Sprinter Della Casa shared a nice quote from Miguel Indurain a while back:
"I'm fascinated by the sprinters. They suffer so much during the race just to get to the finish, they hang on for dear life in the climbs, but then in the final kilometers they are transformed and do amazing things. It's not their force per se that impresses me, but rather the renaissance they experience. Seeing them suffer throughout the race only to be reborn in the final is something for fascination."
Last night was my first time back at the velodrome in nearly two months. Rain-outs, scheduling, and work conflicts have gotten in the way, and I've missed it. I'd heard that the field had changed a little bit, that some new, strong riders have been coming out, and that the races have gotten faster. I thought back to an 8 lap scratch race from a few months ago. Our team, with five riders on the track, pushed the pace relentlessly and William set me up for a sprint win. Afterward Dan C looked at his cyclocomputer and announced that the average speed had been between 27 and 28mph. And then I thought about the races getting faster since then, and I quaked and wondered if I'd be up for it.
During one of our three races last night, a 3 lap tempo (I called it a "mass start kilo." A regrettably short race, but the official had to cram a lot of races into one short evening), we managed to average 30mph. And for the duration of the race I was gasping on the back.
But the other two races went well. In the win-and-out I was able to bridge up to a three-man break that took off after the first sprint. Two were teammates, and the third was a Cat 2 road racer who can ride away and stay away. Outgunned, he led out the sprint and I came around him for 2nd (he stayed away for the rest of the race to get 3rd). In the scratch race, teammates attacked at the gun and towed the Cat 2 and a big, strong sprinter around, and four or five them launched repeated attacks and chases while I, once again, spent most of the race gasping at the back. But with 2 to go, I was able to move up to 6th or 7th wheel, drew up another few wheels at the bell, and picked the right wheel to follow. At 200m I was second wheel, well-sheltered, and suddenly, for the first time all evening, felt fresh and ready to go.
I jumped, sprinted, won, and remembered what Indurain said.
Bike racing gets tiring. I love racing but a heavy season clutters a schedule and gets fatiguing. That said, it was great to return to the track. The road season is winding down for me, but there's still a month or so left of track racing and I'm looking forward to riding it out.