Track Nationals have been on my mind all year. I had been living in Holland for the summer, racing on the road for Vanderkitten as part of the USA Cycling Development program. This was my first full time season on the road and it sure had its highs and lows. I got my butt kicked in ‘block 1’ of racing, kermesse racing proved to be a little more my style since I was able to crack my first European top ten. Road racing was paying off in terms of fitness gains but still I thought of the track. Track racing to me is the most beautiful form of cycling there is. Nothing compares to the all out efforts on the track and nothing is as fun as flying down the banking of the turns. I was itching to get back on the track.
I quickly scoured the UCI website and found the Fiorenzuola Selle de Rosa race on the calendar. It was perfect, a six day race offering an Omnium, Scratch and Points race in beautiful Italy. I had only been on the track twice all year so adding in this race before nationals was just what I needed.
Photo by: Michael C. Hernandez
Selle de Rosa was the first six day race I had ever attended and it did not disappoint. The race was well run, big crowds came out each day, the men’s racing was exciting to watch, and the women’s field was one of the more competitive fields I had ever raced in. Huge thank you to Claudio Santi, Jan Kopac, Amedeo and Luigi Sabino for making this race possible. The week was filled with tough races, great food, and awesome people. While in Belgium I made friends with Elizabeth Steel, who is from New Zealand, and she accompanied me to Fiorenzuloa to race on the track. I’ve yet to meet a Kiwi I didn’t love and who isn’t a blast to be with. Her and I even entered the Keirin races together where I managed to get 6th place! Between great racing and a fun group of riders, Fiorenzuola was the highlight of my racing experience in Europe.
I thought racing kermesses would have better prepared me for track but boy was I wrong. The top end speed you get at the track is a new level of pain and fitness that you can only obtain from track racing itself. It was a great experience getting to race with Giorgia Bronzini, Kristen Wild, and the other tough and storied competitors who came out and made the racing challenging and fun!
After Fiorenzuola my coach had me doing rollers every single day for 20 minutes to work on leg speed to help prepare me for nationals. I trust my coach and his workouts, we can’t always get fun routines but I knew that the effort would be worthwhile.
We raced our last kermesse Saturday night and six hours later we were on a flight back to America. Twenty four aganozing hours of travel later I landed in Rock Hill, South Carolina. Monday was a blur between trying to readjust to time zones, lack of sleep, and rain storms. I knew I wouldn’t be able to get any openers on the track and would have to make do. I had ridden on the track before and so much of getting openers on the track is about getting a feel for it. I was confident that my previous experience on it would get me through the next day’s race.
Racing started with the Omnium on Tuesday: I love the new format for the Omnium and think it makes for more animated racing. Day 1: Scratch, IP, Elimination
Omnium Scratch, Photo credit: Weldon Weaver
Individual Pursuit: Photo Credit: Erika Fulk, Detroit Spoke
The scratch race was fun and it was good to have some intensity in to help flush out the legs from all the travel. The Individual Pursuit was not as fun. Our race had been pushed back due to a rain storm making it a late night. I came unclipped at the start of my IP and had to restart. Evidently my cleats had gotten completely worn down in Europe and I should have changed them before the race. For the second start, I once again came unclipped and hesitated being unsure of what to do. I could hear Zak yell ‘GO!!!’ from the infield and became determined to make up all the lost time in one lap. My next split was 17 seconds- not smart. I settled in, caught my rider, and held even splits for the remaining of the race. Lesson learned: always check your gear to make sure it’s race ready. The pressure you apply to your pedals in a standing start effort is so much greater than the force and torque you apply in training.
