Wake Up

Time to catch up. Things have been crazy the last few days.

Day 5 at Forest City started to pick up the pace in the madison, and had attacks being thrown left and right in the madisons. In the end, the status quo was maintained, and the leader board didn't shift much: Ontario held onto their lead, and Garnett and I widened our gap on Quebec by a few points.

Day 6 was where the shake ups happened. In the first madison, after the first príme sprint, we attacked the gapped Quebec team. A little bit of conservation in the sprint paid off, as Garnett and I drove the attack all the way around, and while we had to pull Ontario with us, we cracked Quebec, putting them down a lap. After the intermediate sprints, we did it again. They were done. We passed the 100 point barrier, putting them down another lap. By the time the first madison was finished, we suddenly had a 3 lap lead on third place, and they were needing to start fighting off challenges from Delhi, who had been trying to take back the laps they lost earlier, and a complacent field had let them, not feeling threatened. Suddenly the found themselves on even footing with Quebec.

Things were pretty standard in the miss-and-out, and I took second to Daniele (again!). Life got exciting again in the final madison, when with about 5 minutes left to race, I threw Garnett into the race, and the tire rolled off my rear wheel. It rotated around, and since it didn't blow out, jammed between the side of the rim and my right chainstay. This locked up my rear wheel, and sent me skidding from the finish line on the homestretch all the way through turn 1. Fishtailing like crazy, I somehow managed to keep it upright through the 50 degree banking before coming to a rest on the apron and tipping over rather gently. All in all, about a 40 meter skid, from 40 km/h to 0. I took a little of the blue band with on my rim, and left a nice track of rubber on the track. Kind of like my way of saying "Brian was here.'

Rob gave me his bike to get back into the race, but it was a bit too small, with a small gear, and I was terrified to ride it, so after doing one tenuous pull, told Garnett to finish off on his own. We managed to not lose a lap, and finished off the 6-day in second overall. I was pretty pleased.

That night I tore down my bikes, packed things up, glued a tire onto my Zipp, slept briefly, glued a tire onto my Cane Creek wheel, and headed off to the airport in Buffalo. Flew to Chicago, met up with Adrian, flew to Amsterdam, got picked up by Butterworth, and learned at breakfast that he had signed us up for a race that night. Awesome, Adrian and I both felt like death, and now we had to build our bikes, try to rest and rehydrate, and then jump into a race.

We headed to the Alkmaar velodrome, loosened up a bit, got lunch, checked into a hostel, and went back for the race. Suffice to day, I was happy with my not-quite-last place in the first couple of races, as was Adrian in his early races, and we were mercifully placed in the "B" madison at the end of the night. At this point we were coming around a little, and scraped together a second place finish among 10 teams (the lowest 10 placed teams after the initial individual races, but we won't linger on that). We came away pretty satisfied, for our first ride together, and considering the circumstances, it wasn't too shabby.

Time to go back to the track. Happy Halloween!

Day 4: Attacks

If the first three days started off with some manner of control, the final three days dispensed with the niceties. First off, Daniele was on hand, but without a bike, as it was in transit with Dave, and summarily stuck in traffic. We started a few minutes late to let him throw his wheels on, but after the thrashing Daniele dished out to us last weekend, we declined to let him warm up, and plunged into the first scratch race. He still took second, behind Quebec. That fast jerk.

The first madison didn't mess around, either. The first half of a lap was at a painfully slow roll, so I went to the front to tempo things up a bit. I guess this caught a few people unaware, so Garnett and I parleyed it into an attack. I'd like to think we made some people work, and hurt some legs, but ultimately the group came back together. The attacks didn't stop there, though. Coming into the last sprint, I had a gap on the field and threw Garnett into the race with about 4.5 laps to go. Unfortunately, I was overzealous, and threw him right into my bars, which picked the front end of my bike up, turned the wheel, and set me back down somewhere near 40 km/h. I thought I was going to hit the deck, but somehow rode away from it. It's lucky we had that gap so that no one else was around to feel my wobbly wrath. Anyway, my pedal released, and I had to skip the last exchange, spelling disaster for poor Garnett, who hit the wall with half a lap to go and was swept over by our most immediate competition, Quebec.

Somewhere in the second half of this race, Team Delhi snuck off the front and took back a lap. Ontario, Quebec, and ourselves were content to let Team London do the chasing, as they had the most at stack, but by the time they took the front, Delhi had 3/4 of a lap, and came around to rejoin the group.

