Category: Track

NSC Velodrome

by Kelly Clarke

At the LaCrosse Omnium, Kelsey and I met Anna from Minneapolis who told us we must absolutely come out and race at the NSC Velodrome in Blaine, MN, because they might be tearing it down after this season and we would love it. Last week we did. And I more than loved it. I am thoroughly convinced that the NSC Velodrome is the best place on earth. Unicorns, rainbows and butterflies convene there in a magical light of competetive track racing that will leave you blind.

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Blaine is the only outdoor wooden track in America. It’s beautiful. Short slats of wood come together to create the banked oval. A lot of maintenance is required to keep it nice, and the track enthusiasts in Minnesota volunteer on weekends to replace broken or worn slats. If you crash on this track, you will need tweezers to remove splinters. But don’t let that deter you. This track is perfect.

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I had emailed the track director, Bob Williams, earlier in the week to make sure we were kosher to race. Most tracks require you to be certified on them before racing there, because of the banking. The NSC track is 250 meters with a maximum banking of 43 degrees. In the corner, you have to hold around a minimum of 17 mph to not slide down the track. Kelsey and I had been certified at the Chicago Velocampus, which is 166 meters with 50 degree banking, we had both raced at the Ed Rudolph Velodrome in Northbrook (382m, 18 degree max bank), and we had USAC licenses so Bob said we were good to go.

This is good etiquette – to let the track know you’re coming ahead of time. As Anna explained, ‘This is someone’s house, you don’t just invite yourself in.’ With all bike racing, it’s good to remember to respect the people and infrastructure that allow you to race, as well as your competetitors. Without them it couldn’t happen.

We arrived at the track just in time. A late start leaving Chicago and some traffic had us arriving a half hour before the races started. I got my numbers and got dressed as fast as I could to get some laps on the track. It was crowded. I took some laps around the Stayers Line.*

*There’s lines on all tracks to keep consistent.
From the bottom, to the top:

Cote D’Azure, or Apron: for exiting and entering the track (light blue)
Pole Line: used to measure the track (black)
Sprinters Lane: just above the pole line – shortest line around the track
Sprinters Line: Defines the Sprinters Lane. People sprint here! (red)
No Mans Land: used for passing riders in the sprinters lane
Stayers Line: Area for slower riding (blue)

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The track was fun to ride. I felt comfortable on it, especially because I rode the CVC the previous night. I was still unsure how racing would be. You start races on the top side of the track, clipped in and holding on to the railing. I had never done this, because at Northbrook there are poles with ropes and its just easier to start standing. I figured I’d just hang in the back and see how it goes.

Add on top of the best velodrome sundae the cherry that our first night racing there would also be the first time there were enough women to have split fields.

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The first race was a 12 lap tempo heat. This race would determine if you were in group A or B. Kelsey and I were in different groups for the heats, and I was up first. The race got started and I watched the ladies roll away from me. I had a slow start, but then I caught up. The group broke up right away. I decided to just ride around at a decent pace, not try to work with anyone. That’s what I was confortable with at that point. I passed some people. Others passed me. I ended up in 7th place and in the A group. Oh shit. I was going to be racing with the faster, more experienced girls.

Now there was some time before the next race. Time to socialize. I met some of the Koochella girls (Anna’s team), and the other ladies that race at the track. Like most bike scenes – the women are the best. Inviting and friendly. There was stretching, foam rolling, yoga and shared snacks!

The second race was a Miss And Out. Each lap, the last person to cross the line gets eliminated. So you don’t have to be first, but you can’t be last. I hung on for a few laps, but got knocked out pretty early. No big deal. I was just really happy to be there at the track, racing with some top notch women.

Kelsey’s second race was a 15 lap scratch. A scratch is like a mini crit – first person over the finish line after 15 laps wins. Kelsey looked trepid at first, but settled in and finished third!

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Next up for me was the State Championship 40 lap scratch race! I figured I’d get popped off. I even discussed with some Koochella gals that we’d work together when than happened, and what to do when we got lapped. But guess what? I didn’t get lapped. Stuff happened, and I was right there – moving around in the fast pack, and even pulling sometimes. It was so much fun to be in the mix of a fast race on such a great track. At one point I got popped off, but I got together with two other ladies and we started a fantastic paceline doing half lap pulls. We bridged back up to the main group. Tiana (T-Bits) won Zubaz from Second Chance Racing for being the most aggressive rider in the race. Everything was wonderful.

