Today was the first day of racing at the UCI Master’s World Track Championships. My first race, the Scratch Race is today. In the morning I took a short ride along the coast, then showered packed up and headed to the velodrome. Only one session today, starting at 2pm. I put on my usual mass start racing gear of 52×15, warmed up on my rollers, got my bike inspected and was ready to go. In the mass start races they choose half of the field to start on the rail and half on the blue band. If you start on the blue band you need to provide a holder. One of the many things I didn’t know before hand. Dan Smith helped me out and we started our 20 lap (5km) qualifier. We had 20 starters and 12 of us would go on to the final later in the afternoon/evening. I was VERY nervous. Not so much about the racing part, but of riding a bike that has no brakes while surrounded by 23 other riders on 45 degree banking. I’m kind of rusty on that part of things.
We started off and I was able to slot myself into 3rd wheel and was able to chill and stay out of trouble while one of the Argentinian’s rode tempo on the front. My biggest concern was getting swarmed and having the legs to do well, but being boxed in. As the laps counted down I was weighing on whether or not to make a move yet. I waited one lap too long and at about 6 to go got swarmed pretty badly. There were times when I was surrounded by guys who were closer to me than I like and had to tell myself to relax. Frankly, it was scary for me at times. Not because of poor riding around me, but because my comfort level is not what it could be in close quarters on the track. The last few laps were very fast and I moved up when I could, but at the finish I wasn’t sure if I had made it or not. In the end I finished 11th and made it into the final.
For the final, I geared up. I was going to switch to a 53×15, but realized that my 53 tooth cog is on my pursuit bike which was back at the VRBO house. So I looked at a gear chart and went with a 50×14. That’s about 1 inch more gear than the 53×15. I got my bike checked again and this time I was on the rail so I didn’t need a holder. My lack of aggression in the qualifier almost made me miss the final. For this one I knew that I needed to “got big or go home”. I was only going to do well in the race from a break away. I wasn’t going to win, or even get on the podium in a bunch sprint. My best bet was to attack and if I got caught, attack again.
A few laps in I attacked and was in a short lived break. We stayed out about 2-3 laps and were brought back. I recovered for a few laps in the pack and went again. I was joined by fellow Hellyerite Bill Brissman and two Canadian’s, Krzysztof Kurzawinski and Stephane Le Beau. We made good progress. Krzysztof in particular was really strong. Unfortunately Bill came off and as the three of us started closing on the back of the field, Krzysztof gapped Stephane and I and caught the field on his own. Stephane and I made contact about a lap later, but the field was in pieces and it was hard to keep track of where Krzysztof was. BTW, did I mention that this was really hurting? I made my way from group to group and was able to tag onto Larry Nolan as he closed one of the gaps to the front group. From there we only had 4-5 laps to go and I just kept moving up as much as I could. As the wind up for the sprint started I was giving all I had to stay on the wheels up around 6th spot. I didn’t think that the two Canadian’s were ahead of me, but frankly I wasn’t sure. In the end I held them off, but it wasn’t for another 10-15 minutes that I knew i had won.
Seeing as how this race was the first on my schedule this week I spent a lot of time imagining how I’d win this race. I’m big on that sort of thing. In fact I think my Tour de France of my imagination palmares rivals Eddy Merckx. 🙂 I came here thinking that I could win this race, but also knowing that I could end up last, or possibly not even making the final. There are so many other elements that go into a mass start track race than a TT or hill climb. In fact, doing so poorly in the qualifier probably helped me in the final.
I have to admit that I got a little misty when they played the national anthem.
Next up is the 2km Pursuit on Tuesday, Points Race on Thursday and Team Pursuit on Saturday. From here on out, qualifiers will be in the morning 9am session and finals will be in the afternoon session.
Edited to add the updated YouTube feed (music and commentary muted due to music licensing issues)