I went to the Tuesday Night Training session this week and spent about 100 laps behind the motor along with some sprints off the rail from the motor. After that session, I was "cautiously optomistic" as I like to say.
The evenings events:
- 5-lap Scratch Heats (2)
- 5-lap Scratch Final
- 5-lap Scratch Consolation
- 18-lap Points Race (points every 6)
- 30-lap Points Race (points every 6 2x last)
I didn't have my disk ready yet (tire still setting up with glue), so I was riding training wheels. So here I am, a 43-year old guy with an old steel frame and 32 hole box section rims mixing it up with the youngsters. Well, it went better than last year where I got my doors blown off, exiting the rear of the field in most all events.
In the first event, the Scratch Race heats, there were 8 of us in each heat, with the top 4 in each going to the final. I was in the second heat, with some pretty fast company. We started slow, up above the blue line and I positioned myself under the riders up at the rail and about 3 back from the front - perfect. The speed gradually rolled up and with 2 laps to go, one of the guys dove down and set things into motion and I was sitting 4th or 5th. We were moving pretty fast, not all out but not too far from it. Coming out of turn 4 on the bell lap, one of the guys up front goes and goes hard. Through 1 and 2 we are still accelerating and on down the back stretch. Going into 3 I made my move and went up over the rider in front of me, going all out, 110%. I get around him in 3, and then another guy coming out of 4 and down the home stretch am lined up with 3 others going for the line. I ended up snatching 3rd. This was a HUGE confidence builder for me, being the first race of this year for me and it was validation that: A) My training and persistence over the last 8 months worked! and B) This old guy can still go fast with the young dudes.
In the Scratch Race Final, an error in judgement and improper gearing cost me a top placing and I ended up with a 6th place. A guy had attacked hard coming out of turn 3 with 2 to go showing at the next cross of the line. I went hard after him and had about a 3 or 4 bike gap that I just simply could not close. I needed more gear (my wife observed that I was spinning noticeably faster than the rest). I just started to close a bit as he faded going into the bell lap and as we came across going into turn 1, a guy that was spit out on the previous lap was still in the sprinters lane, going backwards. At this point, all the guys behind me that I was pulling along trying to close the gap came over the top of me and I got pinched behind this idiot who should have been off the track and not in the lane. I got on the back of the train as we were going all out for the finish. I came through on the back, in 6th place. In retrospect, I should have not been the one to try to go first after this guy and let someone else. Even if he had gotten away, I am confident I could have pulled out a top 3 finish again. Lesson learned - more gear and more patience.
The 18-lap Points Race was fast from the get go. We did one lap above the blue and someone attacked. After a lap, he pulled up and somebody else went, and the next lap...the same thing. So with 2 to go to the first sprint, a guy goes and I slip into the chase around 4th or 5th. We charge for the line and I end up 5th - just out of the points. We come through turn 1 and I could just smell that this was going to happen and I was prepared for it - someone attacks right after the sprint and I went with the group that chased. This, as always, totally blew apart the field because there were some who weren't recovered enough from the sprint to able to go. I barely was able to and was struggling to hang on. The pace let up just a bit after a lap of this craziness and then somebody else attacked. I had no "go" left at this point. I attempted to get on but found that I was done. This was a painful reminder of years past for me. I have always struggled in the points races. They are so intense with the repeated attacks and not only does one need to be able to endure the physical portion, but the tactics and positioning are critical in order to get points.
After the 18-lap, I decided I was done for the night. I had been sick all week with a sinus infection and ear infection and still wasn't 100%, so I packed up and considered it a good start to the season. I need to do more high-intensity work for longer periods on the Tuesday night sessions and I "need to get my FAST on"...which is my disk and a bigger gear. I ran a 50x15 (90") and most of the other guys were running 91 to 93 inch gears. Next week, I'll try the 51x15 (91.8") and if that doesn't feel too big, I might try the 48x14 (92.5") the week after.
I am excitedly looking forward to next Friday night.