In the miss-and-out I managed a third place finish, again behind Daniele, but both of us behind the surprise winner of Mike Renneboog of Team Delhi. I was bemoaning stomach cramps the whole night, but it turns out Mike was straight up vomiting during the session (several times) and even more afterwards. So I'll just keep my mouth shut there.

Things were equally fast in the last madison of the night, but for all the attacking, Garnett and I just couldn't seem to crack Team Quebec and put them down a lap. We did have success in the sprints though, and kept our lead on them to 24 points. The final standings for the night have Team Ontario in first, and they moved up a lap by reaching 100 points, while at one lap down is Team Can-Am (us) in second, followed by Team Quebec. The battle for fourth and fifth has Team Delhi leading Team London, both at 4 laps down. With more attacks in the final two days, Garnett and I will be trying to crack some legs, and gain a lap or two.

3 Jours de Genéve

Vel d'Hiv, in Geneva, Switzerland

The other day we got the official confirmation that we will be riding the 3 Jours de Genéve. So now Switzerland has been added to the racing plans. The 3-Days of Geneva isn't part of the UIV Talent Cup, so there isn't a U-25 category like the other races I'll be doing. The upside is that by racing the pro/elite field, we'll get to do everything. Most of sixes only have the U-25 riders doing a 200 or 250 lap madison each night. But in Geneva we'll get to do the whole show: madison, points, keirin, and even derny racing. I have no idea how that's going to work out. Should be exciting though.

I hope I get a fat derny driver.

Also, when I say "we," I'm referring to myself and my partner for the European 6-days, Adrian Hegyvary. I haven't met him yet, but in talking to him, he seems really nice, and had some good advice as to what to bring, etc. Last season he won a day at the Coppenhagen 6-day with Kevin LaCombe, so he's plenty fast as well.

Vel d'Hiv is the velodrome we'll be racing on in Geneva. It looks like they've been into derny racing since the 1920's, at least.

First Ride

Well, the wheels lived up to expectations. While the tires may be conspicuously not Tufos, the Cane Creek wheels worked out beautifully. On a track this small, stiffness is everything, as you get slammed pretty hard going through the turns at 60+km/h. I've never had tied and soldered wheels before, but the guys here swear by them, so there's probably something to it. All I did was train with the new wheels tonight, but they're noticeably stiffer than my training wheels, and felt about on par with my 808's in terms of stiffness, but being as they're quite a bit lighter, they tend to spin up faster.

Racing on Friday, with the (slightly) bigger gears and higher speeds will be a more realistic test. First impressions are highly favorable though. More to come on that.

Some of you have expressed doubt as to the actual existence of David Butterworth, the promoter who's coordinating my racing in Europe this year. He was here for the first 3 days of racing, but had to leave this week to go manage a British team at the Amsterdam 6-day. So as proof of his existence, I submit this picture, taken by me, of a one Mr. David Butterworth, live, in person, on a bike, and on a velodrome no less.

This photo is even more rare than a photo of a leprechaun riding on Big Foot's shoulder.

Coffee, Cycling, and New Wheels

Coffee and cycling just seem to go together. Bianchi has a bike they describe as a "Cafe Racer," anywhere you go you can find a "coffee shop ride," and most riders I know like to kick start their systems with a cup or two before a race. If Euro-pro is the style, coffee is the must-have accessory. But try as I may, I just don't like the stuff. I tried all summer to ween myself onto it, working up with iced mochas, and other sugary drinks filled with enough milk, sugar, and chocolate mask the coffee itself. No luck.

Last Saturday, when everyone was showing up for Day 2 of racing, Daniele walked in cradling an enormous coffee maker in his arms. Vince showed up with another one. They trotted down the infield, plugged the in, pulled out some cups, and starting kicking out espressos. Now the ties between cycling and coffee were getting even more explicit. Jet Fuel beans were poured into a Saeco coffee maker (Which was an impressive machine. Put in whole beans, push a button, and a few seconds later it spit out a fresh, hot double shot of espresso.) sitting on the infield of a velodrome during a 6-day.

Some of you may have heard that I'll be joining Speedfix Racing for next season. Sponsors and riders are still being finalized, but one company that's been on board for a while is Cane Creek. When Der Kruser told them about the racing I was going to be doing this fall, they decided to hook me up with some new wheels to race on.
They were even good enough to send ones that had been tied and soldered, and had tires already glued on. And they shipped the to me here in Canada. I'm pretty pumped to try them out at training tomorrow night.

