Now that I'm recovered from a marathon of travel, I can sit down and write about track worlds- Worlds Part 2.
Let me start at the very beginning. As per usual, we loaded the bus and left for the airport at 0'dark thirty in the morning for the drive up to Denver. (We have so much stuff we have to fly from Denver because the little planes in Colorado Springs can't carry it all). It’s not one of my serious goals in life, but I’d like to see as many airports around the world as I can. Luckily when we travel as a team, we get to check a lot off the list. Denver-Detroit-Frankfurt-Manchester. Four in one go! We collected our baggage in Manchester where a small miracle occurred- only one bag was lost. Unfortunately, it was my bike case with both bikes in it. Oh, and my bag came out busted open and tied together with a rope. It sounds like a bummer, but really, it was ok. The bikes were delivered to the hotel and my bag was just unzipped (I guess zippers are hard for TSA agents to figure out.)
This marked my fourth time in Manchester for a cycling event, but for most of the team it was their first. In the world of cycling, the Manchester velodrome is the closest thing we have to a Mecca. Honestly I don’t know how it came to be so revered but it sure is fast. The Brits train there and they’re all fast, so maybe we’re hoping for some type of osmosis to happen and magically become faster. So seeing the excitement on everyone’s face when we walked in for training was pretty darn cool; like kids at Festivus.
Enough about this osmosis business, you want to hear about the racing. OK. I traveled 5000 miles to race 14 laps around the Mecca track. Was it worth it? Definitely. First up was the individual pursuit- 3000 meters (12 laps) in the pain cave doing everything you can to catch your opponent. The 3k was my main focus of the year. The past ten months of training came down to the four minutes of this race. (In this event, two people are on the track at the same time, on opposite sides and try to catch each other. In the first round, the fastest 4 riders go on to finals, and in finals, if you catch your opponent the ride is over and you win.) My race is against Sarah the Brit, who happens to be the world record holder, world and Paralympic champion. We all know I’m going to get caught, it’s just a matter of time, I’m ready for that, and in fact it’s good for me because then I have someone I can see and chase. The gun goes off and we’re racing. Law and order are on it; Mecca track is bowing down to me. I settle in and after what feels like 6 laps later- I’m well into the cave at this point- I look at the lap counter and see 9. I’m not even 1/3 of the way through this hellish event and my vision is starting to go, my legs feel like battery acid is flowing through them. Terrific. I don’t remember the rest very clearly, but before we left, a friend told me he wanted just 3 more rpm and I did everything I could to get it out. My time is about 4.5 seconds faster than my previous best, and I’m ecstatic. Forget getting passed and Sarah taking 2 more seconds off the insanely fast world record. I had a great ride and I don’t care about anything else.
The next day was the 500- two laps and it’s over. This is an event that I train for, but don’t focus on at all if that makes any sense. I do it well, because Craig tells me to, but because you have no chance at a medal if you’re not entered. That’s why I do it.
The best part of this trip wasn’t any personal success I had, but seeing the success of the team. Every rider surpassed expectations and we brought back double the projected number of medals. The team basically lived together for two straight months in prep for this event. We were with each other for the highs of success and the lows of bad days and deathly camp workouts. It was way better to finish a race and be greeted by smiling faces, hi-fives and hugs than to get a shiny coin on a ribbon.