Monday, April 30, 2007

Pictures from the Opening Weekend

Andrew LaCorte took some photos on sunday. They are up on his site and can be found here:

My favorite photo is this one: I'm in the white jersey on the red bike.

The Hour Record

The reason I created this blog was to document my training and attempt for the hour record. However I realize that not everyone reading this blog may know what, exactly, the hour record is. There is a wealth of information on Wikipedia, but the gist of it is this: you ride your bike on the track for an hour and the distance you cover is recorded.

There are actually three hour records: the UCI hour record, the UCI best human effort record, and the International Human Powered Vehicles Assocation (IHPVA) hour record. The main difference between these three records are the bicycle requirements that need to be met in order to qualify.

The UCI hour record is the most strict of all the records - the bicycle has to weigh at least 6.8kg*, the tubing must have a circular cross-section, the handlebars must be standard drop bars, the helmet must be used only for protection and not for aerodynamics and any other equipment used (clothing, shoes, eye-wear, etc) must not give the rider an aerodynamic advantage.

Originally there was only one UCI hour record but in 2000 the UCI, fearing that the hour record had become a record of technology instead of a record of athletic acheivement, split the record in two. A new record was born, called the best human effort record, and all of the hour record attempts since Eddy Merckx's were moved into this category (as they all were made using aerodynamic components). This record aschews the weight limit and allows for aerodynamic components, equipment and tubing. However the bike must still fall into the realm of upright bicycles as governed by the UCI.

The IHPVA hour record is for all bicycles (or rather human powered vehicles) that do not qualify for either UCI record. In practice this means recumbent bicycles. These bikes are made to be as aerodynamic as possible - including full fairings that cover the entire rider, monocoque composite frames and wheels that just barely extend out of the body of the bike. They look more like spaceships than bicycles but are capable of reaching speeds as high as 130km/h.

I will most likely be attempting the UCI best human effort record.

*What is interesting about this restriction is that the bike Eddy Merckx used to break the hour record weighed 5.5kg. When the UCI split the hour record into the hour record and the best human effort record, Eddy Merckx's record was the last one the UCI accepted as an hour record and not a best human effort record. This makes sense from an aerodynamics standpoint, however, as Eddy Merckx's record was the last attempt using a "traditional" non-aero bike until Chris Boardman broke the record in 2000. More information about Merckx's bike can be found here:

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Third place feels a lot like first

Update: Gui took fourth in the Chariott, not fifth, and also won the second sprint in the points race. I also have no idea at this point what place Dan came in on the first sprint.

Today was day two of the Kissena opening weekend. On the plate for today were mass start events. For the Men's Cat 5 that meant a 6 lap scratch, 9 lap points race (with three sprints), a Miss-and-Out and a Chariott. Men's 1-3, 4 and Women did a Keirin as well.

I got to the track a little early and started warming up. Just as I finished my warm up, my parents showed up! I had invited them to the track to come and watch me race. Right before the races started they announced the points. I was in fourth place with 8 points and my friend Dan was in second place with 10 points. Gui was just behind me in the placing. We were all pretty close in points, so today was going to be interesting...

First up - the 6 lap scratch. Judging from my performance yesterday and noting that I'm a) better at longer distance races and b) not a very good sprinter I went into this race not expecting to do too well. After 5 laps I positioned myself near the front. On turn two I was coming up to the front and decided to just hammer it and break away from the pack. I figured I'd get caught before the finish but I also knew it was pretty much my only shot. It ended up working out. One rider (this guy Robert) caught my wheel and sling-shotted around turn four to take first place, but I was right behind him in second. My friend Dan took third. I got a total of 5 points for this race and Dan got 3 points, tying us for second.

While we were all waiting for our next race to start Dan, Gui and I decided to discuss tactics. The next race was a 9 lap points race in which ever third lap was a sprint, and the top four people in each sprint would get 5, 3, 2 and 1 point(s) respectively. We decided that we would sit in the pack for the first 3 laps and not contest the first sprint. Instead we would save up our energy so that while everyone else was slowing down to rest after the sprint, we would take off and try to gap the field. We would ride in a pace line and rotate every 200m. Dan wasn't too sure we could maintain a break for 6 laps but eventually I convinced him to give it a try. "Hey, if it works, we win. If it doesn't, we get back in the pack." Our friend Andrew overheard us discussing our strategy and asked if he could be a part of our plan. Four people, four seemed like a good fit.

The 9 lap points race started. We stuck to the plan although I believe Dan ended up taking second or third placing in the first sprint despite not really trying for it. We started to hammer it on turn one while the rest of the pack was recovering from the sprint. We quickly got a gap on the field, however Robert (the guy who won the scratch race) caught us. One the second sprint (first sprint since our break) Robert came screaming around turn 3 and ended up bumping my elbow with his thigh as he sped past me. Fortunately it was a light tap and no one lost control. These things are bound to happen in track racing so I was glad that my first experience with this didn't involve a nasty accident. Gui ended up taking first in the second sprint. We easily maintained our break and were never caught by the rest of the field. However as luck would have it, I kept ending up in the back of the break during the sprints due to our rotation order, and since there were 4 other riders in the break I didn't get any points. But overall I was very satisfied that our strategy worked almost perfectly (if it were not for Robert catching us it would have been perfect) and didn't mind losing each sprint. Dan was now way ahead of me in points and Gui was one point behind.

