Thursday, October 23, 2014

2014 UCI Masters Track World Championships Report!

2014 UCI Masters Track Cycling World Championships 

Straight from Captain Pelletier to you!

It was my honor to represent USA at the UCI Masters Track Cycling World Championships this past week in  Manchester England, my second appearance at this event in three years.  For 2014, 33 nations sent more than 430 riders, many with coaches/handlers/souigneurs though I traveled self-supported as usual.  
I had planned on competing in the individual timed events only, but was recruited a week prior to the championships to join a US pursuit team in need of a fourth man.  It was a thrill to find out that my one-time coach and good friend Kurt B had also joined the US squad.

Unfortunately, upon arrival in Manchester Friday morning I was informed my bike had not been forwarded from London and would not arrive until later that evening.  With my Team Pursuit event scheduled for the following afternoon, this was a major problem.  The UCI assigned me a driver to take me to the velodrome during the day to sign-on to the championships and receive my accreditation and race numbers.  I was then driven back to the airport in the evening to retrieve my bike, then to the velodrome once again to assemble it, and finally to my hotel for a late night check-in and a quick sleep.  It all got done.

Saturday morning I was shuttled to the velodrome for an early training session, getting some pre-race laps and dialing in my equipment with only a few hours of sleep on the books.  Manchester's velodrome is one of the premier facilities in the world; a 250-meter board track with 42-degree banking and an exceedingly smooth racing surface.  I nearly slipped off the wall in training, my tires just not sticky enough to maintain proper adhesion at lower speeds, but I wouldn't be needing lower speeds once the racing began as my events were all full-on efforts from the starting gate to the finish line.  

After training I met up with the other US pursuit team members and we discussed our plan for the event later that day (94.6" gear, conservative start, 18-second laps, fanned-out finish).  Team Pursuit is a very technical race similar to a Team Time-Trial on the road; It is as much choreographed dance as it is flat-out blast.  Exchanges are executed on the steep banking in tight formation at over 30mph, brakeless.  To throw together a team at the last minute, never ride together, and show up at Worlds to race for the championship is rather brazen (or foolish), but that's exactly what we did.  And we rode well, turning the 3000-meter distance more than 20 seconds faster than I'd ever gone alone (3:39.938, 30.5mph, 49.0kph).  In the end we were 5th place, very satisfied with our performance and happy with what we had achieved together.
That night I slept quite well.  

On Sunday I returned to the venue to race the 3000-meter Individual Pursuit.  I got an excellent warmup on the rollers and was literally dizzy with adrenaline as I got through bike-check, seeded in the first heat against a Guatemalan rider.  I decided to run a slightly larger gear than normal (93.5"), given that my form was good and I felt I could keep it turning.  I made a fast start, settling into lap-times exactly as planned with the help of an Australian coach that I'd asked to shout splits and give visual cues to my pacing while I orbited the stadium (these cues are known as "walking the line"; the coach stands on the track's apron and moves forward or rearward of the finish line to indicate lap-by-lap whether the rider needs to increase/maintain/decrease speed in order to ride to the targeted schedule).  With more than a kilometer to go I had gained a half lap on my opponent, overtaking him on the steepest part of the track and leaving him behind.  I ended up setting a personal-best time of 4:02.216 (27.71mph, 44.59kph); good enough for 18th place but still shy of the 4-minute goal that I had set for myself in training this year.  After the race I thanked the Aussie coach and gave him my first-edition Comp Racing team cap in recognition of his generous help to me.

My final event of the championships and my 2014 racing season was the 750-meter Time Trial on Monday.  The TT is a short 3 laps, raced from a gated start at maximum effort for its entirety.  It's an unfamiliar distance for me (in the US the TT is a full kilometer), though I'd raced it once before in Europe.  I ran a 93.5" gear against an opponent from Great Britain, going really good for 2 laps but just dying on the 3rd.  I held on as best I could and was relieved to see my time on the scoreboard, 57.539  (29.16mph, 46.92kph); my fastest time to-date by more than 1/2 a second.  I watched the remaining riders complete their races, and ended up 20th, only 3/10 of a second behind the next two places.

With that I was free to pack away the bike and enjoy the remainder of my trip relaxing and supporting the other US team members and internationals who I'd befriended in their remaining races, returning to America two days later.  3 Top 20 finishes, 3 personal-best times...satisfied.

I'd like to extend a sincere thanks to my team, Comprehensive Racing, for helping me return from injury and prepare for this year's racing schedule.  In addition I am thankful for the sponsors, friends, and families  that generously support our team.  It's been a challenging and rewarding 2014 season and I look forward to 2015 eagerly.
-Stephen Pelletier

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