Jr Track Nationals

As soon as we pulled up to Colorado Springs’ 7-Eleven velodrome with all five bikes, seven extra wheels, and about 3 tons of equipment and clothes piled in the back of our van, I knew I was in for quite a ride (literally and figuratively).

After having settled into the atmosphere of the Northbrook and Kenosha velodromes, this track nearly scared the living daylights out of me. The infield was concrete with a permanent wall all the way around except for two openings allowing riders onto the inner track followed by a gully that ran all the way around which was covered in certain places by rotting boards to ride over. After making it past all these obstacles, you were finally on the apron of the actual track. Just by looking at the banking I knew it was much steeper than Kenosha, and the track even contained an enclosed two-story tower/building from which the officials could watch the race in comfy sofas and chairs. Despite all of that, though, I was truly blown away by the underground tunnel that transported riders from the infield to the spectator stands. That’s when I knew this track meant business. I think we need to make some serious modifications to Northbrook.

I entered the track for the very first time full of anticipation and excitement…until, of course, I got to the first turn and nearly had a heart attack when I looked down and saw how steep the banking was. The turns were so steep that I doubted I could climb up to the top of one on just hands and feet.

For all of my races I camped out in two tents staked out by the “Chicagoians” which consisted of teams like XXX, Smartcycling, Northbrook veloclub and several other teams I recognized from Northbrook. I must admit that even though cyclists are usually good, caring people, they get a little aggressive on the infield when it comes to tent territories and possession of benches and bike stands. People became so intent on robbing each other of their benches that it became a heated competition all in itself. Some went so far as to cut off the zip-ties that we used to attach the bench to our tent with.

Anyway, when the first day of competition came I wish I could say I was full of confidence and zeal, but instead I was really nervous and only wanted to crawl under one of the benches we stole. It was the 500 meter TT, and by the time it was my turn to go I was shaking bad enough to make anyone believe there was an earthquake happening. Let me tell you, there’s nothing worse than sitting alone at the line with only a clockface counting down the seconds (50…40…30…20) until the buzzer signals the start of a race where everything has to be performed perfectly from the time you’re let go to the moment you’re racing down to the finish line hammering with everything you’ve got. I finished in 41.5 seconds. SPAN style="mso-spacerun: yes"> That was good enough for 11th place, and first place was just four seconds away. I’ve decided that I hate 500m TTs.

The next day I showed up again on the line along with 19 other girls, staring each other down for the victory of the 6k Scratch race (a scratch race is just like a crit, just in a velodrome). Actually, everyone already knew who was going to win the scratch race, it would be a girl named Coryn who had only lost a Junior National Track race when she was 10. She’d won gold for every single other race, and she’d won the 500m with a time of 37 sec. It would only be a question of when she would make her winning move. As the race started I sat at the back twiddling my thumbs, waiting for the real race to begin.

Coryn set the fuse with a fake attack near the start. She was caught easily, and her plan rolled exactly how she had calculated: a counter attack went off, and the field chased it down within a lap. Then Coryn made her real move with an attack that made a 20 ft. gap and held for about two laps before the strung-out field finally caught it. Coryn swung up and the exhausted field did so as well which left a perfect clear path at the bottom, and which shoved the most perfect opportunity right in my face. I wasted no time before diving down the banking straight to the bottom, underneath all the riders and right off the front before anyone could even shout, “Ho ly Guacamole Batman!”. I whizzed so close past the faces of the coaches on the apron (screaming “Attack! Attack!”) that I could have reached out and punched one in the face. I flew past the cameraman flashing the light for his photo, and sped by the lap counter that read 12 laps to go…wait a second! 12 laps to go?!?! What in the Holy Toast’s name was I thinking?!?! Who in their right mind attacks with 12 laps to go?!?! Jessi Prinner does, that’s who.

The adrenaline was pumping through me at 10 laps to go; at six laps to go I couldn’t feel my legs anymore and Coryn was leading the field in a desperate chase to catch me; at four laps to go my lungs felt as if they were going to explode and Coryn was begging the field in a panic to help her chase me down; at three laps remaining my vision was getting blurry, I could practically hear the lactic acid sloshing around in my legs, and I just wanted someone to shoot me; at two to go I wanted to punch the lap counter official for not making it one to go; and at one to go all I could think about was, “DON’T CRASH DON’T CRASH”, because knowing me I would probably crash into one of the coaches on the apron. Thankfully, though, I managed to cross the lin e in one piece, taking the gold scratch race medal, and leaving Coryn in a huff at her loss.

The next day I had to wake up extra early (at 8:00 am!) to warm up for my final event: the points race (a 30 lap race in which riders sprint for points every 5 laps and 1st place gets 5 points, second gets 3, third gets two and fourth gets one. The bell signals the points lap). It was a hot day, and even though I drank roughly 68 gallons of water, I still somehow managed to obtain what is called “cotton mouth” ( no not the snake, but just as deadly) where it feels as though someone stuck a wad of cotton in your mouth and it becomes agonizingly dry. From the beginning it was slow and bunched up; everyone was just ambling around in circles waiting for the first points. Just two or three laps into the race a sudden clashing and scraping sound erupted from behind of a five girl pile-up and the race was instantly neutralized. About five or six laps of riding slowly around the apron later, we all started off again with all the crashed girls back in the pack (gosh I feel safe). During the ten hours it took to finally scrape all the bodies off the ground, my mouth kept becoming more and more painfully dry. As we rode around I kept trying to summon up all the saliva from the pores in my mouth, but it was bone dry in the cave. The bell lap finally came, and the field exploded with jumps and girls fighting for position. I was flung back into the far reaches of the pack, far out of contention for points. It remained like chaos for the rest of the race, and for the first four points laps I didn’t earn any. Just when it seemed all hope was lost, I attacked and rode away with Coryn, getting second place points and eventually passing her in the end to earn first, miraculously putting me in third place for the race.

Not only did I earn a third and a first place, though, but I also placed second for the omnium (the overall ranking).

I was a little disappointed that I didn’t get a jersey for winning the scratch race, but I did leave with the bling, so all is good.

Until next nationals…oh, wait, that’s tomarrow…


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