Taking these factors into account, here's my 10 step plan for the final 3 days of the Forest City 6-day:
1. Arrive at the track
2. Drink an espresso
3. Change into riding clothes
4. Drink an espresso
5. Put on fast new wheels
6. Drink an espresso
7. Warm up
8. Drink an espresso
9. ???
10. Win

There's a good chance that step 9 will either be "Develop heart condition," or "Vomit." In either case, I figure the combination of new wheels and scary amounts of coffee is the only way I'll be able to stop Daniele from winning all the sprints at will. I'll let you know what happens.

Oh Canada

This country is drunk on hockey and Tim Horton's.


Day 3: Blow Outs

A funny thing has happened over the first 3 days of racing. Despite spending several hours a day racing, not getting as much sleep as I would like, and habitually neglecting to cool down, I've felt better each day. Maybe it's getting used to the track and being able to relax. Maybe it's the small gears. Whatever it is, I like it.

While being called over to the rider meeting today, everyone turned to hear the distinctive pop and hiss of a tubular blow out and going flat. To be precise, my tubular, on my rear race wheel. A decidedly inauspicious start to the day. I put on my training wheel, and went for it. Better on the infield than when racing, I suppose.

Things improved from there, though. Garnett and I taking third and second, respectively, in the opening scratch race. Grabbed some more cash in the primes during the first madison, before I proceeded to ride like an idiot at take last in my sprint. Garnett did pretty well though, and picked up some points for us. A few more primes, a good finish in the final sprint, and we were on to the miss-and-out.

Garnett throwing me onto Scott's wheel (London). Scott would go down today, his partner, Brandon, going down yesterday.

Somewhere in the first two events, our primary opponent, Team Quebec, dropped from third to fourth, and Team Delhi overtook them with by picking up consistent points, though never winning the sprints. One of the Quebec riders has been suffering these last two days, and it was starting to show. Garnett and I, on the other hand, consolidate our grip on second, but gained only modestly on the first place team, Ontario.

Given my questionable early elimination in the miss-and-out last night, I wanted to leave no doubt today. I still played the devil, as usual, but made sure everyone I picked off was clearly out, even if it meant taking one or two additional hard pedal strokes. As on the first day, the final 3 riders were me and Team Ontario, but this time I only successfully dispatched of Vince, and was unable to come around Daniele, taking second.

Despite Hanz's prediction, my luck has held out, as well as the fabric on my shorts. They have not (yet) been torn off by a particularly fierce throw.

The fourth madison involved some real racing. Things started out fast by manageable, and we took more cash in the primes. We both placed well in our intermediate sprints, as well as the primes that followed. Following one prime sprint, we found ourselves off the front with Team Ontario, but after a few laps, eased up for reasons that I'm still not sure of (even though I was part of it...) and the race came back together. Team London had attacked to try to take a lap yesterday, but crashed themselves out with only about 20 meters to go before catching us. They're sitting in last, so no one was too concerned about them going around, as 100 points racing becomes a lap, and they were too far back in the points to be a long-term threat. A $100 prime to the first team that lapped the field provided them plenty of motivation, though. They tried again today, and being even further back on points that the day before, the pack gave them some distance. We made them work in the middle of it, but eventually the succeeded in coming around. Then the somehow managed to crash themselves out, again. Earlier we had joked that we could just let them go, that they would take themselves out before getting the lap. Well, it was close. They went down only shortly after taking the lap.

Strung out in turn 4, with London leading, Can-Am (me) in second, Ontario in third, Quebec in fourth, and Delhi in fifth.

After this, the racing started to really get interesting. I won a prime sprint, and then we took second to Ontario in the next one. At that point, I was felling pretty spent, and I think Garnett was too. Daniele took that opportunity, and put the hammer down. We chased, and things blew apart. Teams London and Delhi both lost laps, Delhi going down 2, London 3. We held strong, somewhere ahead of Quebec, but about half a lap behind Ontario. With only a few minutes left to race, the lap cards went up for the final sprint: only 10 to go. A lap or two later, I noticed a rider behind me. I threw Garnett in, believing Quebec was our wheel, but it turned out to be Ontario, having successfully gone everyone now, with Quebec another 30 meters back. Ontario beat us out for the sprint, and we took second place points, thinking we had gone down a lap.

