Friday, October 12, 2007


Coming out of turn four I start to realize that I might actually have a shot, and perhaps my rudimentary strategy will work. I sit in the draft and watch carefully as two riders duke it out up front, neither wanting to lead and give the other the advantage of a draft, but neither wanting to slack off as they know the pack is just 15 meters behind.

While sitting in the paddock a few minutes ago I learned that the first race tonight is a Danish, which could also be called a Winner’s Out. The idea, I was told, is that after a given number of laps the bell is rung to signal the final lap. The leader, or winner of the race, is then pulled from the event while everyone else continues racing. Whoever “wins” the second lap is then pulled and awarded second place, but the pack continues to race for yet another lap to determine third and the remainder of the finishing positions through the pack. What this means is that if you sprint for the win and miss, you’re doomed to completing another lap while being chased by a seemingly rabid pack of riders.

“What’s your strategy?”
Raja is asking me a simple question, but my answer is far less than adequate.
“I think I’m going to try and pedal faster than everyone else.”
He smiles, but he’s serious now, “No really, what’s your strategy?”
Back in the Eighties there was this great John Cusack movie called Better Off Dead in which the main character was attempting to woo back his ex-girlfriend by winning a ski race. Sitting at the top of a mountain, his friend provided what I thought was a perfectly sound strategy:
“Listen to me Lane. I want you to go that way, really fast. And when something gets in your way… turn.”
I explain this to Raja with a variety of hand signals and pantomime movements, but he’s less impressed with my ability to reenact the scene than I was hoping.

We complete another lap of the 250 meter Superdrome and I hear the bell ring as we exit turn four. Frank and Sam are well out in front so I’ve resigned myself to waiting another lap to make my attack and, assuming things go as planned, will settle for second. Presently I am sitting in fourth behind Joe Crenshaw, one of the many great people I’ve met at the Superdrome. I’m grateful for all the guidance he and others have provided over the past couple of weeks as I have only just started racing on the high banked track. At twice my age and three times my chivalry I would normally feel ashamed to draft for so long before going for a crushing sprint, but he beat me in the Kilo a week or two earlier and I’m not feeling very charitable at the moment.

Frank wins the sprint and is the first person pulled from the race. Going into turn one I slip out wide and mash the pedals. Surging ahead of Joe I start to make ground on Sam. I’ve made my move a little late, but Sam is feeling the pain of having just sprinted for the win and lost by the slimmest of margins. We slice into three and Sam holds his line in the sprinter’s lane. My only option is to slide wide and try to out power him going to the line. He’s taken a bigger risk than me, and ultimately I take him as we approach the line. Winded, I stay out wide and watch from above the blue line while the field continues to race for the final positions. Not bad for my third race at the track, but Sam beats me handily in the next two races that evening. I’m elated with my results and thankful for all of the encouragement, but there’s still so much to learn.

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