Kelsey geared up for her 20 lap points race – every 5 laps points are awarded to the top 3 riders. Lilah decided to jump into the race and ended up coaching Kelsey at points, telling her when to jump. The second bell lap, Kelsey took off. She won with room to spare and was well out in front of the group for some time. She was towards the back for the third, but took off early for the last lap and won that one, too! She ended up getting second place in the race, and second place in the omnium!

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Racing in Blaine was so much fun. All the Chicago track cats should try to get out there before the season’s end. And to all you cyclocross heads – want to practice your explosive power for the sand? Get thee to a track! Northbrook has informative clinics every Monday and Tuesday. Or go out to the CVC on Wednesdays and experience the rollercoaster of track fun. Track is the best thing to happen since sliced bread, and NSC is a triple decker club.

Keirin State Champ Races

Keirin State Championship
Northbrook Velodrome
Thursday, August 8th, 2013
by: Kelly Clarke

Last night, I drove out to the Northbrook Velodrome with new teammate, Nate Miller, to try some racing on the track. Thursday night racing goes from 6:45PM-10pm, and you usually get to race 3-4 times.

Belgian Win And Out
The race: There’s a neutral lap, then you start. When they ring the bell, the next person to cross the finish line gets fifth place and is done racing. Then the next lap, the first person to cross the finish line gets fourth and they’re done, and so on. So you can kind of choose what place you want to go for, and if you wait too long, you might miss out on placing altogether.

My race: We had six Women 4s racing, so instead of 5 places, we only did 4. I decided to go for fourth, because all the ladies had more experience than me, and I’d rather get A place than nothing at all. So I kicked it up around turn two, but coming into turn three, a woman came around me fast. I sped up a little, but not much. Sooo, I decided to try for third. This time I waited a little longer to start the sprint. I went in the third turn and sprinted as hard as I could. I don’t think anyone contested, but I got it. Yay! My first track result where I am not DFL.

Keirin
The race: Standing starts. You draw straws for placement on the track – One being closest to the center. Gun goes off as motorcycle comes around. You start and fight for position behind the moto. The moto paces you for a coule laps, slowly increasing the speed, and lets you off with 1.5 laps left.

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The moto. Photo taken from ERVelo site.


My race: I drew 5th, so I was more to the outside of the track. Nate held my bike, because we had practiced it on Tuesday night. I am terrified of standing starts. I got some good tips at the Tuesday night practice, though, so I was a little more confident than usual.

Tips: Look ahead! Being in your drops is the sign you’re ready to go, so don’t get in your drops until you’re situated. If it’s a count down, on three get out of the saddle. Always start out of the saddle with pressure on the pedals. If you start with your weight back past the saddle and push forward, that can help, too. You pull up hard on the handlebars as you push down on your pedals.

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Standing start. Photo by Rod.


Right before the gun went off I leaned to the left. My left shoe came unclipped. The gun went off and I couldn’t get my pedal in until the second turn. I was sitting in last place. One girl came up to the right of the group, so I snuck up behind her. It was a super fast pace and everyone jumped as the motorcycle pulled off. I was not ready for it. I ended up spending a lot of energy just to get back up near the group. I finished last, but it was a great experience. That race was fast!

Kristen Meshberg got second in her Kierin (first for IL residents, so she won the jersey). Nate Miller got fifth, after getting third in a preliminary heat. It was his first time on the podium!

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3 Lap Scratch
The race: This was just 3 laps and done. No neutral lap, no points or other rules.

My race: I really just didn’t want to get last. My first time at the track, I got last in every event I did. We started, and I wanted to be conservative and stick on a wheel, because usually I just go out front and waste all my energy. I felt really unprepared on the first lap. On the second lap, after the first turn, I came from the back of the group and got on the front. Pretty quickly other gals were making moves and I was trying really hard just to hang on. Into the first corner on the bell lap I thought about giving up – there was a decent gap forming in front of me. But everyone slowed just before the third turn, so I started digging in and caught one girl at the finish. Fifth place. Not last.

Kristen got first. Nate got fifth (in a much larger field than mine).

