Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Head to Head with a National Champ?

One of the things that JP said earlier in the year in his shoes as the club's development director was, "You might be a sprinter with your friends but that's a lot different than being a sprinter in a race." The lesson is that you might have a sprint but in a race there's bound to be somebody bigger and stronger who can apply that pure power better than you can. Most people's best bet is to try to force a selection from which they can try to place, rather than to sprint against the whole field. The difference between a honest-to-goodness sprinter and someone who can occasionally sprint became obvious to me this weekend at the track, my first time out as a Cat 3. Unfortunately, only two other 1/2/3 riders had registered. One of them threw down the track's fastest Kilo time at Opening Weekend in April and a few weeks ago at the State Championships. The other is a Master's National Champion in the match sprint.

Oh well.

I had been hoping that a small field would be combined with others so that we could race some mass-start races, but it was only to be a handful of match sprints.

Oh well.

What played out "sprinting against" Andrew Lacorte reminded me of a scene from The Wire, when McNulty, roughly handled by bosses, and his partner Bunk are working their way toward getting belly-up at a bar. "You know why I respect you, Bunk? Because when it came time for you to screw me, you were very gentle." Bunk - as drunk or drunker than McNulty - replies, "I knew it was your first time. I wanted it to be special." Lacorte wouldn't let me slip away when I hammered from the whistle, so we danced around a little bit, kept the pace high, and when I started sprinting, he just held me on his rear wheel, increasing the pace deftly. He didn't ride away from me, which was either gentlemanly, or kid-glove treatment. Maybe both.

Later, in a 3-up sprint, I drilled it from the line as Colin tucked behind Lacorte, hoping that he would tire. Interested in an even playing field, I was trying to give Colin a fighting chance, which he had, though Lacorte held him off when they started sprinting in earnest (at this point, well ahead of me).

Afterward, Colin paid me a nice compliment. "When I was trying to come around him his arms were shaking. He looked tired at that point." Lacorte, overhearing this, responded, "That's a tactic." Maybe, but leading your competition to believe that fatigue is not fatigue, but a tactic - that's a tactic, too.

I made third place look easy yesterday, and besides, I got a chance to top off the tan line on my thighs.

And even though it was probably a stretch to say that I raced against Lacorte, it's still pretty cool to go head-to-head against a National Champion.

Photos linked from Mike Mahesh's blog.


  1. holy crap that guy is big. And that bike. Jeez.

    Match sprint etc - what gear do you use? And what crank arm length for you?

    I'm using 170s, 50x15 for everything, but I want to get some more gearing so I got a BB so I can use the cranks that have a 49, 50, and 51.

  2. Yeah, he's a big guy for sure, especially standing next to a little squirt like me.. One of the really interesting things about watching him ride is seeing the ways in which he's a whole rider. I mean, he has a big mean jump but he can spin so fast and smoothly, and keep accelerating and holding a very high pace all the way to the line. And the control he shows, being able to do things and change his riding while already at a very high speed - impressive. And his bikes... well, about a year ago I read a comment he wrote about Tiemeyers being the only bikes he hasn't broken.

    I use 50x15 for everything. Up from 49 last year. I went to T-Town for a day of racing and used a 51, came back to Kissena thinking "maybe I can keep the 51 on," but realized that I couldn't muscle it over very well. Mass-start races at Kissena tend to feature an immediate balls-out acceleration that's hard enough... I don't really have a great jump, and have a hard time getting up to speed by myself (I imagine my flying 200 time would be noticably slower than, say, a sprint even at the end of a mass-start race where I launch off of others at 200 or 225-250m); but I'm fairly smooth and can accelerate from a high speed. So I figure that going bigger wouldn't help me.

    I use 167.5mm cranks. I've never really felt comfortable with 170s on a track bike - felt like I was about to knee myself in the chest, felt like I was losing control of my spin on the back-and-upper quadrant of my spin. I'm small with fairly short legs, as you can see in that picture. Chose the 167.5s to not sacrifice too much leverage, and I'm happy with them, though I haven't had the opportunity to do a thorough comparison of different lengths.