Kim and I doing our 3k Pursuit
A couple of years ago I'd heard that once you get past the fear of the velodrome you would become addicted. After the last couple training sessions at Blaine and CVC, I think I'm finally at that point and I think Kim feels the same way!!
We flew in on Thursday and went straight to the track, arriving exacty in time for a break in the racing where we were able to get onto the track, test it out, and get some openers in. We immediately loved it. The ADT Veledrome is really cool. The track is wood, 250 meters and has 45 degree banking. It is inside a huge stadium and on the ends of the infield are volleyball courts and weight lifting areas. Being so new, we had so much to learn, but it was great having Steve there to help us, along with the entire paralympic team and staff. One thing that's tough to figure out is exactly when you are going to go and timing your warmup. There's a morning session and an evening session and the events during the session are listed in order. Unless you are first you really have no idea of exactly when you are going to go. At the track, you see a lot of people warming up on their road bikes. In the interest of saving money we didn't bring our road bikes out to warm up on, so we rode the trainer together on the tandem for our warm up. On Friday our first Pursuit was in the morning session and the time for this one was going to be a qualifier for worlds, and a seeding for the finals in the evening.
Our timing for our warmup was a little off, we warmed up really early and then sat for a long time waiting to go. We were nervous. We were starting with an electronic holder for the first time and also that morning we'd had to cut the aero bars because they were too far forward to be UCI legal. So we went to the start with no practice in this new position, and no practice with an electronic holder. We'd practiced 3k efforts before but never done one in competition.
Our start out of the holder was just fine, but going into turn one the bike started wobbling and I had to come out of the aerobars. It was about a lap before I felt comfortable enough to go back into them. After we got our rhythm we felt ok and finished the race without further issue. Our time was 4:15 and we were a little disappointed with that.
The Pursuit is called the Pursuit because there are two competitors (or in our case two tandems) competing at the same time. They start on opposite sides of the track and when the gun goes off, they "pursue" each other. It's possible to catch your competitor, and if this happens in the finals they shoot the gun and you aren't given a final time. Since the evening session was the finals, and the time wasn't going to be a world's qualifier, if we got passed by our competitor the gun would be shot and the race would be over. We started the race so much better, relaxing into corner one, staying well within the lane, and gradually getting up to speed. Our following laps were substantially faster. We got caught about halfway through so we were disappointed not to be able to get a new (and better) time but we were thrilled with our improvement. We were chomping at the bit for our Kilo on Sunday, feeling more confident in our start and more confident all around.
It was a really great atmosphere there. This year Para Track Nationals was run simultaneously with Elite Track Nationals so there were lots of other Chicago folks there and our new friends that we met at Blaine when we were up there training a couple weeks ago, as well as people from all over that we knew just from the racing scene in general.
Joe Berenyi's gold medal Pursuit final
The most thrilling race to watch was Paralympian and fellow Chicagoan Joe Berenyi's Individual Pursuit final. After Joe's ride it was the general consensus of the entire stadium that it was the best pursuit win anyone had ever seen. It started out with Joe steadily losing ground to his competitor. It looked like Joe was going to be overtaken. But something changed and he started gaining ground. The crowd was going wild as he inched his way into the gold medal just before the finish. It brought down the house!
We had the next day off, and we headed over to the track during the break to get in some laps loosen up the legs and make sure our gear selection was right for Sunday's Kilo. After that we spent the rest of the day in Beverly Hills looking for movie stars.
On Sunday we felt like pros and warmed up much better. We had decided the day before to go with a different gear than originally planned and in hindsight we think we went to0 easy. The one Kilometer race started much better for us. We were relaxed and felt great. We gave it our all but were spinning like mad. In the end we got the silver medal by 3 milliseconds!!! That's a little closer than I care to come, but we were stoked. Unfortunately we could not wait for our podium picture as we had a flight to catch.
We were quite happy with our performance. It's exciting to be in that beginning phase where every time you go out you see a huge improvement. We still feel like we have a long way to go and are looking forward to continuing this journey.
Video of part of our Pursuit