"Don't call it a velodrome. They don't like that." This is what my friend Nathan tells me as we are driving our 1.5-2 hours from Melbourne to Bendigo. "It's their track- not velodrome."
Now you see why.
Bendigo is a crazy cycling city a couple hours north of Melbourne. Every Thursday night (and some weekends) they put on a big track race. The racing is big, the announcer is fun, the stands are full, and the track is flat.
Racing a flat track was a first for me. I thought because I race crits that I would be just fine.I thought I could just steer my way through the turns. Well, I found out in the first race that that last corner at speed isn't easy.
The night is full of kids racing (all ages and all categories), athletics (runners doing handicap races on the infield), and senior races (all categories.) So, it is a long night but I got four races out of the deal.
I raced with the B's and the first race was a shorter scratch. I was determined not to let this turn into a fast pace line and a sprint at the end. So, I attacked with about 7 to go and got away with 1 other guy. We stayed away but were caught by the chase group eventually. It ended up being a sprint finish between myself and 1 other guy. I was on his wheel coming into turn 4 thinking I had this one locked up because I would jump around him in the finishing straight. Wrong... the flat track got me and I couldn't keep in down in the last turn. I almost starting laughing because as soon as it happened I knew that's what everyone meant when they said the flat tracks were way "different." 2nd place.The next race was a women's only handicap called the Crystal Classic. I have only done a couple other handicaps before so I wasn't positive about my strategy. It was "only" 1k so my strategy was to win! Of course, they started me on the scratch line. But, I managed it and won. Here is a picture in the final turn of the Crystal Classic.
The third race was a 3k handicap with qualifying heats and all categories were included. In my heat I started on scratch. (For all those who don't understand what this means- a handicap race basically gives some people a head start. The people who start on scratch are the ones in the back or the ones with no head start. That is a basic way of explaining it.) I couldn't believe they started me here in this field but I only needed to get top 12 to qualify for the finals. I played it smart tactically and qualified. In the finals they started me at 250m and scratch was at 310m. There was only 5 guys behind me. UGH. I played it as smart as possible without blowing up my legs too early but only ended up 7th or 8th or something. I was pretty happy with this result considering. Also, this race really got me ready tactically for Tasmanian Carnivals where there will be a TON of handicap races... the Australian race. It is a very tactical race and I started to understand them during this last race.
The last race was a B only scratch race... a longer one. I finished 3rd but was DQ'd. There was a crash in the last lap and I was DQ'd. Two guys went down but everyone was ok. That is all I have to report on that race. :)
Bendigo was a interesting little track world and I wish I had more time to get back there. Thanks so much for Nathan driving me there and back... and he didn't even race! What a trooper! I have said it before but still believe it- track racers are absolutely the most supportive group of athletes. People just love this sport and will go out of their way to make sure others experience it and love it the same way.
I have a lot more to report so check back soon!