in all this was a spectacular race on the part of Kissena. We were without a doubt the most aggressive team while also producing big results, placing three racers in the top ten. Todd took 5th and Mattio took 10th.

May 8, 2009, 10:37 pm
Filed under: Kissena, teamwork, track racing

The team is coming together in a good way. In particular, our little subset of it. We’re getting used to reading races in similar ways, and sharing similar instincts. We are also figuring out some of the nuts and bolts of cooperation. Like this one: somebody being protected or worked for can call the shots, big time – throwing commands out not necessarily to quarterback the situation, but to get people doing what he needs. “Uh, guys? Let’s not forget to talk to each other.”

In a scratch race in Wednesday night’s Twilight Series, Al and Gui attacked over and over again, letting the pace yo-yo enough to keep things both fast and disrupted, wearing down some of the other, faster riders. With 2 laps to go William worked toward the front with me on his wheel and with 600 meters to go he ramped it. At 200 meters to go he pulled off to the outside, giving me the sprinter’s lane, and there was space behind me – I rode home for the win.

Incidentally, winning a race makes me feel relief more than triumph: relief that, when it came down to it, I didn’t let down my hardworking teammates. I’ve always though that I could work harder for others than for myself, but I realized how hard that is when I tried to throw Al off the front in a Snowball. I picked him up from midpack and brought him to the front in about 300 meters and then I was cooked. My willingness to ride myself into the ground for my teammates is limited by my ability to ride myself into the ground, and I’m best at riding myself into the ground when I’ve been struggling to hang on to wheels for two laps, the pace is ridiculously high, and then it’s time to sprint.

In a way, track racing can be more individual – the races are so short and fast and there’s so much movement that maybe there’s not even time or incentive for teamwork. But we are doing a good job gauging our strength and energy and offering to lay it down for each other. Next week I’m riding for them.