no one line

Bareknuckle Sprints
February 9, 2010, 2:03 pm
Filed under: accidents, crash, sprints, t-town, track bikes, track racing, velodromes

For your viewing pleasure, a compilation of out-and-out bareknuckle match sprints:

2000 World Championship Match Sprints, Gane versus Chiappa. No love lost between these two, apparently.

In the 1994 World Championship Match Sprint tournament the sprinter’s lane seems to be a mere suggestion. Semifinals: in Darryn Hill v Jens Fiedler, Fiedler forces Hill to the blue band so Hill forces Fiedler well out of the sprint lane. Coming up over that line that far is a special type of sharp elbows. Following that, in the same video, Nothstein employs the same tactic against Michael “The Big German” Hubner.

Maybe there was something particularly slippery about that track’s Turn Four. The finals of this tournament are here, part 1 and part 2; and to round out the tournament,¬†Hubner and Fiedler duke it out for the bronze.

There’s also the famous match between Gordon Singleton and Koichi Nakano from the 1982 World Championships: round 1, round 2, round 3.¬†Much nailbiting sprints can be found at this youtube channel: “See all 167 videos” … good luck getting anything done at work today.

In the realm of full body contact is the 2009 collision between countrymen Kevin Sirreau and Gregory Bauge: a recovery slick enough for trickster fixed gear videos.

Of course, any mention of bareknuckle sprinting would be incomplete without the famous ‘keirin carnage’ incident at the Trexlertown Velodrome, and among classic Keirin dumpfests is this football match. As a parting note – since I got on the subject of keirin – I can’t do it justice unless I link to this stunning performance by Theo Bos, who’s currently hacking it out as a road sprinter with a sullied reputation.

Have any more? Feel free to link for me and our readers in the comments.


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.

Old Timers
June 11, 2009, 2:23 pm
Filed under: no one line, track racing, velodromes

Doing some circles outside the velodrome to keep my legs moving between races during a recent installment of the Twilight Series, an old-timer approached me and asked, “Hey, do they have any of these kind of races out in Jersey?”

“No,” I said, “This is the only track around. The nearest one is out in Trexlertown, Pennsylvania.”
“So, not out in Jersey?” he repeated.
“They used to have these races out in Jersey, I can’t believe they don’t have them anymore.”
“Well, this is the only track around, these days.”
“Do you win any money at these races? Any money in them?”
“No – I guess we just do it for bragging rights or something,” I replied.
“You know, I used to race. Not anymore. I’m ninety-three years old! And back then if there was any mention of money they’d take away our racing card!”

We chatted for a while longer and he told me that he used to race at the old New York Velodrome (that would be the old one in Inwood, not the hopeful/future New York Velodrome), they Coney Island Velodrome , and the Newark Velodrome, out in Vailsburg Park. He even raced at the old Madison Square Garden, home of legendary six-day races. “Before the six-day races,” he said, “there would always be amateur races, and I’d enter those! I’d come in third place, fourth place. Madison Square Garden was the only place you could earn money as an amateur, and I’d win fifteen or twenty bucks, which wasn’t bad back then…”

I introduced myself and he gave me his name, Gimelli, as I shook his arthritic hand. He reminded me of my grandfather, who passed away a year and a half ago – not because of similar looks, but it was his baseball cap, his skin of wax paper and wrinkles, and the creaky enthusiasm in his voice that congealed into a sort of familiarity. He was racing this sport in the 1920s, and it just seems fascinating and somehow supernatural for me to converse with somebody who, as a kid, could very well have been in my shoes, talking with somebody who lived through the Civil War. I had a million questions for Gimelli that I didn’t get to ask – how’d you start riding? What was the bike like? Why did you stop? What were the crowds at Madison Square Garden like? Did you train? Did you smoke? What was the building like? What were the people there like? What did you feel, think, see? What was the city like? Who did you talk do?

I felt like I was in a Utah Phillips story, knowing that the past didn’t go anywhere, that it’s with us if we find it. It reminded me of sitting with my grandmother at her kitchen table, clutching cups of tea when we weren’t holding each other’s hand, me writing down recipes that she was reciting off the top of her head.

But it’s a tenuous process, ties to the past, which I learned the next time I lined up on the rail. He walked over from the bleachers and leaned on the rail next to me, across the fence. Maybe he came up to me because I was familiar to him from our last conversation, but maybe there was only a faint recognition picking in his mind, because when he leaned on the rail he asked me, “Hey, do they have any of these kind of races in New Jersey?”

“No,” I replied after a moment. “This is the only track in the area.”
“Do you win any money at these?”
“No. I guess we just do it for ourselves… or for bragging rights…”
“I used to race. I’m ninety-three years old, and back then, if we mentioned money, they’d take our racing card away!”

