Last night was the 100 Lap Tomasz Pac Memorial Points Race at the Northbrook Velodrome, certainly one of races each year that gets circled on the calendar. My track form each week seems like it's been progressing, so I was hoping I'd be ready to give it a good go at this race. Last year - Tom, Randy, and I got off the front and hovered just behind the back of the field with Nikos playing spoiler as we mopped up all the points and got Randy the win. Yesterday however, with all those players absent, I knew it would be more difficult, but luckily I had an on-form Kirby to help in any instance I needed.
Randy always talks about preparation - well mine couldn't have been worse yesterday. My workday was awful. Fire-drill after fire-drill left me leaving far later than I wanted to and more importantly I didn't have a second to get up and grab lunch. I was starving by the time I left, grabbed some Potbelly, Divvy'd home, and ate roughly 1100 calories between the sandwich and a Clif bar in about 5 minutes in the car. Logically, I figured between not having eaten properly, not getting a warm up in, and feeling panic'd most of the day - I would not be feeling good during a 100 lap race with sprints every 5. However, I like to try to play mind games with myself before any race and trick myself into thinking that everything's good, that I've done everything to plan, and that I'm just as prepared, fit, and ready as any other guy on the track when I step onto it. Well, here's to hoping that has any value. I ended up showing up about 5 minutes before the start of the first race of the night which ended up being a perfect warm-up, a 25 lap scratch race, and I just sat in trying to prep for the big race later in the evening. Afterwards, I just sat around and tried to normalize as much as possible for the main event that would come shortly.
Everything below is what I *think* had happened during the race. It's a long points race which can be a blur as so much tends to go on and my memory isn't outstanding in the first place...so with a grain of salt...
For those of you who aren't sure how this race works, every 5 laps points are scored for the first riders across the line (5,3,2,1) and if you lap the field you are awarded a nice gift of 20 points. The most points at the end wins.
My goal for this race was to be in the move that lapped the field. If I did that, I'd be in a position to win. I let the first few sprints go in hopes of being a little fresher later on to make that move when people wore down. After the second sprint I tested out where the field was as I followed the sprinters and made a good dig. I looked back after a quarter lap to see what the reaction was. I had certainly had a gap , but could tell that the field was itchy, strung out, and I wasn't going to go anywhere.
Over the next few sprints (laps 85-65ish to go) I stayed at the front and if points were there I'd take them. I ended up with maybe 6 or so points while saving as many matches for the big move that had to come later. I think it was around lap 60 where I got a nice run on the inside and decided this was a great opportunity to go and went. Almost as if it were timed, the heavens opened and Jason Garner (Garner), one of the fastest guys on the track, jumped from the high side down into the sprinter's lane and I linked up with him using almost no effort. Immediately we had a big gap on the field. Brian Haas (PACT), another super fast guy, bridged up and three of us formed what would be the move of the race (each team was very well represented in the field too, another thanks to Kirby). We were able to stay off the front for what I think I remember to be 3 sprints, mopping up those points before deciding to make the junction and each grab our 20.
It was at this point where not only did I know I had a shot to win this thing, but I realized that I felt fantastic relatively. I tried to find another move and sneak away again off the front. Grzegorz Monko (WDT) and I went and got another nice gap on the field. Brian Haas bridged up again and we got several more points before being swept up by the field several laps later. At this point, like many of the guys out there, I could definitely start feeling some cramping sensations in both legs and was just hoping that I could limit the damage. Luckily, the next few sprints went to some of the other guys in the field and we approached the last dozen or so laps.
I could hear the announcer say that I had something to the effect of a one point lead with about 14 to go. A bunch of non-contenders had gotten off the front which was ideal as they'd grab all the available points. However, I heard that Chris Mosora (SF) was in the group about a half lap up and could be a danger man points-wise if he ended up connecting and getting 20. It's tough to do the math on 35 guys, I had to trust what I was hearing and Kirby and I got to the front and set tempo. This also created a situation where Brian couldn't get any opportunities to score since the guys off the front could potentially limbo out there for the rest of the race taking the rest of the points, a good thing for me.
Here's where it gets tricky. 7 to go...for the field.
Mosora was about to connect, there was nothing I could do. He was in a group of 3 I believe, and I think I remember another group of two off the front. I was still pulling at the front and noticed him about to connect and decided to slow down the pace a bit, hoping that, if nothing else, he'd integrate just before he could grab those 5 points, so he'd only get 20, instead of 25. He connected right as we rolled off turn four and I rolled through the line first. Brian Haas set himself up for the sprint and nipped me at the line on the next lap. It appeared as if he'd taken the lead. I tried with what little I had left against the pure sprinters and fresher guys in the field, but couldn't manage breaking into the top 4 for points on the last lap. I thought I had lost it.
As I rolled up, Jared was saying that I won...so was Kirby. The thought was that once the Mosora group connected we were actually on lap 6 at that point, a bell lap, and I had rolled through for points. The sprint lap that I had lost to Brian actually wasn't a sprint lap at all. I wasn't 100% sure until they said my name last at the podiums and it didn't hit me fully that I had won until immediately afterwards (and to be honest I'm not sure it still has).
It's days like this that you dream of when you're sitting on your trainer in the dead of winter or rolling out of bed at the crack of dawn to ride before a day of work. Each year rolls by and sometimes you get the results you really want and sometimes you don't. It's innately a tough and unforgiving sport. It draws in people who tend to give everything they have to be successful at it. The amount of respect I have for the guys that race out there is immense. From the guys who can just seem to solo forever to guys that can just sprint on another level and everything in-between. Those are the guys that force me to be on my trainer all winter. Those are the guys that make me work harder than I did the year before. It's an odd game that develops us all and in those rare moments that you find pure success, it makes it all the more gratifying. There's several more big races this season and I think with the team we have, we can continue to put up big results at the track...at every level. Really looking forward to the rest of the season!