One of the reasons I quit racing when I was a junior- the real reason- was pressure. I put so much pressure on myself to succeed that all I could do was fail. Even moderate success was a failure. Its a bit like the '2nd is the first looser' thing. I get the point, but on the other hand, unless you're a pro, and you need to win in order to keep getting paid, the notion that winning is the only measure of success is absurd in my opinion. Now, I'm not a kids soccer coach - I think wining is awesome and I really, really like to win. But that cant be the only reason.
So the lead up to this Saturday's race I was putting a lot of pressure on myself to succeed. It was keeping me up. It was making me nervous. In fact, it still is. With good form comes expectations, and expectations create pressure. I am not immune. I don't like it. I'd rather just race, do well- what ever that means, and have fun...and not have expectations. How can I make that happen?
Part of what I really love about bike racing is tactics. I love studying opponents. I love formulating hypotheses about their behavior and testing it, confirming it, and creating a plan of attack based on that information. Its the closest I come to feeling like a predator...it arouses the same deep seated emotions. Its a blood lust. The more I study the riders, the more I feel the predatory instinct and the more I want to tear the other rider's heads off- metaphorically speaking of course. Saturday was a great study in predatory nature. It was like being in the alligator pit where natural law plays out at every level of the pecking order. Giant adult alligators pick on the adolescent ones, they on the immature ones, and they, in turn, on the little baby ones. In this alligator pit, I'm really just a little baby, but of the little babies, I'm fucking awesome.
Starting with the flying 200m for seeding each rider does three laps around the track. By the beginning of the last lap you should be just about flying. When you hit turn two, your bike hits the timing strip, activating the clock. By now, you should be full-tilt-boogey for the finish line. The faster you get there the higher in the seeding you are, and the easier your route to the final. I didn't hit turn two fast enough, I wasn't really cooking. But I wound it up and blasted home: 14:23. second best among the 5's. I was beaten by :03 seconds. Had I just hit it a bit harder...
I haven't really done much track racing here in Portland, or anywhere else for that matter. But the first person I was matched up with I already knew a little. I had raced against him in the Fast Twitch Friday that I went out for with my teammates. In the points race, he had gone hard off the front from the gun in an attempt to shell everyone, I guess. He ended up burning himself out and finishing back. I knew that he lacked experience, tactics, and maybe even a sense of how strong he thought he was. I was lucky enough to draw second wheel in the sprint - an advantage.
On the bell lap he dropped down to the sprinter's lane at turn two going full gas. I caught his wheel, followed him through turn three, pulled around by turn four and went clean wheels for the win.
My second match was nearly the same. I had seen him in his previous heat and hadn't displayed a lightning quick jump. All I felt I needed was to make sure to catch his wheel. I would have enough to get by on the third or fourth turn.
In the final, I was matched up against a Half Fast Velo rider. He too had not shown a big jump. Instead, he had jumped and preceded to burn the other rider off his wheel. He had done that twice. Its a good tactic, if you have the motor. I drew first wheel for the final, after two second wheels I was due, I guess. But I was unhappy about it. My lack of experience had me worried. Would I make a stupid error and let the win slip away? I knew that if I dialed it up and kept the pace high that I would neutralize what jump he did have, and make chasing him down easier. I stayed high along the top of the track, keeping an eye on him over my left shoulder. That way he couldn't disappear and surprise me. We burned through the first two laps at about twenty mph or so. Right at the apex between turn one and two on the bell lap he attacked below me, taking the sprinters lane. I attacked down the banking, grabbed his wheel and pulled around him on turn three. By turn four I was clear, in the sprinters lane, and coming home clean wheels. I'd won. Best baby alligator of the bunch- Catagory 5 state sprint champion.
all photos courtesy of Jose brujo Sandoval- Thanks, Jose.