Saturday, December 22, 2007

holding patterns

Three more days till racing starts. Three more days. All I've been doing the last few days is riding and resting. Not much else.

Had one day of racing at Manukau Bowl, dirtiest track in New Zealand. 6k scratch race, 1k handicap heats and final, 500m scratch and a long points race. Still had a 95inch gear on, but who has time for a gear change these days? Just as I pulled my shorts on, they were calling A grade riders to the rail. Last time I was here, I learned the valuable lesson that warmups are for suckers, so the scratch worked well to get the day started. The big man-gear was tough to push but got me most of the way through, until the poo hit the fan and the skinny guys had their way. The 3 lap handicap went a bit better. I'm not used to handicaps, and Tas will be full of them, so I felt a bit of jitters for the first time in months as I rolled up to my mark.

::Handicap Crash Course::
A handicap (a.k.a. "wheelrace" or "gift") is a standing start scratch race. Riders are "graded" based on past performances, speed, skill and the whims of the promoter. While most traditional races are restriced to categories (elite, a grade, b grade, etc.), anyone can ride a handicap. Olympians and first-timers can end up in the same heat. To make things fair, the Olympians and the bad dogs start the race at the exact race distance. If it's a 1k, they start 1k from the finish line (with laps). This is called riding "on scratch" or being a "scratchmarker." A rider with slightly less speed or experience will start a few meters in front of the bad dogs. Mid-level elite hacks like myself might start 50 meters in front of the Olympians, while beginners will start 150 to 200 meters in front of the scratchmarkers. Therefore when the gun goes off, the lesser riders have less distance to cover, giving them a legitimate shot at beating the scratchmarkers to glory and a big fat check. It's a full-on super-dangerous effort from start to finish.

So we line up for our handicap. I'm off 30 meters in front of a junior world champ and a well known NZ sprinter dude. The gun goes Bang and I look around for a second and kind of go "eewah?" before I realize I should probably go now so I do. Big start to get over the 95inch gear and I get moving, get through the field and on through to the final. The final also makes me weirdly nervous even though it doesn't really mean anything. The scratchmarkers are the same, I'm still at 30 and we have to catch 160m or riders. Another big start, big enough to leave the scratchmarkers behind, never to catch up, I come up on the lead group with one to go and it's 6 wide around the final bend. Fast as I can turn the toobig gear, I can only make it to 4th, trying to come around the field on the rail.

Felt good about that. Out of the money, but on the right path. The 500 meter standing scratch should have been my big one, but that's when I checked my tire pressure and saw my rear tubular delaminating in my hands. F!&K!. No spares, no neutral wheels. Guess it's time to call it a night and buy a new tire instead of a christmas present...

As for now, time to climb back on the bike.

1 comment:

kilomonster said...

With all the weight you lifted before you left, a 95 should be nuttin. Besides, it will be at least a decade before you have to worry bout blowin a knee out just jumping in.