Friday, July 24, 2009

Alpenrose Velodrome Challenge

After racing one of the fastest women's races I've ever been in at the American Velodrome Challenge at Hellyer this year, I had a better idea of what I was in for in Portland's Alpenrose Velodrome Challenge. It was the same fast women, minus Proman's Shelley Olds and Cari Higgens. One thing I learned out of Hellyer's AVC is that I need to get a wheel and not be scared to get down in the pole. It's still nerve-wracking after seeing some gnarly crashes, including my friend Ashley S. of the Roaring Mice hitting her head really hard.

It was a long and uneventful 10 hour drive up to Portland, other than forgetting that all gas stations are full service up there. Luckily, we went straight for the Velodrome to do some laps at Beth N.'s suggestion. My first thought when I saw it was "I'M GOING TO RIDE MY BIKE ON THAT?????". It looked more like a pro skateboard ramp than a velodrome.

It turns out that it is one of the steepest velodromes in the country-- 43 degrees. What's strange is that the straightaways are nearly flat with not much of a transition. There are some interesting bumps and skids marks on the surface just to make it a little more interesting. We jumped on our bikes and I rode a lot faster than I needed to through the corners, scared of falling down the track. Later, a local told us that a "jedi master" could ride 8-9 miles per hour very uncomfortably, but that 15 miles per hour was safe. By the end of the weekend it seemed like no big deal. Unlike Hellyer, you can't easily tool around warming up. It's like a pool with only a deep end (no treading water). You feel like a pin ball being shot around when you race. The G-forces at full speed in the pole felt pretty cool. Only the locals knew how to really stay down there through the turns. What a trip!

We stayed in Northwest Portland for a couple of nights. I scored bigtime when I found a french bakery called St. Honore' Boulangerie that was showing the Tour de France on a big screen.

When we got to the track. I felt more comfortable realizing that we had a group of about 18 from Hellyer. As usual, I got lots of good advice from friends and my teammate Andrea Fisk from Portland. I had a qualifying points race to start things out. I was really nervous about qualifying and being with a big group on the steep banks. To make things worse, I found out on the rail that only four of us would qualify for the rest of the women's races. Fortunately, the organizers realized that they would be sending a lot of women home and they opened up two more women's 3/4 races. I still felt a lot of pressure. I stayed with the group, but never did score any points. I ended up 9th. I was really frustrated and a little teary after my race. Dino cheered my up and said "You have five minutes to feel bad, then you have to focus on the next race. It's okay. It means you care." Boy, I needed that. That night a beer at Mcminimum's Kennedy School tasted really good. We also made the mandetory trip to the famous Powell's Books with Dino's daughter Jasmine.

Things really got settled in at the Hellyer Camp on Saturday. It was warm, but I had a lot of fun hanging out and cheering for friends. Matt's boy Teo ran around being silly and getting free massages from the massage ladies in the neighboring tents. It was non-stop action and intense speed! Around noon, we lined up for a scratch race. The Hellyer ladies agreed to keep and eye on each other and go for some moves later in the race, possibly getting away. Dave McCook was a great advisor for us all weekend. I got in one good dig, but got caught behind some traffic at the end. It's really hard to pass on that track. Being shorter than Hellyer, you had to set up your position a few laps earlier. I finished 8th and crafty CC made the podium at 3rd.

I went crazy watching Dino in his master's scratch race-- he almost lapped the field to score 20 points!!! He got caught with only two laps to go. Heartbreak for sure, but what a great display of his power and guts. He ended up 5th and caught the attention of the announcers and spectators.

Also, my teammate Velo Bella Andrea Fisk set a new track record for the team sprint. She really is a powerhouse and always looks so solid. We got goosebumps watching her.

I was really impressed and proud of all of the talent that we have at Hellyer. Hanan made one of the most impressive moves of the weekend. I was in the perfect position to watch her non-nonchalantly roll off the front at the end of the scratch race while other teams were battling it out. She won by a half lap. They never know what hit them. Inspirational!

That night we celebrated a good day racing at the host house behind the velodrome.

I was much more relaxed on the last day, realizing that I only had one race left, the miss-n-out. At the advice of Andrea, I was going to start in front and stay in the pole I did exactly that and controlled things until the fourth elimination. I should have gotten out of the saddle earlier and could have made the podium. Sugar CRM's Kira P. sure was looking strong all weekend! She ended up 2nd. She's one to watch! I felt successful since I rode my own race.

Dave gave us in an impromptu Madison lesson on the lawn.

After the Miss'n'out and Dino's Scratch race, we left to get some lunch. When I got back I signed up for a heavenly massage. Apparently, when I was gone there was a meeting about the women's points race. They were letting some women who hadn't qualified on Friday race anyway. I didn't know until I heard them calling my name on the start list as I sat in the stands. Doh! I was disappointed that I didn't get to race. I didn't know about checking start lists and not leaving the track if there is a chance that you'll get to race.

Next Year
Even with the emotional ups and down's of racing, I had a great time. I learned a lot and liked trying out a new velodrome. The more I race track, the more I love love love it. I agree with Dino, next year more trips!

1. Be careful of metal rails--they can give you little burns.
2. Always check the start list and ask questions.
3. Enter More Events!

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