Me throwing in Garnett, pursued by Team Delhi.

Somewhere in all of this, controversy was brewing. The officials decided not to give Ontario the lap on us and Quebec, citing a rule that they posted stating that no team can lose a lap in the final 10 lap sprint. I think this is pretty lame. Ontario made a smart attack, and gained the lap. What's more, the rule is in place to prevent a blown team that has hung in the race until the end from going down a lap because the leaders come around them in the final sprint, needing to only cover 138 meters on them. No one went down a lap like this. Rather, Ontario went up a lap. While it will strengthen their lead, I still think that Ontario should be granted the lap. The call is still in discussion, so we don't know just what the final scoring will be, but in any case, it won't change the standings of the teams at all.

Oh yeah, all photos today are stolen from www.rememberwhenimages.com. You can see others from the first two days of racing here. Scroll down to the bottom to find them.

Day 2: The Taste of Success

Very briefly, we just got back (it's going on 1:00 AM, and we leave for the track tomorrow at 10:00 AM) from a much more successful night of racing.

My legs felt absolutely ruined during warm-ups, and my hopes were down. But things came around once the racing started. I got in a break during the initial scratch race, and took third. In the first madison, I took second in my sprint, and Garnett did the same in his. We messed up the last sprint yet again, but did manage place in one of the primes, netting a bit of cash.

I was robbed in the miss-and-out. I came over the top, once again playing the devil, and was called out. I maintain I nipped Byer at the line, and many fans corroborated my claim, but the officials didn't go for it. Oh well.

In the second madison, I was feeling good. All the twitchiness and tension of yesterday's racing was out of my system, my top speeds were about 4 or 5 km/h faster, and my legs were feeling better as well. Garnett and I won a prime, took second in another (The primes here go to more than just the first team. It's pretty sweet). I won my sprint, Garnett took second in his, and we reclaimed second place. When the final sprint came around, I threw Garnett in with 5 to go, and he punched it with everything he had. It turned out to be enough, because when he threw me in with 2 to go, I inherited about a 10 meter advantage. I came past the Quebec team's relief rider, (these guys have been pulling some dangerous, illegal stunts these last few days) just before they lived up to their reputation, and in some manner or another, stopped up all the chasers. I crossed the line with 15 or 20 meters, netting first place in the double points for the final, and Garnett and I strengthened our hold on second.

I'll be glad if tomorrow goes as well as today did, and really happy if it continues to improve like this as I get more comfortable with the track and Garnett and I improve at racing together.

Day 1: Acclimation

First night of racing in the Forest City 6-Day was tonight. Things didn't start off too well. The program began with a 30 lap scratch race, with all riders in, and I just felt twitchy and out of control. The sprint came, and while I could hold the speed, I couldn't come around anyone for the life of me. I finished somewhere in the middle, right behind Garnett. In any case, it was points enough to put us into second.

Next up was a 30 minute madison. While most madisons are done like points races, with a handful of sprints thrown into the process of the slings, Forest City does it a bit differently. There is only one sprint during the course of the race, with a second sprint at the finish. The mid-race sprint isn't quite normal either. First of all, racing on time, there aren't any lap cards counting down until there are 10 laps to go before a sprint, and this is announced with a whistle. Then on rider from each team comes off the track, and the remaining riders have a 10 lap sprint race, then they leave the track, their partners come on and do the same, and finally everyone gets back on, with the first group now becoming the field. Convoluted? You bet. This is another idiosyncrasy I'm not keen on. It seriously detracts from the flow of the race, and doesn't for you to be prepared to make an exchange right after a sprint, and either cover an attack of make one yourself. Immediately after the sprint is the prime time to attack! Why would you remove that from the race? At least the final sprint is still run with all riders in the race, but you can't attack after that one.

One upside of the one rider on/one rider off sprints is that it lets you grab a drink halfway through a 45 minute race.

In any case, I rode pretty poorly in my sprint in the first madison, but Garnett won his, keeping us in second, and lending our team a hint of credibility.

Winding it up...