The race began and I threw myself into a 15 lap Devil’s Scratch, properly exhausting enough to make me nearly vomit at the end, so it was a while before I was able to give this man the proper amount of thought. I enjoyed talking to him, and missing the old people who were in my life that I loved to much. And I gave thanks that my grandfather and grandmother lived out their days with continued mental acuity, though the discomfort of progressively diminishing health.

The past doesn’t go anywhere.

Giovani Pettenella frame and story
May 27, 2009, 3:18 pm
Filed under: the cycling world, velodromes

A curious frame is for sale on Craigslist and eBay.

A local bike buddy has apparently met the builder, and shared the following story:

Pettenella is an amazing guy. I spent some time at his shop in Milano and he was kind enough to send me home with an old cycling cap bearing his name. Famously, he once help a track stand for 65 minutes in a match spring under oppressive Milano summer sun. His opponent, exhausted and dehydrated, fainted and collapsed on his bike, sliding down the banks of the famed Velodromo Vigorelli. Vanni waited for the officials/medical staff to check out the unconscious rider (while still holding his track stand)…then took a lap to validate his victory and take the 1968 Italian National Championship.

A great story. The fact that Pettenella’s competitor was willing to trackstand to the point of fainting rather than cede control of the early part of the sprint speaks volumes – about what, however, I am not sure.

Kissena Twilight Series #1
April 30, 2009, 12:24 pm
Filed under: Kissena, tactics, teamwork, track racing, velodromes

The Twilight Series at the track began with some trepidation about Sunday’s crashes late in the Omnium, and a few people hinting that maybe they weren’t quite recovered from the weekend. The fields were fairly well attended – the women’s field was larger than the small 1/2/3 field – but everything looked sparse compared to the huge crowds of Opening Weekend.

Dan, Al, and I had a quick conversation before the racing began. Al’s my regular teammate; Dan is a 3 on the road and while he’s rarely the fastest guy, he’s one of the smartest. When the whistle blew on our scratch race Dan went to the front to send the pace through the roof. Our main goal was to disrupt the ability of two Sanchez riders, Colin Prensky and Chad Marion, from just riding away with the race. One is a cat 2 on the road and another is well on his way to cat 2, so the most realistic hope was that we prevent them from dominating, and make them work and hurt for it. I don’t remember much from the race except patrolling the front out of necessity – if I dropped back a few wheels it would be entirely possible that I wouldn’t be able to get up there. Gabe was in the right place at the right time to land me on Colin’s wheel with 300 meters to go, but Chad came around me and for the effort the best that Kissena managed to do against two Sanchez riders was 3rd place. But we made them work for it.

The next race was a tempo: points are awarded each lap for the top two finishers (2 and 1 point, respectively). That means a fast race, and I jumped hard at the whistle and just barely held it to take points on the first lap as two riders drew even on my right. I had hoped to settle in to a groove after that first effort, but the effort was too big and when the field passed me, single file, it was going too fast for me to join on. Five laps later I was nearly bridging up to Al and Dan who were chasing the Sanchez riders, who in turn had taken 1 and 2 in each lap since the first; the bell rang, indicating the last lap, and I soft-pedaled through the finish. In hindsight what I did was a tactically smart response to two very strong riders in a very demanding race, and it was good enough for third place, but being out of contention for the rest of the race still feels like I only raced for one lap.

The points race was a highlight. We turned the pace up to 11 immediately again and by the time we were ready for the first sprint the only people able to turn the pace high enough were the two Sanchez riders, Dan, and myself. I settled for fourth and closed the gap to Chad, and we settled into a rhythm of keeping our lead over the field. The next sprint wasn’t too aggressive, since we were all guaranteed points, but I was second wheel so tried to sneak up on Chad, who accelerated when Colin warned him with 50 meters to go. The third sprint, I am really proud of. With 200 meters to go I drew even with Chad, who was on Colin’s wheel, and sprinted from his hip, boxing him in behind Colin. It was a precision maneuver, keeping the space between us close around Kissena’s bumpy turn 4, and for a moment I was afraid I had opened the door wide enough for him to try to slip through. Colin was sprinting conservatively, not realizing the situation his teammate was in, and though I couldn’t threaten him I kept Chad contained and took 2nd place in the sprint. Brains over brawn that time.

It was good enough for 3rd in the omnium, and I qualified for the feature race of the night (along with my two teammates and the two Sanchez riders), racing against the fairly small 1/2/3 field. Dan sent the pace through the roof at the whistle and he and I were at the front to block when Al launched himself into a quarter-lap gap to take the first sprint uncontested (the racing paused while track cheerleader, director, and all-around great guy John Campo recovered from a crash caused by a broken seatpost); when he was reeled in, Dan launched an attack and I sat on the wheel of a Global Locate rider danging between the pack and Dan. When he was reeled in I didn’t have the juice to attack but I feinted, which got a GL rider’s nose in the wind and set us up for a few remaining points in the final sprint.