Conclusion: I won $7. Nate and Kristen looked super strong, and it’s lots of fun watching them race. The Cuttin Crew Girls are all awesome. Everytime I go out to Northbrook I feel a little more comfortable. I still know that on sprints I am not going 100% all out, because I get scared about losing control on the track. But I am much better about getting out of my saddle, and watching for when the field is going to jump. Track is hard, and it can be frustrating, but you always learn a lot. And I think that will translate to other forms of racing. I look forward to getting more and more comfortable, so I can be aggessive in races, in a smart way.

Notes:
Here’s a cool video Lucas made at a Monday Night clinic at this velodrome.

And here’s a report from Kristen’s National Track races this past weekend!!! (She did kind of awesome).

The Northbrook Velodrome

Katie and Sarah say Fritos are the best recovery food.
Photo from fritolay.com

by Sarah Rice

Last week I rode up to Northbrook to give the track a try. I decided to write a race report to encourage others to try it as well.

I found a great route up there, no crazy white-knuckle traffic at all! Sheridan north. Left on Central Ave., just past the Bahai temple. Left onto Wilmette just before the Metra tracks. Take Wilmette to Glenview Rd (not Old Glenview). Soft left onto Glenview, cross the Edens. Right onto the north branch trail. When it forks in a couple miles, turn left (north). Left on Winnetka Rd. Right on Sunset Ridge Rd. Left on Voltz Rd. Get on the sidewalk after you cross Waukegan Rd., Turn right. It will lead to the parking lot. It takes about 1:15 in a headwind.

I got to the track at 6:10, right before race registration closed. They said it wasn’t too late to borrow a bike and asked for $35. The officials discussed at some length whether I would be allowed to race, and decided that I could, unless I was a hazard.

FYI, women can show-and-go on Thursdays if they know how to ride track. Men have to attend a clinic to learn the basics before racing. It’s $35 the first time, $20 thereafter, to race all evening as many races as you want. The loaner bikes are whatever’s available, but I got one that fit OK and it was free.

I removed the clips from my road shoes so that I could ride the borrowed bike’s rat traps. The last fixed gear bike I had ridden was named “Pinwheels”. It had a banana seat, tassles, and training wheels. I looked at the track, then at the rat trap pedals of my borrowed bike, then at the track. My newly-minted-cat2 ego was taking a beating. I had no idea how to get on this thing. Much less ride it. Much less race it.

One of the officials asked me if I needed some help. “How do I start?” I asked, and looked again at the pedals, then the track. He laughed and told me to hold onto the side, and he helped me get my feet in the rat traps. One foot, other foot, and off I went! Now I had a different problem. How could I stop? I had no choice but to pedal around in perfect smooth circles. Katie Isermann came up and told me my tires were flat. They were, but I couldn’t stop.

After about 5 minutes, I figured out that if you really really try to pedal inefficiently on a track bike you can slow it down and stop. Kristen Meshberg helped me take the pedals off the borrowed bike and put my own pedals on. She blew up the tires. I screwed my cleats back on, finishing 5 seconds before we were supposed to line up for the womens 4’s 5 lap scratch race. This time I got in to my pedals (Look Blades, a no-no on the track!) all by myself. Off we went! Given that I had not ridden fixed in 32 years, I didn’t mind a slow-paced race. But when the time came to drop the hammer I had no power. My seat had slipped down about 6 inches. So after that first race we raised the seat and tightened it.

The second race was really cool, it was a Keirin. The rules are a bit complicated, but essentially it’s a track race that is paced for the first several laps by a moped. Katie Isermann and Sandra Samman raced it out up front like Alien vs. Predator, because an awesome guy from Iron Cycles [[[someone comment with his name?]]] gave a $100 pot to the winner! I got 4th, spinning out into the wind. I needed to learn how to use the track and stop fighting the (forced) smoothness of the fixed gear bike.

I had some fritos and watched other races for a bit. Kristen was a joy to watch on the track- she’s faster than I could have imagined, even after having my front row seat to her road races this year! She won the 1/2/3 Keirin race. Then Kristen, Katie, and I decided to line up for the 40+ mens race, a 10-lap scratch race. Just like road, I like racing with the boys. Sketchy moves and better drafts. I was finding my nerve, moving faster, drafting closer, and learning how to use the bank a little bit. I even found Mesh’s wheel (!!!)- that is THE wheel you want (!!!)- and then it started raining and we had to quit. I rode home with Katie Isermann and we eagerly ate fritos and discussed all things bike racing.

Four days after that first night on the track, I converted Bozo to fixie. Today I took my morning ride on him up to Metropolis, pedaling in perfect smooth circles.

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