Flying Lap: Photo Credit: Erika Fulk, Detroit Spoke
Day 2: 500 meter, Flying lap, Points race
I really enjoy the sprint events of the Omnium but need to spend more time focusing on them. So much of sprinting is about technique and specialization. Having the Omnium conclude with the points race is such a great way to finish because anything can happen with that many points on the line. I wasn’t expecting to do well in the Omnium since I hadn’t been able to dedicated the time time necessary for the track this season, and my body was a little toasted from jet lag but I think every race is a good learning opportunity. Beth Newell and I were cubby mates for nationals, she’s a great friend but also someone I owe a lot to as a rider. Her fiance, Michael Hernandez, and her are the two biggest reasons why I got involved in the track. People often ask if it’s hard having Beth and I be friends and also competitors. If anything it makes us better, she always challenges me which makes me work harder. We talk openly about races, and our gear choices going into events; because at the end of the day there shouldn’t be any big secrets in the sport, there should just be a lot of hard work.
Pre-Race with Beth Photo credit: Weldon Weaver
This race was my goal race. After my first points race back in 2012 I knew that this event would be my favorite! It’s the best of everything to me: endurance, sprinting, tactics, math (?) there’s no hiding in this race. Based upon my performance in the Omnium I knew I had the endurance but not the top end speed necessary to win all the sprints. My plan was to be active and make this race as hard as possible. With the race being 100 laps I knew I should follow the right wheels in the early laps, go for the points where I could but focus on making the second half hard. I went into the race with good legs but more importantly I went into the race with confidence; I believed I could win. I wasn’t a ‘favorite’ by any means but I truly felt that I could win.
Photo credit: Weldon Weaver
I found myself with very few points early in the race, only picking up 1 or 2 in the first few sprints: Kim Geist and Beth Newell were picking up the bigger values. I constantly attacked throughout the race. I went off the front with another rider to pick up 3 sprint points halfway through and then immediately got back in the pack. I knew I need to do something if I wanted to win. With 32 laps to go I attacked and found myself off the front with two other riders. I picked up 5 sprint points and realized that we still had a fair gap- this was it. I needed to go all in. We needed to get a lap in order to make a difference in the race. We all drove that break with as much as we could. The pace shelled one of our riders and it was just down to Emily Thurston and I. At one point we got about ¾ of the way to getting the lap on the field. Unfortunately the riders in the pack realized this as well so Beth and Kim attacked and srtung the field out. We caught dropped riders but not enough to count as the field so we had to keep fighting. With 8 laps to go the other break rider dropped off pace and I was left all alone, fighting to get the lap or collect enough points on my own. It was an amazing feeling having my friends cheer me on from the infield, the announcers stating that if I got the last sprint that it could be enough for the win. I kept fighting in my legs and in my head, saying over and over that I could do this; that I could win. Emily rejoined me in the last two laps and I was then fearful that she would collect the valuable points that I needed in order to edge out Beth and Kim. With one lap to go I went all out, I wanted so badly to win; I wanted to win more than anybody else that day.
Final Sprint in the points race: Photo credit: Weldon Weaver
I crossed the line and couldn’t believe it! It’s funny how cycling works sometimes. You work so hard all season long, and for the most part few hardly ever win races. But the day that you do, the day that it all comes together, it makes it all seem so worthwhile. It makes all the bad luck, and injuries and days where you didn’t want to train mean that much more. They say a short term memory is the best trait you can have as a cyclist but I think a selective memory is more appropriate. Move past the bad days and hold onto the good ones- let them be your motivator for success.
Points race podium: Photo Credit: Erika Fulk, Detroit Spoke
USA Cycling Post Race Interview:
I want to extend a huge thank you to my family, and friends for all your support. My coach for always guiding me in the right direction. Thanks to Erika Fulk and Weldon Weaver for all the great photos! Kim Deacon for being an amazing host! To Vanderkitten and Usa Cycling for providing me with so many opportunities that genuinely helped me develop as a rider. Also to my sponsors that help get me from race to race and equip me with the best: Vanderkitten, FFWD, Marc Pro, Enduro Bearings, Clement, OSMO, and Rocktape
Podium Jump: Photo credit: Weldon Weaver