Next up was the miss-and-out. I like these races, but wasn't sure how my standard technique of playing the devil and riding from the back would work out. After all, in the first two races, I had either no or very limited success is coming over riders in the sprint. Heedless to common sense of adapting my plan, I rode from the back. The funny this is that it worked. The final three riders were the pair of Team Ontario (Daniele DeFranceschi and Vince DeJong) and myself. I came over Daniele, and he was out. I jumped on Vince's wheel when he attacked, but he seemed to be tiring, and coming out of turn four, I picked him off for the win. This was quite a moral boost, as I my riding was longer hapless, Vince is considered one of the track's most promising young riders, and Daniele had won the Canadian national omnium title a few weeks ago. Things were looking up.

...and throwing down.

The last event was a 45 minute madison. Bolstered by the miss-and-out, I rode more aggressively and took second in my sprint, and believe Garnett did the same in his. Unfortunately, my legs started to load up with about 10 minutes to go. Garnett and I had decided to try taking the last sprint by attacking at 10 to go. He threw me in just as the cards came out, I made a dash over the field, strung it out, and started sucking wind. I got Garnett back in the race just I was hitting the wall, and while he held off the most of the field, when he threw me in at 3 or 4 to go, I was toast. I dropped anchor. We finished the sprint in last, and with double points, dropped to third. Oh well, now we know what we can do, and I'm finally getting more comfortable racing on this track, so I can only imagine tomorrow will be smoother.

Perimeter Institute

Here is Waterloo is something I never expected, and that, in some ways, seems terribly out of place. It's called the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics. Rob pointed out the building on the first night I arrived, and summed it up as a place where they bring people to let them sit around and think for a while. He's pretty much right. The Perimeter Institute is similar to Washington think tank, but devoted entirely to theoretical physics.

For a physics and astrophysics student, stumbling upon this, in a small city in Ontario, is like striking gold. I wandered in yesterday, talked the guy working at the desk, and asked if I could sit in on some of their seminars while I'm in town. He says that generally the lectures are just for those who are working at the Institute, but that seeing as I have a physics background, that I would be welcome to attend. I neglected to mention that I've only had two years of cursory instruction in the field, but in any case, it should provide something to nurture my nerdy side next week. It looks like I'm in well over my head, too.

Maybe I'll get to stop by CERN and have a look when we're in Geneva next month. I could make this my velodrome racing and theoretical physics world tour. Awesome.

The Anatomy of a Pocket Sling

The track itself aside, there is one crucial difference between a madison at the Forest City Velodrome, and a madison at every other track I've raced.

The pocket sling. No hand slings here. Rather than the riders locking hands to exchange into the race, the relief rider keeps both hands on the bars and drops down like normal. The rider in the race, meanwhile, draws up along side their partner, puts his left hand on the tops, but now pushes his partner in the lower back to get make the switch. A mere push is only the most rudimentary form, though. A true pocket sling requires, as its name alludes to, a pocket. And the shorts you wear are no normal riding shorts. They're made with a more static material around the waist, which comes a bit higher than normal, have padding around the hips (apparently predicting the worst) and a tall, narrow pocket sewn on the inside of the short, running vertically along the left hip.

The specialization doesn't end there, though. You also have what's called a "jamming tool." In my rather improvised case, it's a rolled up paper town, wrapped in duct tape until it's about 6 inches long, and 1.25 inches in diameter. This goes into the aforementioned pocket, and give your partner something to grab onto when throwing you in. At this point, it's clear to see that the pocket sling is considerably more than just a push. You grab this lump attached to your partner's hip, and thanks to the more static material, hurl them for all you're worth.

Here's the back view of the shorts. That wad on the left is my jamming tool. Garnett wasn't quite satisfied, so he may make one more to his specifications, seeing as it matters more for him than I. The white line shows where the inside pocket is, so that your partner knows what to aim for in the race.

After one night of practice, I'm still not entirely sold on the pocket sling, but am starting to see it's virtues. The relief rider never comes behind their partner, making the new wheel easier to follow for the other racers. It's also a lot simpler, technically speaking, to pull off than a hand sling. At slow speeds, and pocket sling can be as simple and just putting your hand on the back of your partner, matching their speed to that of the pack, and then slowing down yourself. When things aren't on the rivet, it's much more natural than a hand sling.

I still have my reservations, though. Namely, I don't like dropping into the race and getting thrown in with no control of how hard the throw is. If the line stacks up in front of you, you had better hope your partner notices and holds back, rather than hurling you into the wheel ahead of you. Maybe I'm a control freak, but I like being able to attenuate my throw if traffic is getting iffy up the track. The other thing I don't like as much is that you can't come in with as great of a speed differential when you're on relief. You need to pretty much match the speed on your own by virtue of the banking, and your partner can just provide and extra boost from there. All in all, it means you need to spend more energy on the act of entering the race, which no one really likes, especially when they're already in the box.

