A belated review of Sunday's Match Sprints
I didn't know quite what to expect on Sunday. For starters I was quite nervous about the day itself, not knowing how it would go, who would show up and how I would ride.
As one of the helpers my job was to prepare all the printed material. Most of that was pre-done but I was stressing about the little database program I'd written. We were only using it as a means to printing a neat draw for everyone but we only had a small amount of time to do the draw and get it printed once all the Flying 200's were done. In the end it went OK but there is still room for improvement.
Because I was needed at the data entry table I did my Flying 200 early. It was tough to make a quick clean transition from helper to racer and with very little warm up I did 14.72 seconds. Last summer I was under 14 seconds quite easily but a couple of weeks ago I was above 15 seconds so I wasn't too disappointed. I can improve on that time through the months ahead.
It was very disappointing to see Nathan have to withdraw with a back injury. Our times were very close and I was looking forward to racing him. Nathan is a natural sprinter and had worked very hard through the winter for this series. I hope he's back racing soon.
Because my fitness was suspect my overall plan for the day was to control the races as much as I could, keeping them at my pace, then jumping with the hope of opening a gap. I didn't want a long sprint and I didn't want a long drag race. At the same time I wanted the pace to be high enough so that I didn't have a lot of inertia to overcome in the kick. It was going to be tricky to balance all those.
My first race was against Leah Patterson. Leah and I had some ding dong battles in C grade last summer at Blackburn's regular track racing. Leah is strong and smart and has some experience at match sprints. I'd seen her training at DISC a few weeks ago and she looked good. I won the toss and elected to lead and by and large kept the race under control for the first lap and a half. Leah jumped from behind coming into the home straight with a lap and a bit to go. I didn't want a long sprint shoulder to shoulder from this far out so I let her get in front of me with the intention of sucking her wheel. But she kicked again and opened a good gap. For a moment I thought I was gone but dug deep and caught her wheel at the end of the back straight then proceeded to come around her outside. She drifted up a little as we hit the home straight but it worried the judges more than me and I went past her for a close win. It was a close thing and I had to really go deep into the red to catch and overtake Leah. I suddenly felt very tired and was worried about the other races.
I won the toss again for the second race against Maria. I didn't know much about Maria but had watched Rob Monteath beat her in the first round so I thought I would again lead and control things making making sure she didn't surprise me as Leah did. The plan went well and I feigned taking her up the bank with less than a lap to go before diving down, getting a gap and holding it for a win. Two out of two but would my energy hold out?
I watched Rob very impressively beat Leah in his second race with a long (approximately 400 metre) sprint. This had me worried. Rob's fitness was superior to mine. He would be able to drive for longer. If he went for home from a long way out I would have to just try to hang on to his wheel and sprint past at the end. But his gearing was quite a bit bigger than mine 91.8 versus 88.2 so I really wanted to avoid having to spin like crazy for such a long time just to hang on. So the plan was once again to take control and go for a short sprint with maximum acceleration.
Again I won the toss and again I decided to lead. The heat was in effect a dead rubber as we were both already into the final but there was a psychological advantage to be gained as well as aggregate points to consider. I pretty much tried the same thing I did with Maria, jumping at the same point. Coming into the home straight, the sun was behind me and I could only see one shadow - mine. So I thought I was clear but looked around just to make sure. And there was Rob charging at me. I tried to kick again but I was gone and Rob caught me on the line. Bugger. That's one that got away but full credit to Rob.
The final came around quicker than I would like. I was still licking my mental and physical wounds but I was determined to turn the tables on Rob for beating me in the heat. My plan was to keep to my plan. That is, take control and keep control and then execute the finish better than before. But this time I lost the toss. I was afraid Rob would lead and drag me around for a long sprint but alas he elected to follow. I tried to keep the pace down because I wanted to keep everything for one explosive burst at the end. But Rob would speed things up and since I didn't want him to take the lead I was forced to speed up also. A couple of time I considered jumping from the front when he fell back a little but he still had the height advantage and it was a long way from home so I decided against it. I was getting nervous and gave Rob opportunity to dive under me but luckily he didn't take it.
As we went past the bell Rob was still above me. I thought if I went now, before the bank it would mean he would either have to contend with the slope or come down behind me. Either way it was a chance for me to get a gap. So I hit the pedals hard. Stuff the ribs, I was out of the saddle sprinting with every fibre in my being. I only sat back down after the 200 metre mark and just continued to drive with everything I had. There was a chance I'd blow up before the finish but I wanted to make sure I had as big a gap as possible. There was no point keeping something in reserve for a second kick, I was putting all my cards on the table now! (OK, no more cliche's)
I knew I was going fast and it was an effort to control the bike in the bend and keep in the sprinters lane. Straightening up for the line I didn't know where Rob was so I just buried myself and went over the line for the win. Totally exhausted but elated.
And so ended a great day. Everyone - competitors, helpers and spectators had a ball and we're all keen to do it again in November.