The Whirlwind

So it's time for a long recap.

Wednesday, 4 July: Due to the rain the night before, the last session of junior nationals and the second and third sessions of the Independence Day Grand Prix were all going to be combined. Start time was an hour early, the juniors were going to race early in the program so that they could get to Denver and leave on time, and while it would be long, we would get everything in. Unfortunately, they didn't have the schedule finalized on the third, so I showed up just after 8:00 in the morning to start my warm-up for the 10 mile scratch. That goes as planned, and the program moves right along. In all of the schedule shuffling that occurred, the 10 mile got pushed to the last race of session. Not cool. I had already been warming up in the paved desert that is the infield for a couple hours, burning to a delightful stop-sign red as I forgot my sunscreen, and now we had to wait even longer. By 1:30 in the afternoon, we're getting close. All that is left is a women's keirin round, and then we're up. And out of nowhere it starts to rain. Not just a little bit of rain. A ton of it. So after 5.5 hours of warming up, I threw everything in the car, met up with Kate, Noah, and Ryan and went to get some lunch and check out the farmers' market. The session was supposed to start at 5:00 that evening in an attempt to get everything in, so after a short reprieve, I drove back from Manitou Springs to the velodrome. Suddenly the nice afternoon (the rain cleared up after about 45 minutes) it starts to rain. And then hail. I get to the track, and the rain is still coming down. The hail caught up with me about half an hour later, and was absolutely driving. There were piles of hail that looked more like snow drifts, the tunnel flooded, and I ended up spending an hour hanging out with the resident pros as the weather taunted us and Mikey hemmed and hawed on the phone about the rain and his "unenthusiastic friends" that he had dragged along to the race. Finally he showed up, the weather relented (slightly), and we went in search of something to eat. At 7:00 it was decided that the session would not be cancelled, and that it would started 20 minutes after the track dried, and the first rider on the track took a lap. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 8:30, things were back under way. They changed the schedule again, so the madison was up before the 10 mile. After a really hectic, dangerous warm-up, with people throwing randomly, others spinning, and other doing sprints, we were ready to race. But the madison was going to be split, into a 40 lap segment and a 60 lap segment, with the fireworks in between. We couldn't race through them, because the city would fine the velodrome if they didn't turn off the lights. As it turned out, through everything, I was feeling really good. I was bridging gaps, taking pulls, and all around riding great. Mikey kept missing my on exchanges though, and leaving me out to dry for another pull. Not cool. Fortunately, I wasn't having any trouble due to the altitude, but the extra efforts were really taking a toll on me. As we were really starting to struggle, the blissful fireworks break came, and we retreated the infield for 45 dark minutes on the rollers in an attempt to stay loose. Things started up again, and I was feeling even better. I got into a break with the Canadian national team (they ended up winning), and the US team of Colby Pierce and Bobby Lea (they took second). We were ultimately absorbed by the pack, let by Mike Creed and Mike Friedman (they took third), but it was a huge morale booster to realize that I can ride with those guys and hold my own while doing it. When there were about 30 or 40 laps to go, I dropped down on the backstretch for Mikey to throw me in. I put my hand out, and suddenly feel Mikey's wheel against the back of my foot. A moment later I heard the sound of spokes hitting bike parts, and got pulled over to the left, landing on Mikey and skidding along the pavement. Hence ended out madison. No one to blame but ourselves.
Mikey crushed the side of his helmet and lost a lot of skin. I came out a bit better, as landing on him took the majority of the impact, and while I lost a big patch on my left forearm, I really came out wheel. The medics patched me up, I switched wheels, and got ready for the 10 mile. As it was about midnight by now, the race was shorted to 5 miles, a bunch of people left, and we took the track in a group of about 12. I knew I didn't have any snap in my legs to sprint at the finish, and went off in a break with 2 other riders. We stayed away for quite a while, but were eventually caught, and all I could do was hang on and nurse my wounds until the finish. All in all, not a very good showing, in terms of results, but it did show my some very good things. My fitness and speed are very good now, and I can compete with the best in the country in a madison.

Thursday, July 5: So we packed up and left the track, showered at Jane and Ryan's house, got the car loaded, and set out for somewhere in Wyoming, hoping to knock out a few hours of the 18 hour trip to Portland. We made it somewhere between Cheyenne and Laramie just as dawn was beginning to break, and set up our hammocks between abandoned billboards along I-80 to get a little sleep. At 8:00 we kicked out (Apparently it was a private road. We never found any signs, on the way in or out...) and back on the road. Things were pretty uneventful for the rest of the day.
It was going on midnight, and we were about 2 hours outside of Portland when we hit a tire that shredded off of a semi. Spurred by an assortment of terrible noises, we pulled off the road, and I sprawled out on the pavement to have a look under the car. There were some pieces of plastic shielding torn off and dragging, and relieved that it was something so minor, I pulled them out, pushed back those that I couldn't get off, checked over the rest of the car, and fired it back up only to hear what sounded like the car destroying itself, and not in any slow way.