I still have some hand sling habits to get over by race time, like finishing my throw downtrack to put my partner into the lane. Garnett explained this to me (with remarkable composure) after I threw him in, pushing him downtrack to the point where our bars collided. We rode out of it just fine, but without that arm extending backwards, you don't have as much space. Lesson learned. I hope the learning curve isn't that steep when racing starts tomorrow night.

138 meters

Imagine riding your bike around the inside of a barrel.

That about sums up my introduction to the Forest City Velodrome this afternoon. 138 meters long, with 17 degree straight aways and 50 degree turns. You enter the turn, drop your shoulder, and without trying, pick up speed thanks to the trusty ol' conservation of angular momentum. What's more, you're forced down into the saddle, and feel like you're going much, much faster than you really are. Sprint laps take about 9 to 10 seconds. It literally verges on dizzying. On the upside, being that the turn radius is so short, you can go pretty much as slowly as you like at the bottom of the track, and you won't slide off. Not the case higher up, though. I tried pushing my luck (not a good idea, given my record this season) and found that between the blue line and the rail, you'll start to slide somewhere around 23 km/h. I recovered from the slide though, and now I know.

Time for some pictures!
They built the track in an old ice arena. The original plans called for it to be 142 meters in length, but the realized that wouldn't fit, and had to make a last minute change to 138. They say it's the shortest velodrome in the world.

The view looking down the home straight.

The entrance and exits of the turns create a strange optical illusion. When you're riding, it looks like the track is slightly bowed up near the blue line, and curves down as you go towards the floor and rail. Rob assures me it is just an illusion, but I have my doubts.

The masters riders here are pretty awesome. Take our masters riders, and then imagine the guys that were masters riders when they were born. Those who are still alive and nimble enough to get on a bike are up here in London. There's only about five of them left, but with that many track riders in their 80's, it's pretty impressive. One is 89, and doesn't show any sign of quiting. How many 90 year-olds are riding anywhere else, let alone on 50 degree banking?

This is my partner for the 6-Day, Garnett Abbey. He's pretty awesome, and I was tipped off to that fact when we were introduced, and first thing he says is "Ha! Our money is worth more than yours! By 2 cents! This hasn't happened since, like, 1976. You probably weren't even born then!" Needless to say, I like Garnett, and like icing on the cake, he's fast too.

The Forest City Velodrome even has bunks for the A-riders, just like the European 6-Days. This is where Garnett and I will be living throughout the race. Being the first ones there today, we got first pick, and chose the one with the best view of the finish line.

Me and track director (and my host) Rob Good. We may look like zombies, but I assure you, we are both very much alive.

Racing starts this Friday. So far, my legs have felt good on this trip, so hopefully that will prove to be the case in the races. I'll keep you posted on what happens.

Welcome to Canada

After two flight cancellations, a rescheduling, placement on a different airline, a rerouting, and a late plane, I've made it to Canada. I'm staying in Waterloo with Rob Good, the director of the Forest City Velodrome. It may have been some hellish travel, but we did get to take a short diversion on the way from Buffalo to Waterloo and see Niagara Falls, complete with the miniature Canadian equivalent of Las Vegas, the EPCOT Center, and State Fair Midway all rolled into one. There were at least 3 wax museums (famous villains, rocks stars, and normal--in that wax museum sort of normal), an indoor amusement park, a casino, and an animatronic guy climbing a rope outside the Guinness Book of Records Museum. Oh yeah, and the whole place is covered, top to bottom, in neon lights. Nothing like letting the majesty of nature shine through.

It looks like the bikes and wheels survived the trip, but the TSA did open up my backpack, and spill H.E.E.D. powder everywhere. Now nearly everything I have with me is covered in the residue of a sticky powder that smells and tastes like lime dish soap.

It Official!

After a season of traveling, more racing than I've ever done, and several months of not getting any certain confirmations, I've been confirmed to start the Dortmund 6-Day this year. I leave on Monday for 2 weeks of training and racing at the Forest City Velodrome in London, Ontario, and depart directly from there for Amsterdam. On November 1, I'll get to test my legs in the European 6-day scene.

