Worth more than bronze

Back when I was 16 or 17, I watched my team mate win a bronze medal in the Kierin at the British National Track Championships. He stared at it most of that evening with a goofy smile on his face and then drove 100 odd miles home to show it to his partner, driving back again the following morning for his next race. 

From that moment on I wanted to win a national medal one day. There have plenty of fourths, fifths and sixths in the years since and at times I wondered if I’d ever achieve it.

However last Friday night I won 3000m individual pursuit bronze at the New Zealand National Championships in the Masters 1 Category. I had qualified fourth fastest and was up against Peter Murphy from Otago in the “mud medal” ride off, who was third qualifier.

Between qualifying and the evening session’s ride off there was time to kill so I stayed rested and tried not get too hyped up. While the race only lasts four minutes, the build up goes on for hours. I ate early, got to the track 90 minutes beforehand and put on my kit before beginning a regimented warm-up – all the while keeping an eye on the time and fitting in a large number of nervous toilet breaks.

But before you know it, the bike was in the starting gate, the countdown clock was beeping and then I was away.

Unlike during his qualifying ride, Peter started quick and at the halfway mark was over 1.8sec up. Nigel, my handler, was giving me my lap times and screaming at me to go faster. I felt it was too early though and wanted to stick to my plan of steady 18.2 second laps, raising the pace in the final kilometre.

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According to Nigel, Peter then started to tire and lose time. I pulled ahead with three laps to go but all I could hear was noise and pain, convinced I was still down. I don’t think I have ever pushed so deep, desperate to fulfil my goal under the realisation that this was the best shot I’d ever had, and may ever get. 

Sarah Ulmer was once asked what she remembers about her Olympic winning pursuit ride. “The pain to be honest,” she replied. “Not being able to breathe…” I guess I came some way to understanding that level of committment.

On the final curve I searched for the finish line expecting the gun to go off to signify my opponent had crossed first. It didn’t happen and instead it fired for me. I looked over as he finished to second crack of the gun.

The realisation I’d done it was just amazing. I looked at Nigel who was cheering with a huge smile on his face and then at the scoreboard to double check the race was mine. I did a few weird laugh/ cry things and waved to the Wellington supporters. I wished my family was there.

Nigel had to help me from my bike and then down the stairs – my legs were so wobbly. I coughed up phlegm from my lungs for a good 20min after and it took a while to be able to get on the rollers for a warm down.

I’m under no illusions – I’m not the most talented cyclist and this ride was fairly average on the grand scheme of things. But for those three minutes and 44 seconds, I was the best rider I could ever be and it meant I was able to achieve a goal after 22 years of trying.

I slept the next two night with the medal under my pillow and have had it in my pocket every day since.

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Commuter crashes club cruise

So, I’m pretty much peaking perfectly for the National Age Group Track Championships which start next week in Cambridge. Unfortunately for Team Arise Racing out on their Thursday evening jaunt yesterday, that meant the dude on the battered flat-barred commuter hack with the old courier bag was able to jump on the wheels without much difficulty.

Yes, I crashed their ride, and as they headed up Mt Crawford on Miramar – despite my super-annoying squeaking right pedal – I felt great. A couple of attacks went at the halfway mark, and on the final setction I figured I should go for it. So I did, bag, squeaky pedal and all. The satisfaction of riding away from 50-odd thousand dollars worth of carbon and powermeters while looking like a nobody was palpable.

I caught the first guy but another dude went past near the top and I think I ended up third at the summit, the bunch no where to be seen. A much welcome ego boost before I head off to Nationals to take a hammering.

Castle crushes it at Laykold Cup Carnival

Despite the shoddy weather in the morning, a huge 49 riders turned out for the 2015 Laykold Cup including a decent contigent from outside Wellington. Jordan Castle was impressive in the races he rode, showing why he was selected last year for the junior world track championships.

Here’s the official report:

Jordan Castle Laykold Cup King 2015

New Zealand representative Jordan Castle (Bike Manawatu) played his cards perfectly to win the prestigious Laykold Cup held at the Wellington Velodrome on Sunday February 15, out sprinting Dan Waluszewski (Wellington) and James Denholm (West Coast North Island) at the end of a tactical race.

Now held as a 10km scratch, the Laykold Cup has a history running more than 80 years and is one of the North Island’s classic track cycling events with a full programme of supporting events taking place during the day.

With the field more or less intact at third distance, attacks began coming thick and fast with Wellington’s Waluszewski and George Jackson breaking off the front to open up a healthy lead. The bunch behind whittled down as the pace went on to close the gap to the escapees. With six laps to go there were just five riders left together at the front, and Pat Crowe-Rishworth made his bid for glory.

It wasn’t to be however, and led by Bike Manawatu’s Castle, Crowe-Rishworth was overhauled in the final 100m. Despite leading out, Castle’s rapid sprint was too much for Waluszewski and Denholm.

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Nick Warren retained the Masters 8km Stayers Cup with a hard-fought win over Jason McCarty (both Wellington). The duo chipped away from the bunch with six laps left on the board and opened up a comfortable margin. However, with two laps remaining, cat and mouse tactics came into play with McCarty forcing Warren to lead the final sprint out. Warren kicked hard though and McCarty wasn’t able to come round, finishing just half a wheel behind. Harry Kent was third.

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Sophie Bloxham (Levin) became the first under 17 rider to win the Women’s 8km Poneke Plate, firing out of the peloton on the final lap and crossing the line two clear bike lengths ahead of 2009 champion Hannah Latta (Wellington). Amy Horn was third ahead of Sarah Barclay.

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In the junior omniums, George Jackson won the under 17 boys ahead of his Wellington team pursuit team mates Sam Tillotson and Thomas McCullum. Sophie Bloxham headed up the under 17 girls with Amy Horn and Grace Saywell in second and third respectively.

In the under 15s, Damian Hussey (Wanganui) rode strongly to win ahead of Wellington’s Louis Hodgkinson and Dylan Reid while Amelia Taylor (Wellington) won the girls. Ben Leslie and Matt McCarty were joint winners of the under 13 ominium, and Zoe Perry won the under 13 girls ahead of Maia Vertongen.

Full results from the Laykold Cup Carnival are online here and loads more photos are on facebook.com/wellington.velodrome.

A huge thanks to our sponsors:
Salvation CoffeeWellington Windows and Doors, Wellington Powder Coaters, Red Rocks Property ManagementZeal Commercial Interiors, Scotties Potties, Think TurfWellington Podiatry ClinicThe Lanes Bar and Bowling LoungeBurkes CyclesJackson ElectricalBedpostarerekura.co.nz

Skinsuit poetry

So I wore my new skinsuit for the first time in anger yesterday. It was quite a moving experience as I hadn’t gotten a new skinsuit in a very long time and in my opinion they’re really personal bits of kit. To commemorate the occasion, I penned this terrible poem:

Hurrah for skinsuits, so shiny and tight!
Armour to accompany me at every fight.
The last one I bought was in ’96,
But that knows all of my clever tricks.
Now I have this flashy black suit, it’s new!
Made sure to clean so I don’t leave any marks of poo.
So let’s go and race my brand new chum,
And make sure the rest only get to see my bum.