Friday, July 6: After turning off the car, looking underneath again, and not seeing anything apparent, a few groggy phone calls with my dad settled the cause to be something in the exhaust. We decided the best thing to do would be to drive it the rest of the way to Portland, where we would be staying with Kate's sister Anne. The car was so loud when accelerating that we couldn't even talk while going uphill. It really sounded like the thing was killing itself, but we kept going, made it into town somewhere around 2:00 in the morning, and went to sleep with the plan to deal with it in the morning.
I got up a handful of hours later, and started calling around until we found a shop that could take in the car on such short notice, and that would be able to work on it over the weekend. That (barely) taken care of, I went on a ride to check out the track.
As it would turn out, Anne lives less than 4.5 miles away from the track, all on very bike friendly roads. Everything out here has a bike lane. It's incredible. I now know why Portland is tops the list of bike friendly cities in the US. The drivers are courteous, the bike lanes are clean, wide, and well marked. The weather is gorgeous, and everyone at the track is outgoing and laid back. We had the qualifier points race in the evening, and it went wonderfully straight off the gun. The pace was really fast, and I took plenty of points to make sure that I qualified for all the mass start races. I ended up taking fifth without really killing myself, and made $60 to boot. This was pretty cool, I've never heard of a qualifier that had a prize list, but I sure wasn't about to complain.

Saturday, July 7: We dropped the car off at the shop in the morning and headed to the track. The session dragged on an on, and as is starting to become clear to me, the endurance races are generally the last thing on the schedule. After about 3 hours of spinning on the rollers, we started the 10 mile scratch race. A bunch of fast guys turned out, including James' nemesis, Kenny Williams, Jeff Hopkins (Jittery Joes), Dan Harm, and madison national champion Chad Hartley. I wasn't feeling particularly good after everything that had preceded the race, and while I hung without my trouble, didn't really make anything happen, and just finished with the bunch, while Hartely attacked and won solo, with Hopkins leading the sprint home with the field.
After returned to Anne's, resting, and eating, I didn't start the miss and out tonight. There is no way I was going to have any worthwhile results when I'm this tired, and skipping this race will let me rest up a bit more for the madison tomorrow morning. I found a local guy who is apparently very skilled, and is willing to race with me, but with the pros in the field to keep the pace ramped and the attacks coming, it's going to be interesting to see how we do.

Sunday, July 8: The local guy I'm racing with in the madison seems like a good rider. His name is Peter, and is apparently pretty experienced, having won the local 6-day in the past. All the other locals seem to think very highly of his skills, so that's a plus. He's a masters rider, and while he says that he is taking this season easier, he looks fit, and I would rather ride with someone a little slower, who knows what they're doing, than someone who's all motor and no driver. Going into it, things looked promising.s
When the race started, there weren't as many teams as I would have expected, with only about 9 registered. Either way, there was plenty of speed to go around, with teams like Hartley and Hopkins to make the rest of us hurt. Pretty quickly it became apparent that there were three very strong teams, led by Hartley and Hopkins, with Williams and Beardsley and Harm and his Rubicon teammate mixing in as well. Peter was apparently not feeling too great, and was loosing ground on most of his pulls, and occasionally leaving me in to do double efforts (through sprints laps no less) without telling me he was going to. Either way, I spent the majority of the race chasing back onto the lead three teams, and picked up a few points in the process. We managed to stay on even laps with the leaders, while everyone else went down at least one. Things were looking good, with about 2 minutes to race (Madisons are run on time out here, with sprints every 5 minutes. Why they do this, I will never understand.) when I dropped down to be thrown in. Suddenly I feel something pushing on my rear wheel from the left, and the next thing I know, I'm skidding along the homestretch on my side, pissed off and feeling the still raw cuts on my arm getting torn open again.
So that ended my madison once again. Crashed out by my teammate. Apparently Peter had overlapped with the guy in front of him, who chopped up at an inopportune moment, pushing Peter into my wheel and taking the both of us down. My arm is now back to the state it was a few days ago after the Colorado crash, my let hip has a nice big piece of skin missing, and I have this crazy blister on the palm of my right hand. It happened in the crash, and I'm not sure how, but the thing is about 2 cm long, and a little less than 1 cm wide. It puffed up like a balloon, and actually stings more than the other two injuries.
After getting myself patched up (the medics were distracted, so I found some supplies and scrubbed everything out on my own), I was packing to leave when the organizer came up and handed me an envelope with $50 in it. It turns out that since we crashed in the last 5 laps of racing, we kept the points and laps we had, and still placed fourth. Not too bad, so that brings my weekend total thus far to $110 won.
I came back for the points race in the evening session. If there had been any lack of riders in the madison, this made up for it, with 27 taking to the rail. I scored a point in the first sprint, then all of my battered muscles caught up with me, and all I could do was claw my way onto the back of the pack for the remaining 105 laps. On the plus side, while I didn't gain a lap with the handful of riders that got away, I stuck in for the whole thing, and didn't go down a lap. Any I didn't crash, though after the flurry of pavement I've been subjected to in this last week, I wouldn't have been surprised if another one had snuck in at the very end. They ended up giving me an extra $50 at the end of the weekend for being to highest placed omnium rider from Blaine (the best from each track got this) so all in all, I walked away with $160 cash. Pretty sweet for a relatively unsuccessful weekend, at least as far as results are concerned.
Even after another botched madison, I'm just getting more and more confident in the way I'm riding. While I may not have felt that great in the other races, I continue to feel awesome in madisons, today chasing down 3 different national champions, and closing straightaway-length gaps over and over again. Now, following 4 days of hard racing, some rough travel, two bad crashes, and an expensive car mishap, I'm really looking forward to a few days of recovery. Maybe a little time in Portland, a trip up to Seattle, and then a more leisurely drive back to Minnesota, with frequent stops to ride whatever cool roads I come across on the way. If I stumble upon anything great, I'll let you know. For now, some very sound sleep is in order.

Pictures to come soon...