This blog documents the racing, training, & riding experiences of the participants of PWP

Pedaling with a Purpose

My name is Kristen Meshberg and I am a former category 1 bike racer. I competed nationally in both road and track. I am a USA Cycling Coach, and help individuals develop plans to achieve their goals. To survive the Chicago winter, I developed an indoor workout program called "Pedaling with a Purpose."

I now have various locations across the United States. To find out more about Pedaling with a Purpose or Coaching, email Kristen at: kmesh.pwp@gmail.com

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Elite Omnium Nationals, Rock Hill, SC

Track Nationals are always in Los Angeles the first weekend in October.  This year, USA Cycling decided to do a separate event for the Omnium.  What is the Omnium?  It's an olympic event that Sarah Hammer from the US just won a silver medal at in London! The Omnium is like the overall event in gymnastics.  It consists of 6 individual events, and the winner of each event gets 1 point, second gets 2 and so forth.  The winner of the omnium is the person with the lowest amount of points at the end of the 6 events.  It's not based on cumulative time so there is no benefit to winning by a lot, only winning.  The events that make up the omnium are as follows and in this order:

The flying lap
Points Race
Elimination race
3K pursuit (4k for men)
Scratch race
500 meter time trial (1k for men)

Each event has it's own specific gearing, equipment, strategy and rules.  Since each of these events are also individual events, USA Cycling decided this year to separate the omnium and hold nationals for it separately, making it a little easier on both the competitors and the organizers.  

The event was hosted at the brand new Giordana Velodrome in Rock Hill, SC.  It's a 250 meter outdoor concrete track opened in March of 2012.  It's about a 30 minute drive from Charlotte, NC and the swanky professionally staffed velodrome fits in well with the completely sports mad town.  The Carolinas are serious about their sports venues!

Going to this race was one of those things that just fell into place. Somehow Thursday at 5am my two children, local Chicago racers Liam Donoghue and Tom Briney (who before this weekend had been a complete stranger) 3 bikes, 2 sets of rollers and 2 disk wheels ended up in my toyota matrix for a 13 hour drive.  

At best I have a very healthy respect for the track.  At worst, I'm absolutely terrified of it.  The only serious crashes I've had in bike racing have been on the track.  Most recently I crashed on the velodrome in Blaine, MN in June.  It was an unpleasant experience and it took me out for four weeks.   I approached this competition with much trepidation.
the tunnel leading into the track
We arrived in town late Thursday night and got to the track in time to get about 30 minutes in before racing.  Riding around in warm up, I heard the unmistakable gunshot sound of my tire popping!  I've never experienced this in twelve years of racing track.  Sheer terror.  I kept my cool and was able to exit without going down, but it scared me.  I started sobbing uncontrollably.  Liam and Tom to their credit were kind, and gently gave me some space, understandably distancing themselves from the freak show.  A super nice guy competing in the master's race loaned me his wheel for rest of the competition.  Next thing I knew it was time to do my flying lap, and again I was seriously freaked out and crying when I got off the track. 

photo credit: Erika Fulk
Flying lap: aero helmet, shoe covers, drop bars, no gloves, long sleeve skin suit & BIG gear

I did not finished last, and was pleased with that. During the afternoon it poured rain, but the track dried quickly and it only delayed the evening's start by about an hour.  The points race went well for me!  It was a 60 lap race where you sprint for points every 10 laps.  I got in an early break with Erin Glover of Portland (who incidentally was the woman I had run over in the crash in Minnesota totaling her bike and wheels)  and we scooped up two sets of points.  Erin rode me off her wheel which was a bummer.  Had I been able to work with her I think we would have had a shot at lapping the field which gives you an automatic 20 extra points.  In hindsight I think my gear choice was wrong.  I got some more points in the final sprint and ended up in 5th place, which I was quite pleased with.  I came off the track smiling and not in tears!  In the elimination, the last rider of every lap is pulled.  I messed up the start of the race, got pulled first so was placed last.  A bummer, but I didn't dwell on it.  
Off the front in the points race!

The next day we did the pursuit in the morning session.  This is a time trial where there are two riders on the track at the same time, starting at opposite sides of the track.  It's a standing start, and you are held by an electronic device that automatically lets go of your bike after a countdown.  When I was about to start the timer malfunctioned and the holder let go of my bike 5 seconds prematurely.  A little unnerving but no tears were shed and I was unfazed.  They could not get the timer working again so all of the women did our pursuits individually; not super cool but at least it was the same for all of us. My start was terrible, I actually turned sideways and went up track before I went forward.  I did not finish last, so it was about as good as I could have hoped for.

Next was the scratch race.  A 40 lap race where the winner is whoever crosses the line first at the end.  My favorite race!  With only two events to go the standings were established.  The riders in first and second were watching each other as well as the third and fourth placed riders.  Early in the race the third placed rider took off.  First and second let her go, and the rider who was in fourth was most motivated to chase.  I was motivated too so I worked with her for a bit, but with the two strongest riders sitting in, I knew it was foolish to exert myself any more so I backed off.  We slowed as a group and the solo rider extended her lead.  At about 12 laps to go, I looked over my shoulder and noticed that I had a small gap.  I started ramping it up and they let me go!  The first placed rider lapped the field and at 2 laps to go I saw the back of the field!  This meant I had a shot at catching the field and sprinting for the win, but alas, I never quite latched on.  I finished in second place and was thrilled!  

Our final event of the night was the 500 meter time trial.  After my second place finish in the Scratch race I needed to finish ahead of the riders in 5th and 6th place and I would get 5th place overall!  Instead my 500 meter went horribly.  My standing start was ok, but in the first corner I found myself sort of out of control and actually popped a wheelie !?!  Not exactly efficient.  I finished dead last (by a lot) and ended up in 7th place overall.  The amazing Cari Higgins won the event making this her 12th national championship.
Women's podium L-R Mandy Marquart, Beth Newell, Cari Higgins, Kim Geist, Erin Glover

Men's PodiumL-R Daniel Holt, Al Urbanski, Zach Kovalcik, Stefan Rothe, Liam Donoghue

Liam rode in style and won the points race by lapping the field twice and winning the pursuit and setting a new track record in the process.  He ended up fourth!

What a fun learning experience this was!  I made some big gains in the fear/confidence department and honestly had a bit of fun.  The South Carolina track is first class, and everyone there is amazing.  Being part of the George Garner Cyclery Team and riding my new Tiemeyer bike  has been very inspiring for me!  Shout out to my cousin Melanie for housing us and my parents who helped with the kids yet again.  Liam, Tom, kids and I got along famously and on the whole it was a successful trip.  Can't wait to go back next year.  


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