Monday, October 13, 2014

Track Nationals... From the oddly large phone of Chris Watt...

2014 USA Cycling national track championship
August 12-17
Giordana Velodrome
Rock Hill, SC
Race report.
From the oddly large phone of Comprehensive Racing track cyclist Chris Watt.

This was an awesome experience.
It's underscored by the fact that I'm typing a race report on a return flight. It's like I hit the big time.
I haven't. This was expensive! Haha.

My recent visits to Ttown completely reminded me of what I love about competitive cycling. The last time I visited that track I turned an absurd amount of laps on the pursuit bars. I had a chat with Marty Nothstein, and received some positive reinforcement, with the nationals coming up in conversation. That rung a bell in my head.
I communicated with Capt. Steve, and he also mentioned the nationals. I didn't need much convincing.
We collaborated, shipped bikes, flew out, arrived, picked up our bikes and headed to assemble them.

The weather was iffy on the evening of Tuesday the 12th, and the omnium kilometer TT was stopped short. They would instead combine the omnium kilo riders with the national championship kilo riderson Wednesday the 13th. (30 riders in total)
They run it similar to a pursuit, with two riders at a time, on opposing straights of the track. I glanced down the start list. I was paired up with(against) Bobby Lea.
BOBBY -FREAKING- LEA. The USA Olympic team member. The 20 or so time national champion. The only guy in the whole event who's name I knew, other than Steve and myself.
No pressure.
The heats came and went fast. I had a completely inaccurate idea of what my times would be, and these guys were rocketship fast.
My previous PR from NEV was in the range of 1:24. I was prepared to set a new PR, I hoped.
Bike through bike check, sit in the on deck chair, get called up, listen to the announcer tell me all about my "opponent". Hand bike to holder, climb on, clip in, count down.
5. 4. 3. 2. 1. Beep.
A 4 lap explosion.
I hammer the start, trying my best to not get caught by the human freight train that's surely bearing down on me. My opening lap is ok, as is my second lap, I fade a bit on the third, and I'm near tears on the fourth as Bobby's bell is rung sooner that what I thought was humanly possible. I can hear the distinct sound of a fixed gear bicycle somewhere over my right shoulder as I'm entering my last half lap, and I cross HIS finish line before he passes me. He didn't catch me! I finish my kiko with a 1:16.0, a PR by over 8 seconds and good enough for 8th!
I cool down a bit and realize my right calf is feeling tight. Perhaps I need to fine tune my standing starts.

Thursday the 14th was day three of the event(day two of competition for Steve and myself) and it brought the individual pursuit. This is NOT my event(though, I thought, neither is the kilo). I look at the start list and see I'm paired up with(against) Owen Gillett, in the first heat.
Never heard of him. Enter Google. Bad idea. I haven't seen him ride, but Google says he's fast. Ha! And my right calf is still giving me problems. I baby it a bit, hoping it won't affect my racing.
Steve and I spend the morning riding rollers, stressing about start times and watching the other events. All the while looking cooler than anyone else at the event. If nothing else, comp racers are a good looking bunch!
I get my bike through check and sit in the on-deck chair. I get called up, and I'm told I'll be riding alone. My Owen is a no show! At least I won't get lapped.
No time to compute that.
Hand bike over, climb on, clip in, count down.
5. 4. 3. 2. 1. Beep.
A 16 lap metered effort. I'm screwed.
I lunge away from the starter and I hear one trackside official say, "nice start!". It felt like a good one! I go conservative for a kilo, less conservative for the second one, and with 750m to go I realize that I've officially tied my legs into knots. I'm pedaling circles, but very weak ones. My lungs are on fire, my legs have no power, and I taste blood in my breath. Ah yes, this is a proper pursuit. I cross the finish with a 5:25. I'm sure that's a PR. The whole ride, I hear the announcer reading off my bio and talking me up. He even mentioned my pizza tattoo! I would have laughed, if I hadn't been nearly crying.
That solo ride put me atop the leader board. Alone, but up there!
The glory is short lived, as I was knocked off my pedestal after the second heat, which Steve was in. I cool down on the rollers and remember what pursuiters cough is all about. Steve finished his pursuit and we shared a few coughs together.
Seriously though, the infield sounded like a hospital ward after the pursuits. My calf really hurts now, but it was fine during my race.

All in all, it was a fantastic event! Steve is the nicest, most welcoming guy on earth. He went above and beyond to help me get to this event.
He is truly an inspiration to me, constantly motivating me in my track cycling.
Thank you, Steve.
Thank you, Comprehensive Racing

I now realize that track cycling is true pure bicycle racing. Not diluted with the complications of the road. Each event is a distilled version of the sport. I have not been this excited for cycling since the first time I swung a leg over a track bike at NEV, years ago.
Track cycling is where it's at for me.
Velodromes are just little bowls of paradise.
My training will increase, my performance will improve, I will return.
More please!

Chris Watt

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