Guest Post: DFJ Gets Track Certified
Today, we'll hand the blog reins over to one of Pure Fix Racing's newest team members, David Fair Jr. a.k.a. D.F.J a.k.a. Damn Fast Jentleman. David comes from a background racing road and fixed crits, and in today's post he and his Keirin Pro set out to get certified to race the drome! So, without further ado, here's David to walk us through the day:
Yesterday I had the opportunity to expand my cycling resume by getting certified to race at one of the most popular velodromes in the world, the Carson track from the '84 Olympics! A bit of a jaunt for me, but nothing unreasonable. Since I didn't have work, I made a day of it and decided to ride to the track, become certified, then ride back home.
I’ve never been one to arrive right on time, so I usually make an effort to leave early for most of my outings. Yesterday morning was no exception. Since the class began at 10:30am, I made sure to give myself plenty of time to get across the city so there would be no pressure or (added) stress heading into the situation. At around 7:00am, I set out from home.
There are a number of ways to get from the valley all the way down to the south bay. I kept things simple and went through Hollywood, downtown, then proceeded down Avalon through all the cities in between. From downtown, I watched the city transform from nice suburbs and a hustling entertainment industry to a third world country. I don’t want to get too detailed about the things I saw, but it was a sobering reminder that there are people in the city who are struggling for things you or I might take for granted. I couldn’t bring myself to capture any photos of the line of tents that were set up on San Pedro before turning onto Avalon, though it's a sight worth our attention and worth seeing for yourself.
After my jaunt through the city, I made it with about half an hour to spare (perfect timing in my book!). The track is in a building off to the side of a giant sports stadium and college campus. After registering and finding out where I needed to go, I met the instructor and the class began.
There were seven of us total, five who had taken the four week class, and one other person who (like myself) decided we could knock this out in one go. Our instructor was an older gentleman named Andrew. Now Andrew is someone who's not afraid to share his opinion with those around him. A real character in his own sense, someone who isn’t afraid to bust your chops and humble your ego to prove a point. My wrestling coach in high school was a lot like that, so I stuck to "yes" and "no" responses, remained respectful, and tried to only speak when spoken to. Before we hopped on our bikes, there was some lecturing involving the mechanics of the track and how the rules translate to other velodromes. It was then that I got a few photos of the scenery.
One of the biggest points made was that the format in which all of the riding would take place on this track was internationally understood. Meaning you can travel to a foreign country where no one speaks your language, hop on their track and, with the knowledge we were taught yesterday, still be able to show the other riders that you know what you're doing. It's like I picked up a whole new language in a day!
Coming from a road racing background, I understand that etiquette is important for many reasons - mainly safety and efficiency. Track cycling is not much different, except a new level of physics is introduced. To keep from sliding off the forty-five degree banking, you need to maintain a minimum speed, and be sure to scan ahead once you enter a turn. For those who haven’t had the opportunity to ride on a track, the rules are similar to that of a highway, you have a designated enter and exit lane, your fast and slow lanes, and passing lanes. All which need to be hit with a minimum amount of speed to keep from falling. The banking can be intimidating, especially when riders are traveling close to that minimum pace and you feel like you could slide out at any minute. There's also a loud, squeaky noise that sounds like the planks of wood are shifting beneath your wheels.
With two hours of ride time already in me, I was ready to go. After a brief introduction, another rider and I started off on the bottom of the track, first getting familiar with the feel of riding at such a steep angle. Once we got up to speed, we were told to move up the track where the same principles apply but a higher speed must be maintained. I didn’t realize the guy behind me was struggling to keep up as we rode half way up the track. I think it was the fear of slipping that inspired my hurried pace.
After that we jumped into a two-man rotating paceline drill where we had to pull off all the way up towards the railing, more than 10-feet from the bottom of the corner if you slipped. The trick to this is keeping your speed as you enter the steeper banking. As you turn up the track, you naturally slow down if you maintain your current effort because your bike's going uphill. From here, you wait for the partner (or group) to pass by you, and then you drop down and hop behind them and wait for the cycle to repeat. Dropping in had to be the most nerve-racking. When I was up at the top waiting to hop back in, I found myself slowing down in anticipation. From there I was never sure if the speed I gained by dropping back in would be enough to grip the track. All in all, nobody fell, and everyone had a good time.
One of the final drills was an eight lap scratch race. This, in a nutshell, is an eight lap race with a rolling group start. I wasn’t able to gauge the other rider’s experience levels, but I know how to approach an eight lap race on any track. With two laps to go I was third wheel and, coming out of the first corner, I accelerated and went all out. No one was able to respond to my attack and I ended up finishing on my own with no one on my wheel in a position to attack. At that point, the angle of the track didn’t matter. I have a basic idea of how to approach mass starts like these and feel comfortable enough in my racing experience to get close to other riders. Thankfully, things never got too hairy, but I wouldn’t have minded.
Once it was all over, we received our certificates and I was on my way.
At that point I was a little low on food, but had enough water to make it to a convenience store when I was back in familiar surroundings. I was beginning to dread the commute back to the valley, but instead made the best of my situation and trekked back home the scenic way. I took some more photos once I hit the coastal route.
I hadn’t ridden my track bike this much in a few weeks and I began to realize that I was using more muscle groups on this bike than on my road bike (muscle groups that feel pretty beat up as I write this today.) However, in times like those and with the extra training weighing on me, I knew the secret was to keep the pace mellow and I would catch a second or third wind.
The track was a great learning experience for me. Next week they're having resume-builder races where I hope I get the chance to show up and see what I’ve got. I know I’m not at my best yet, but riding with the other novice riders and showing that I had the speed to keep up with (and pull away from) them has boosted my confidence just enough that I might sign up in my off-seasoned state.
This has been a great opportunity for me and I hope there are many more to follow. See you at the track!