Next up was the Miss-and-Out. I was a little bit worried about this race since it basically involves a sprint every single lap, and you have to contest it or risk being pulled out of the race. I had to come up with a strategy for this race. I talked with Dan and Gui again about possibly making a break. However the general consensus was that it would be very difficult to make that initial break since we couldn't just sit back, let everyone else sprint and then make our move. We HAD to sprint. Ultimately I decided that I would play the field as best I could until it got small enough that I risked getting pulled out of the race. At that point I would make a break for it and try to maintain it for as long as possible. If Dan and Gui wanted to join me and help they could.

The race started and the first few laps were pretty easy. While there were quite a few strong riders in the pack, there were also a lot of newer people who didn't have the experience or the training and they were picked out of the field quickly. When there were only 6 people left I started to get nervous. On the next lap I was the second person over the line and the guy ahead of me kept going. I think he was trying to make a break for it so I got on his wheel. However so did most of the rest of the field. I was at the front of the pace line we had going, and stayed at the front for about a lap. I pulled off to see Dan right behind me. I thought about getting on his wheel but saw Andrew coming up behind Dan and decided to let him take it. Robert then came out of nowhere to take Andrew's wheel so I got behind Robert. On turn three I looked behind me and realized that there was no one else left in the race. I knew at this point it was over - I couldn't out-sprint the three people ahead of me. Still, fourth place meant that I earned two points, putting me three points ahead of Gui.

At this point I was chatting with my parents and a couple of my friends and completely missed the announcement that you had to sign up for the Chariott race. I didn't realize this until just before they started the second (and last) qualifying heat. Whoops. Gui qualified for the finals but ended up taking fifth fourth with points only be awarded to the top three. My placing was safe. I was in third overall.

The officials announced the winners and handed out medals. Robert was in first place having won all the races today. Dan was in second and I was in third. The three of us got our picture taken together by our friend Crihs. As soon as he develops the film I will post the picture here.

My parents were very excited and proud of me. They had a great time at the track and I'm glad that they were there to cheer for me.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Day two of track racing

Today was the second day of racing at the Kissena velodrome and the first day of the Opening Weekend races. I grabbed my bike, my bag and my rollers and headed into Queens. I got on the 7 train and took that to the end of the line, which is about a mile from the velodrome. I arrived a little early so I had plenty of time to warm up. I did a few solo laps before joining onto the end of a paceline a few riders had started. Shortly after it was my turn to pull the bell was rung and it was time to start the races.

The events scheduled for today were: a 2000m pursuit, a team sprint and match sprints. For the pursuit I was paired up with my friend Chris. We started on opposite ends of the track and at the sound of the starter pistol we were off. Kissena is a 400m track so I would have to complete 5 laps. I started off fairly strong but was careful not to push it too hard. I stayed slightly below my max (or rather my perceived max) until the start of the final lap at which point I went all out.

After the pursuit came the team sprint. I am currently an unattached rider so I have no official team and in any case the races as Kissena are less formal as the crowd there is much smaller than your typical road race (all the teams were ad-hoc). My friend Dan and I paired up and our friend Gui mentioned he needed teammates and so our team was formed. We were discussing the order in which we would do the sprints, as the team must ride in a set order with the lead rider pulling off each lap (so the lead rider at the start of the race pulls off after the first lap and leaves the race, bumping the second rider to the lead position and so on). We concluded that the best idea would be to have the rider with the best pursuit time in the third position but since we didn't have the results from the pursuit yet our temporary order was me, Gui and then Dan as the third. When the results for the pursuit came in, Dan was in second place, I was in third and Gui was in fourth. We decided to keep our original order as Gui didn't want to be the first rider.

We lined up at the start while three other races held our bikes in place. At the start of the race I took the lead position, Gui was on my wheel and Dan was the anchor. My goal was to reach my top speed by the 200m line and maintain that for another 200m at which point the first lap would be over and I would pull out of the race. In the end our team took second place.

Next up were the match sprints. Dan and I were paired up and we drew straws (actually golf balls) to determine who had the lead position. I lucked out and Dan had to take the lead. After a slow lap and a quarter, as Dan tried to get me to take the lead, he crawled to the top of the banking and then dropped down. It was on. I got right on his wheel, and started to overtake him on turn 3. He saw me catching up and started to move up-track forcing me to move further up track. This ended up working to his advantage as he beat me by half a wheel. In the end he walked away with 4th place.

Tomorrow will be the second day of the Opening weekend and will consist of mass start events including a 6 lap scratch, 9 lap points race, Miss-and-Out and a Chariott. Wednesday of next week will be the start of the Kissena twilight series.

Next week will also be the start of my training for the hour record.

Friday, April 27, 2007

First day of track racing

Last weekend marked the start of the track racing season at the Kissena velodrome. It was a nice to be able to get out to the track and race on my new bike for the first time. It was also the perfect day for racing - sunny with temperatures in the mid-70s. Of course I completely forgot to use sunscreen which resulted in some minor sunburn on my arms and legs.

As for the races: there were four Cat 5 races that took place. The first two were 5 lap scratch races, followed by a Miss-and-Out and finally a 15 lap scratch race. I did poorly in the first two races, but finished 6th in the Miss-and-Out and 5th in the 15 lap scratch. What I realized during these races is that I'm terrible at sprinting and generally fair better on longer races.

Seeing as how my goal is to suffer on the track for an hour this is probably a good thing.

It begins...

I have decided to start a blog to track my training and progress leading up to my hour record attempt. If all goes according to plan I will be attempting to break the UCI hour record (or the best human effort record) at the Kissena velodrome some time in late June.