If I'm lucky, we'll be able to leverage the Dortmund start into an invite to the Munich 6-day the next week. After that I'll be racing a 3-day in Geneva before moving on to Gent. If I get to race there, that would be amazing. Otherwise I'll stick around, meet up with Bob Williams and Bill Nicholson, and take it in as a spectator.

Tentatively, after coming back to the US for a couple weeks, I'll be off to the Burnaby Velodrome in Vancouver, British Columbia for a 6-day that runs from December 30 to January 4. Forget the cross season as being epic, the 6-day scene is where the real action is!

One last nationals note...

It's a while past, and you may have already heard, but the final day of nationals was a bit of a disappointment. Hanz, Franz, and DGC rode a good team sprint, but came up with 6th, one spot out of the medals (This is familiar; Ferris, Richter, and I finished in 6th in this event two years ago). They had done considerably faster before, so I think they were a bit down about this one. Regardless, they had a solid ride.

Ferris and DGC also raced the kierin, and put in a pretty decent showing. Ferris set the new nationals fashion trend by wearing not only padded Japanese kierin shorts, but a full set of BMX chest, shoulder and arm pads. Keep an eye out for this one to crop up all over the National Track Racing Calendar next year. Neither qualified through their first rounds, and they both ended up in the same rep. You had to win to advance, but they both came up short. Oh well, they rode well, and both stayed upright.

My luck on the day didn't improve from the rest of the week. In fact, it got considerably worse. I pumped up my rear wheel before warming up, only to find that it had gone flat. Fortunately, DGC was willing to let me ride his disc in the madison, which was conveniently at the end of the session. On to that... I started in the race. My partner, Steen, was beginning on relief. I made the first few laps, and didn't see him. At first I thought he had just hesitated in leaving the rail, so that he could position himself in an open part of the track. But I still didn't see him. So I started to think I had missed him. By now we were about 6 laps into the race, and I was getting confused. About 8 laps in, I saw him walking along the apron, his bike being carried by someone else. So he crashed. Maybe he would get back in... I kept riding. By 12 laps into the race, it was clear he wasn't coming back. I dropped out. We didn't even get in a single exchange. Lame.

I walked down the stairs to the infield, and encountered a half-frantic Ferris, carrying Steen's jersey, with the other set of madison numbers still pinned to it. Apparently he had seen Steen crash, and when he realized Steen wasn't able to keep riding, ran up, told him to give him the jersey, and implored the officials to let Chris race with me. They would have none of it though. Bummer, but a nice try on Chris's part. It would have been awesome to get to race, at least in some capacity. It turns out some other relief rider, riding too slowly through turn 4, slid out, and hit Steen and Mike Friedman on the way down. Steen got the worst of the deal, landing on the first guy's handlebars, and getting some deep-tissue bruising on his hip and back. He's out for the season.

Now I've had some pretty raw luck all season. It definitely didn't go unnoticed, though. Earlier in the week, Scott from Fixed Gear Fever had told me to make sure to stick around after the madison awards, that he had some special award for me. I was a bit nervous about just what this would entail, but hung around regardless. It turns out I was awarded the jersey for the "Unluckiest Rider" on the National Track Racing Calendar. No kidding, they actually made up a special jersey, and presented it to me along with the other--and in most cases, more legitimate-- awards.
What's really amazing is that I managed to garner the award prior to the madison failure at Nationals. So I guess it's only fitting that my luck, bad as it may be, continue unabated through my last American race of the season.

Points Race Disappointments

The points races and the conclusion of the sprint tournaments were on the schedule today. Things didn't feel very good for me, right from the start. All through warm-ups, I felt just alright. Nothing more, not bad, but just alright. The biggest concern was that I couldn't get my heart rate up to anywhere near my LT. Efforts on the track, sprints on the rollers, I just couldn't get it within 10-15 beats per minute of where it should have been. Some serious rest in order when I get back to Minnesota.

My heat did not go well. It was a similar story to how I felt in the scratch race yesterday. My legs didn't hurt, they weren't loading up, and my lungs weren't burning. I just couldn't go fast. To sum it up quickly, I didn't qualify. The race was fast, but I should have been in it. I guess this is what happens when you try to train through Elite Nationals. You get taken to task for not being absolutely on top of your game.

