By Roger Ainslie:
On June 14-15th the elite track cycling state champions were held at the Encino Velodrome. I have never raced there before, however I have never raced a lot of places since this is my first year racing the track. I started riding the track last year after several my friends suggested I give it a try. Being a big guy with a strong sprint, the track seemed to suit me. There tons of different races on the track. I think some drunk Belgian has thought of every single way to race a bike on velodrome. However, there are only a few that are actually Olympic events. The Omnium is an Olympic event that was added in 2012. It is a six-event race that is raced over two days. The flying lap, points race and elimination race are the first day and the pursuit, scratch race and kilo are on the second. Each event is scored 1 for first 2 for second and 3 for third and so on. The winner of the race is the one with the lowest overall score. The Omnium is the race that appeals to me the most. It is hard. It requires aerobic and anaerobic fitness and the endurance to last though all 6 events.
I drove up to Encino the day before and planned on staying in a hotel. I arrived around 9pm on Friday night. I wanted to get to sleep as soon as possible so I checked in and headed to my room. This room was by far the most disgusting hotel room I have ever been in. The dirtiness was bearable, but the smell was a bit overwhelming. The air conditioning didn’t work, it was right next to a very loud street/neighborhood, but my biggest complaint was the smell. I was unhappy with the room, but I told myself to quit being such a prima donna and just go to sleep. However, the nerves, combined with a hotel room from hell, made sleep impossible for me. At around 12:30am I went to the lobby and asked for another room. They told me they overbooked the hotel so they gave me smoking room because they had no more nonsmoking rooms available. So I asked for a refund, which they granted. I gathered my things and pondered what to do. I thought about getting a room at another hotel but it was around 2:00am already. I figured I would forgo looking for a new room and just sleep in the car. I ended up getting an un-restful 2 hours sleep.
My inexperience showed during the first event, the flying lap. The flying lap is a simple event. Ride as fast you can over one lap of the track. This was my time riding at speed on this track. Encino is a shorter track, only 250 meters, but it had a very shallow banking. I ran wide in the turn and had to basically stop pedaling in order to regain control. My gear was too big to accelerate again and I ended up with a bad time. It was good enough for second, but it was far from what I was capable of.
The second event was the points race, an 80 lap race with a sprint every 10 laps. 5 points are awarded to first 3 for second and 2 for third and 1 for fourth, and 20 points if you lap the field, minus 20 points if you get lapped. I won the first sprint, but I had a problem with my saddle. I pull towards the nose of the saddle when I sprint and the violent pulling on the upstroke made the nose tilt down. The saddle was pointing straight to the ground and it made it very hard ride in that position. A guy went for a solo flyer, but I had no desire to chase. I was in survival mode. Make it through the race with as little damage as possible. Despite my saddle issues. I still ended up third.
I fixed my saddle and the next race was the elimination race. In the elimination race, the last rider to cross the line every lap is eliminated, and the last man standing wins. I had never raced an elimination race before this race, but I got the jest of it. Don’t come in last! I tried to stay in a position during the race where I couldn’t get boxed, even if it meant spending more energy. It worked great and I ended up winning.
The next day I showed up more rested and ready. I was first in the overall at the start of the day. The first event was the pursuit, a 4-kilometer TT, which ends up being a 5min effort. I had not done a lot of 5 min intervals in training because I am peaking for Nationals in August. I have been doing a lot off endurance rides and a couple races a month, but no structured 5min intervals yet. I was a little nervous since I had not done a pursuit in a couple months and was not sure how I would do. I have a power meter on my road bike and I did 500watts for 4min a couple days before states, so I knew I was riding pretty strong but I did not know how that would translate to pursuit time, because it is a different position and a little different effort. The pacing of a 4k is an art in itself. I paced it conservatively. I set a pace that I knew I could sustain throughout the entire effort, and pick it up towards the end if I had anything left. During my effort, my cadence was lower than expected and it was a lot more painful than expected. With one kilometer left in the race I put the hammer down and rode as hard as could. After I finished, I was gassed I had not gone that hard in a very long time. I could taste a tinge of blood in my mouth. I was coughing profusely and my legs felt like bricks. It was indicative of a very good effort. I didn’t start to feel normal until about 20min later. The time was unofficially a 5:16, which is really slow for me. I have done 4:57’s in San Diego, without a disc or skin-suit, with much less effort. I was a little pissed that my time was so slow, but I was proud to push myself that deep into the pain cave. Regardless, I won the event for the Omnium. My time was also the fastest of the day among the individual competitors as well, so I was crowned state champion in the individual pursuit. After a while had passed, I checked out my bike. I had pulled my wheel on the start and found that my tire was rubbing the frame throughout the entire effort. A guy told me later he could smell my tire as I went by. So I think that is where my 20 seconds went.
The next event was the scratch race, which is basically a crit. First one across the line wins. Everyone was tired from the pursuit so the pace was pretty slow. My strategy was to go for the sprint. If I were to attack, it would have been covered immediately since I was first in the overall. The last lap came around, and I was on the right side of the field. I looked back, and the guy who was second in the Omnium, had overlapped another guys wheel on the inside. It would be impossible for him to catch me if I went now. I heard the bell ring as I ripped into my bike and sprinted away. I won by a few bike lengths.
The kilo is the last event in the Omnium for a reason. It is extremely painful and can leave you exhausted for days if done properly. In the past, I have blacked out after a kilo and sat down on the infield of the velodrome breathing at full capacity for 20min at a time. I have coughed up blood after one in the past and I think it is just about the most painful things you can do on a bicycle. I got ready to do my kilo, and I was admittedly in a gear that was too big for that track. My legs felt like jello as powered off the start. The epic-like effort I did in the pursuit earlier had really taken the punch out of my legs. I gave it everything I had anyway. The kilo is basically a 1min sprint full gas. In the last 15 seconds every muscle is shutting down. I was dying; the gear felt so big and my muscles were not pushing despite my brain telling them to go harder. I finished with a time of 1:10. Not bad. There was a guy who put down a fast time of 1:09 who went on to win the kilo. I finished second. Among the Omnium competitors, I finished first in the kilo and sealed the deal as State Champion in the Omnium.
In the end, I made a lot of mistakes, but it was a great learning experience.
I want to say thanks to Cycles Veloce, my friends, and my family for being so supportive, and I am looking forward to racing more Omniums in the future.