Al, Dan, and I raced together very intuitively and it paid off. We placed 3-4-5 in the omnium and raced Al into first place in the featured Points Race. While nervously succumbing to the spine-shaking coughs known as track hack, I realized that track racing will make me faster. I spent the night alternatively accelerating a 90″ gear, spinning it out, and sprinting on it. I had spent the day leading up to the race busy, working hard, and riding a lot, and had second thoughts about going out to race, but I’m very glad that I did.

Kissena Velodrome Opening Weekend
April 27, 2009, 6:09 pm
Filed under: crash, Kissena, track racing, velodromes

It was an action-packed Opening Weekend at the Kissena Velodrome this weekend. The weather was perfect, the turnout was high, and the racing was strong and competitive. I was racing in Category 4, and the weekend’s lineup called for a Kilo (1,000 meter individual time trial), Team Sprint, Points Race, Scratch Race, Match Sprints, and a Miss and Out – all spread over two days, to accommodate nearly 100 racers. The exceptional weather, though welcome at first, became difficult to handle, and by Sunday afternoon it was hard to stay hydrated, energetic, and focused on the racing.

Maybe that contributed to the three crashes that happened, and unfortunately, three Kissena members will be off the bike for a while with two broken collarbones, a dislocated shoulder, and a few broken ribs shared amongst them. Best wishes for their quick recovery.

Sending friends off to the hospital is a downer way to end a weekend of racing, and it was hard to focus on the final race, the Miss and Out (also called Devil Take the Hindmost), even though I had to score omnium points in order to protect my placing, and possibly move up. I had to abandon hope for second place after Luke Stiles scored second in the Match Sprint, beating my teammate Al but losing to the weekend’s strongman Colin Prensky, who won every race in the 4’s, and got the best time on the kilo out of all categories – by three seconds.

Al had bumped me out of the sprint tournament in a good two-up competition. We played with each other, trackstanding and cat-and-mousing, and chatting about the tension. I fake-jumped to try to draw him out and bring up the speed, but at turn 1 he jumped hard around me and I couldn’t follow fast enough. Had I reacted a bit quicker I could have gotten on his wheel, but he can keep accelerating and really dangle another rider behind him. When he crossed the line two bike lengths ahead of me I sat up and held out my hand, saluting him for an entertaining match and a strong sprint.

I recovered in the Miss and Out, my bread and butter. There are a lot of very strong riders in the 4’s – a lot who I would generally consider to be stronger riders than I am. But the Miss and Out plays to my strengths – positioning, pack smarts, and endurance. By the time the twenty-rider field had been whittled down to only 5, I still had enough of a match to burn with a sprint that, though it didn’t match Colin’s, left the others behind. I took second and secured third place in the omnium.

The photo above, by Gary Berger, shows Todd the Polish Hammer and Andrew LaCorte, the 35+ National Sprint Champion, during the 1/2/3 Madison on Sunday.

Theo Bos
April 10, 2009, 12:52 pm
Filed under: road racing, sprints, track racing, velodromes

Is Theo Bos old news now? Everybody has been talking about Chris Hoy for the past year or so, but before that, it was all about Theo Bos, this young Dutch rider who seemed indominitable in the sprint. Just how powerful was he? Take a look at this keirin from the 2006 worlds – when he also won gold in the sprint (against Gregory Bauge, looking a lot less muscular four years ago than he does these days) and the kilo. Later that year he set the record for the Flying 200 (a flying-start 200 meter sprint time trial) clocking 9.772 seconds.

However, in the Beijing olympics, he came up empty-handed. Word on the boards is that he’s working on transitioning to be a road racer. An odd transition – conventional wisdom says that track endurance riders, who specialize in the madison or the points race, would make good road sprinters (see the road circuit’s Golden Boy du Jour, Mark Cavendish, as an example), but that track sprinters are too specialized and too muscular to survive much road racing.

Bos has a different physique than today’s all-star, Chris Hoy. Take a look at that picture above – one of the reasons why I like watching Bos race. He’s lithe, graceful and predatory like a panther. He’s speed compared to the muscular Hoy’s sheer power.

If his road career doesn’t really take off and he never returns to his brilliance at the track, well then, at least we’ll have our memories, right? Few things in bike racing have come close to the sight of Hoy spinning so smooth, so fast, opening up huge gaps on world-class sprinters as he’s flying through the corners.