Keeping motivated to stay on the bike over the holidays is difficult in itself to say the least. The time that we all look forward to as our "down" time to use for ourselves is always overloaded with todo lists, social gatherings and dozens of other holiday shenanigans. Add in gym and track closers and you have a perfect storm for 2 weeks lost in a haze of eggnog and Christmas leftovers. With all these factors stacking up to derail my Early Bird training group on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at the Velo Sports Center I knew I needed to come up with a creative way to get everyone out. My solution was to have an fun day of unique races and time trials to mix things up and get everyone involved and working hard. Throw in some cookies, eggnog and prizes for the winners plus make it an open invitation to anyone that wants to come and you've got a recipe for a perfect reason to get out of bed a Zero-Dark-Thirty and come play bikes!
I sent out an email blast to everyone I knew might be interested on Sunday afternoon and hoped it would get passed around. When I got to the track in the morning I pleasantly surprised to find all the usual suspects and 2 new comers! We got started right away with a 20 lap motor paced warm up gradually building the speed till we reached 40kph. After that for each lap that we completed I raised the speed of the motor by 1kph until there was only 1 rider left behind the motor. 17 laps and 57kph later the only rider that remained in my draft was Captian Kurt! Kurt is the master of spinning the warm up gear till his legs look like egg beaters so I gave him an extra 2 laps rapidly building the speed till we reached a scorching 68kph from the bottom of the track in a 81"!!!
We had a quick regroup on the infield with a gear changed and got everyone paired off into teams of 2 for a flying 500m TT. The only rule of the TT was that both members of the team had to cross the start line actively engaged in the TT. After that point it was up to them to determine how they wanted to share the workload. The first team off was James and his partner Michael. Michael gave James a long and strong burning lead out dropping James off with 1.5 laps to go when James kicked it into over drive and posted the fastest time on the day at 34.24 seconds. Next up was the first time pairing of Joe and Vance. Two riders that had never ridden together before for a team style event, they got up and did the whole thing straight off the cuff. Joe wound up and dropped in full gas delivering Vance to his pull at a blazing speed that Vance held all the way to the finish line for a time of 32.56! 3 teams remained to go with James even pulling double duty because we had an odd number of participants and while Captain Kurt and Bonnie got close at a 33.35 they were no match for the new comers of Vance and Joe!
Another quick recess for more instruction and it was up for the 10 lap motor paced scratch race. To put it simply this is a keirin with more laps and more people and one more rule: you can't spend more than 1 lap behind the motor! That rule mixed everyone's usual tactics up and required some quick thinking to adjust the plan and go for the win. As the motor came off with 2 laps to go Joe quickly found his way to the front and his excitement at the prospect of winning built like a snowball rolling down a mountain. James sat tucked in nicely in second coming into bell lap looking like he was ready to go for the win too. But not to be out done, Captain Kurt came sneaking up from the back with Michael, rocking the biggest gear of the day, right behind him as the bell sounded for the last lap. Unprepared for the burst of speed Kurt was saving up, the other challengers were left just out of striking distance as they came through the finish line.
The penultimate event on the day would be the Miss-and-Win-and-Out. This was your standard Miss-and-Out where the last rider was pulled every lap down to the last rider. But immediately following the completion of the Miss-and-Out it was straight back to the rail for the entire field for a 9 lap Win-and-Out to give the riders who got pulled early a chance to take advantage of the extra tired winners of the first race. Right from the start of the Miss-and-Out there were surprises all around. The first rider to be pulled (very intentionally) was Joe! Followed by Bonnie, Angela, Melanie, Jim and Big Gear Michael. Down to the final 3 of James, Vance and Kurt it truly was anybody's race. A slight hesitation on his move the next lap saw James finish with 3rd. Leaving Vance and Kurt to duke it out for first with Kurt being the final victor again! Back to the rail for the Win-and-Out brought along lots of huffing and puffing with many tired faces. With sprints every 3 laps and the first sprint determining the winner this was sure to be the fastest race of the day. With legs as heavy as could be and Christmas cookies on his mind, Captain Kurt dug deeper than ever and kicked it into over drive when the bell rang for the first sprint and came sailing past the group to pick up the win! With the next placing being determined only 750m later some tough choices faced the remaining competitors. This was when, after having saved energy leaving the Miss-and-Out first, Joe found his own over drive and left the rest of the field in the dust to claim second place! With only 1 sprint remaining in a insanely fast race the final sprint would be a true war of attrition. A war that Melanie was ready and willing to fight! Having done plenty of laps deep into her lactic acid threshold in the past months around the VSC, she dropped into her power position and drove non-stop all the way to the line to bring home a 3rd place finish! But quite possibly the most impressive part of the back to back race was Bonnie's determination of steel to finish her first ever mass start race when many others surrendered to the pain!
With only 1 race left on the cards for the day it was time to mix things up and it was also time for payback for the riders who suffered all day while Captain Kurt zoomed around with his egg beater legs. Enter the HANDICAP!! Riders lined up at the rail in an order determined by me and began their 3 lap race at on my command at time intervals determined by me. Still determined to get a podium placing in the day's events, Bonnie was the first off and dove into the pole lane leaving everything she had on the track. Bonnie was still holding strong on the front with 1 lap to go but after starting only 2 riders back and also determined to get a podium on the day, Jim was coming like a express train closing in with every pedal stroke! Jim took over control of the race and held on to the finish with Bonnie fighting all the way to the line to bring home second!
After 2 hours and 6 good hard efforts from everyone it was time for homemade cookies from Missy (twitter.com/missyerickson) and a little eggnog (non-alcoholic of course). The winners received samples of the candy cane flavored holiday coffee from CoffeeBeanDirect.com - the only place to order coffee from EVER. And then everyone was off to start their day by 8am! I would like to thank everyone who came out to participate in the festivities and fun racing we had this morning. With the first session like this being such a success I can guarantee there will be more of these open fun race sessions in the future! Be sure to check back here on the website, follow me on twitter @BIGPictureCycle (twitter.com/BIGPictureCycle), or like us on Facebook (facebook.com/BigPictureCycling) to find out when the next session like this will be! I hope everyone who loves bikes (and even anyone who doesn't) has a perfect holiday season and great start to 2014! I look forward to seeing you all on the roads or on the boards!