The National Track Masters Championships 2016

With one months worth of sprint training, I headed to Newport for the Masters National Track Championships (talk about being chucked in the deep end – I blame Steve for putting the idea in my head!). Having only competed in one track league event at Derby I knew I was never going to win, but was keen to lay down some benchmarks to beat next year. My first race was the Men’s Flying 200, which started with me frantically removing my overshoes, because I never knew overshoes were banned in track cycling (who knew!). Once removed, I was pushed up the straight for me to begin my build up with the plan to build up speed without expelling too many watts. 1/2 a lap goes passed, then another. Things were hotting up and I was on my last building up lap. I came off turn 2 and headed down the back straight for the last time getting faster and faster, staying up high and as close to the wall as possible. Just underneath the big screen with my name on it, I put the hammer down.
Out of the saddle, sprinting out of turn 4, staying close to the wall down the home straight, building up more and more speed. Towards the end of the straight I begin my decent and sat back in the saddle, hunting out the apex of the black sprinters line at the 30m point. My legs were spinning, flying up and down like mini pistons propelling me towards the start line.
I pass the start line and the clock begins. I could feel the g-force pushing me harder onto the saddle. Half way down the back straight my legs should be flying, but for some reason they weren’t spinning as quick as they should be. Did I use too big a gear. Can’t change it now, so got to dig deep and keep pushing. I’m telling myself, “Push push push…spin spin spin…not long to go. Keep it going.” I fly pass my wife Libby at close to 40mph and can hear her cheering me on. “Come on…move it,” I tell myself. Round the next two bends, I feel the g-force again, while trying to focus on the black line. Out of turn 4 I look up and realise the finish line at Newport is at the end of the straight not mid-way like at Derby. Dig deep, make it count…GO GO GO… and finish. My track sprinting debut was over…but how did I do. Before I got half way round the bend I knew it wasnt a great performance (it’s one thing producing the ‘goods’ in training, but completely different when you are at the nationals and have been hanging around for ages waiting to do your race). On the back straight I looked up and saw my time on the large screen (12.818s). I thought to myself, “Well, at least it started with a 12!” Afterwards, I realised the combination of a 108″ gear and legs that weren’t firing on all cylinders prevented me from getting on top of the gear. Oh well lesson learnt. But still I got a new PB.
Many hour later, the rounds of the Men’s sprint began. I changed my gearing to 96″ to help me accelerate.  I was in Heat 1. Another first – I’d never been help up on track before. There was no gun, no whistle, no beeps, just a GO. Very weird. Being a novice I was straight to the front and cycled along the cote looking back at my opponent all the way around the track. We slowly cruised around in this fashion for another lap, until we approached the last lap. The bell rang. I looked forward for a tenth of a second and bang. My opponent saw his chance and took it. He went flying passed me. I knew I had the gear to accelerate quickly. I pushed hard, trying to chase him down. My legs were spinning faster and faster, slowly gaining on him. Round the last turn…push push push, but to no avail. I couldnt claw back the deficit gained on the inital jump. I was great fun though. Even though I lost that race, I haven’t had that much fun since racing people in the 100m.
My next race was the Repechage. I changed to a 100″ gear for this race, because I felt the 96″ sort changed me a little in the last race. There were 3 of us in this race. Same format as before. My opponent on the inside went off pretty fast. I zipped up behind him in case he tried to go flat out from start to finish (a tactic I saw earlier that day). I had to make sure I was able to cover any moves made by the man in front, but also the other sprinter behind me, who was higher up the track than I was, which could’ve been a problem for me if he went for the jump.
With a lap and half the sprinter behind picked up the pace. The man in front of me saw this and went for it. I chased him down as we passed the bell. Gaining on him with each metre. I pushed and pushed – I wanted to win. I moved out to pass him at turn 3, but went too wide (almost up to the blue line), and lost that extra speed I had and couldn’t make the pass stick, so had to settle for 2nd. What a great race. A great event. Definitely my favourite cycling event.
The next day I had the Kilo Time Trial to do. 4 Laps! I was not loving the idea of doing 4 laps! Steve was there that day like an eager beaver! He had a long day ahead of him and I was trying to get him to chill, but no…he was like a kid at Christmas! To give you an idea of our ‘noob-ness’ I think we were probably the only two people without TT bars. I didn’t even know they were allowed (I really should do more research into the sport I’m doing before trying it for the first time at the nationals!). I missed Steve’s race, because I was busy getting ready for mine, but looked up to see his time 57.0 for 750m…thats some good stuff! Another first for me: Starting a race from a starting gate. How was that going to feel? I settled on the bike ready for my 4 lap adventure.
The clock began to count down…then the countdown beeps started. I got out the saddle ready for a big lunge forward on the final beep…wait for it. Ready. GO. Big lunge forward. Big push on the pedals (after a little bit of a wobble) and another big push. GO GO GO. I could hear Libby cheering me on. All I could think about was getting on top of the gear. Still out the saddle building up speed towards the end of the back straight, I sat down, and gave it all I had. 1 lap in the bag, 3 to go. Telling myself, “GO GO GO”. Half way down the back straight I was thinking, “How am I going to do another 2 and half laps? I know push harder and use leg momentum to turn the pedals round…GO GO GO”. I could hear Libby & Steve cheering me on again at the end of the back straight. Round turn 3 & 4…2 laps in the bag…half way. I was beginning to struggle. The lack of training was started to show. My legs felt like they weren’t producing any power. My friend Mike, who was also competing in the 75yr old category was cheering me on at the finish line. This kept me going until I got back round to Libby & Steve who also cheered me on. After another lap of pain and not getting on top of the gear, it felt like I was cycling in treacle. My cadence must have looked ridiculously slow. I’d had enough. “What a stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid idea…I need to pull out. I’m not going to make it. I need more holes to breath out of.” I thought to myself. I was about to peel off, head up the banking and dnf. But Mike was there, cheering me on. I had to keep going. I made it down the back straight for the last time. Hearing Libby & Steve cheering me on again, gave me enough to keep pushing till I crossed the finishing line. What a mess. Again, wrong gear choice meant I never got on top of the gear and expelled way too many watts try to accelerate out of the start gate. Another valuable lesson learnt!!! I knew my time was going to be slow, but how slow? I looked up at the scoreboard and saw a 1:1…….thank goodness for that! Down the back straight I could read the time 1:19.668. At least it wasn’t a 1:2….! Another P.B. Not amazing times, but next year I’ll be back to beat them.
It was a fantastic experience and helped me realise I chose the right sport. I always knew time trials weren’t for me. Time triallists never understand me when I say 10miles is too far. Track sprinting is where I belong. I’d just like to say a big thanks to Libby for supporting me and running around after me all weekend. And a big thanks to Steve for giving me the idea of competing in the masters and cheering me on at the track.
Next stop. Keirin Competition at Derby. Another first…