DGC didn't have a particular lot of luck in his heat, either. At least his was a lot more like a points race, with lots of attacks and good sprints, the pace going up and down. Mine pretty much just stayed strung out, more like a scratch race. Not that exciting...

Probably the coolest thing to watch was the final of the men's sprint tournament. Michael Blatchford took the jersey this year, beating Ben Barczewski in two rides. Blatchford's speed is amazing, but the really stunning thing is how powerful his jump his. When the two jumped side by side, Blatchford just pulled away. All the more amazing, considering that Ben has no lack of jump himself.

Tomorrow we round out Nationals for this year. I'll have the madison with Steen Rose, Ferris and DGC will be racing the keirin, and Hanz, Franz, and the DGC will be chasing hardware in the team sprint. It looks like the last day of racing holds the best possibility for the Minnesota contingent this year. One last shot.

On the boards

Today was the second day of racing out here. Yesterday Hanz, Franz, DGC, and Captain Midnight took to the track, the first 3 competing in the 250 m standing lap time trial, and the latter 2 doing the kilo. The starting gate was none too friendly to Hanz and Franz, one jumping it, the other hesitating as to avoid just that issue. DGC seems to have it nailed though, and in the end, they all ended up with times within 5 hundredths of a second, in the neighborhood of 20.2 seconds. Ferris overcame his kilo demons of last year, and pulled off a 1:11.7, while DGC came up a bit short of his goal of going under 1:10, with a 1:11.1. All in all, not a bad day.

The session today was a massive one. Unlike past years, which have usually had a morning and an afternoon session, everything is being done in one fell swoop. And I don't really like it. We arrived at the track at 10:00 AM, got ready, and warmed up for a noon start. First was the men's pursuit. Then the women's pursuit. Then some women's kierin rounds. Finally we came around to men's flying 200 sprint qualification. Nevermind that this was at 3:00 PM, over 3 hours after warm-ups on the track had ended. DGC turned an 11.89 (I think), Franz was disappointed with a time that was in the low 12's, and Ferris was less than thrilled with his high 11. Was there any redemption, you ask? Quite. Hanz (aka Taylor) threw down an 11.4 and qualified in the top 10. That's more like it. He didn't fare so well in the heats, being dispatched by Ryan Nelman, but still, he made it into the rounds, and with a very respectable time at that.

After a few rounds of match sprinting, we finally got to the scratch race heats. While all sorts of reasonable logic would have the scratch race heats go early in the program, with the final at the end, but USA Cycling has forsaken that sort of thing. So the first heat took to the track just before 5:00 PM. Being in the third heat, I had to wait through 2 40 lap races before I would take to the track. DGC was in the second heat, and perhaps the rigorous slate of racing he made up for himself was taking its toll, as he left the race partway through. When my heat came around, my head just wasn't in it. My legs felt stale, and I had anything but a killer instinct going. I actually felt kind of drowsy. Not the state you want to be in at nationals. In any case, I made a few feeble attempts to get into breaks that would hopefully lap the field, but all came up fruitless. Only one rider made it around to take a lap, an in the mean time, I sat at the rear of the pack wondering what was wrong with my legs. The sprint came, I didn't have it in me to shove my wheel to the front (they were only take 8 of the 20+ riders in each heat) and I missed out on qualifying for the final. Oddly, I'm not too upset about it. The average speed was just below 50 km/h, and I hung in without much trouble. The problem is, I should have been doing much more than just hanging in. I know I can ride far better than I did today. Oh well, it's only the scratch race. The points race is tomorrow, and the madison is on Sunday, both of which I enjoy more than the scratch. Hopefully I can get my scheduling worked out, and not spend more than 8 hours at the track this time.

On the road again

I've had about month back in Minnesota, and now it's time to keep moving.

Next stop: Elite Track National Championships in Los Angeles.

I'll be racing the scratch race on Thursday, points race on Friday, and the madison on Saturday. The first two races are important, but what I really want to do is rock the madison. But yet again, I'll be riding it with someone I've never met, this time with a racer out of Texas named Steen Rose. He seems like a nice guy, and has some good results, so hopefully everything will come together.

Also going out this year from Blaine are Captain Midnight, Hanz, Franz, and DGC. It should be a fun week.

Bob and Bill have been doing a ton of work driving the motor for me, and plenty of other riders have come out to help me train as well (Sickboy and Dubay especially). It would be awesome if I could transfer some of that training into decent results this year at Nat's. Time will tell.