This weekend myself (Coach Andy) and coached rider Rory, went over to Manchester Velodrome (or the HSBC UK National Cycling Centre or whatever they call it now!) to compete in the British National Track Championships. Both of us entered the Keirin, the Sprint, the Kilo and the Team Sprint, riding for VC St Raphael.
The Keirin was the first event for us, on the Friday. They were running the new UCI format, which very few of the riders had actually competed with, so it was a bit of a learning curve for most of us! The new rules differ in the sense that; the race is now 6 laps instead of 8, the derny pulls off with 3 laps to go instead of 2 and a half, the position you draw on the start line is the position you have to take behind the derny for the first lap. So with that being said, they ran it with one rider going through from each heat, straight into the semi final and the rest into the reps. In my heat, I had Lewis Oliva who was the 2015 Sprint National Champion, so it was going to be a tough race with only one through! I drew card number 1, that meant that I had to take the derny when it went past. We all settled in behind the derny, nobody changed positions, so I only had one option, take it from the front. The derny pulled off, everyone was looking at each other, I started to wind up the pace with a seated drive while looking back to see where any attacks would come from. 2 laps to go and 2 riders made an attack over the top, one of which was Oliva, I tried to respond, but unfortunately my reactions weren’t quite fast enough and they were going round me when I was doing anything about it. Oliva won the heat and put the rest of us into the reps. Rory’s heat was up next, his biggest competitor was Tom Rotherham and Alistair Fielding. Rory drew card number 2, the gun fired, Rory got a great start, unfortunately the rider that drew card number 1, did not, and then didn’t try get the derny (which he had to), which then triggered a restart. When the restart got underway, it was all looking good. The derny pulled off, Rotherham was holding a gap behind Rory in 3rd in the line with Fielding sat in 4th. With 2 and a half laps to go, Rory made a really strong attack, forcing all the riders to respond. Rotherham was still holding a gap with Fielding sat right on his wheel. On the bell lap, Rotherham started his seated drive, and closed the gap onto Rory and went over the top, not giving Rory any chance to respond. Rotherham won the heat, with Fielding in 2nd, but still having to go through to the reps with the rest of us.
Then came the reps, Rory had Caleb Hill as his biggest competition in his reps, I had Tom Baker. Rory drew card number 3, with Hill in 2. When the bike pulled off, Rory tried to make a move to get to the front, but Hill responded and left Rory on his hip, which is where he stayed until the finish, with Hill going through. I was then up, I drew card number 4, with Baker in 3. I sat in behind Baker responding to his moves, with 2 to go, Baker went over the top of the 2 riders in front with me following. I then tried to kick and go round Baker in the back straight, but didn’t quite have enough to get round and ended up a close 2nd, but still that was day 1 over for both of us. With a really strong field, both still really happy with how we raced and looking forward to the rest of the weekends racing! Oliva went on the win, with Rotherham’s following in second and third.
Early Saturday morning brought the Sprint qualifying. We got to the track for 6:45am, to be told that the building wasn’t open until 7. With sign on closing at 7:30, all the male sprinters were a little bit on edge waiting to get in. At 7:05 they opened the doors, we all rushed in with our kit, built our bike and got straight onto our rollers to get a proper warm up in before the track opened, so we could do a jump on the track before the qualifying started. Rory was 11th off and I was 21st off. Rory did an awesome PB in his 200m with a time of 11.186, and I did a 11.067. Which ended up putting us in 26th and 27th (with 28 qualifying). Again the sprint was running off the new UCI format, 28 riders qualify, the top 4 riders then get a by on the first round (the don’t have to race and are automatically into the next round), then 5th races 17th, 6th raced 18th and so on. So I was racing 14th (Barnaby Davies), and Rory was racing 15th (Lewis Stewart). My race went well, Davies drew card 1 and I drew card 2, so he had to lead for the first half lap. I kept a gap and maintained height, and with just under one and a half to go, I attacked underneath Davies, and held him off all the way to the line, meaning I was through to the second round and that was his day over. Rory was then up. Stewart led it off from the front, winding it up fairly quickly, Rory responded well as Stewart dove down the track, but didn’t quite have the legs to come round. So Rory then had the rest of the afternoon to prepare for the Kilo in the evening, while I had the next round, of which I drew Pete Mitchell.
In the race with Mitchell, I drew card number 1, so I was leading it. I tested the water on the back straight to see if Mitchell would want to try and take it from the front, no response, so I kept the pace low for the first lap. In the back straight of the second lap, I started to raise the pace, Mitchell had height, he came over the top. At this point, what I should have done, is gone up to the blue line to get height and a bit of a gap, but what I did was, sit on his wheel, and then tried to come back round his with no gap to rush. So unfortunately it didn’t happen. That left me also out of the sprint competition, but happy with how the racing I had done, had gone. Ryan Owens went on to win, with Joe Truman in second and Lewis Oliva in third.
The evening session the brought the Kilo for us both. Now this is the one event that wasn't following the new UCI rules, which should be that each rider does a qualifying 750m and then the top 8 fastest times, then go on to do a kilo. However, they stuck with the original system of all the riders just doing one ride of a kilometre. For the Kilo, you can either choose to ride with drop handlebars, or with tribars. If you ride with drop handlebars, then you only have to comply with standard sprint discipline geometry constraints, but if you choose to ride with tribars then you have to fit within a pursuit set up. Which meant that we had to make sure that our bikes complied to this, a nice and easy task as you can imagine! After a bit of altering and conferring with commissars we both made our bike legal. Rory was up, he did a strong opening lap of 20.12, his 500m time was 34.75, his 750m time was 50.18 and then his full kilo was a 1.07.06, which is a good strong PB and a very good ride! My turn. My opening lap was a 18.78 (fastest opening lap of the day), 500m 33.22 (fastest 500 of the day), then 750m was 48.50 and I finished with a 1.05.41, which is a PB and put me in 9th overall. Dan Bigham got first, Tom Rotherham was second and Johnathon Mitchell was 3rd all with 1.03s.
Sunday had the team sprint. There were 13 teams in qualifying, with 8 going through to the next round. Joining myself and Rory was team mate Rowan Elliot. A lot of thought went into the order of the Team, and in the end we came up with Rory going man 1, Rowan man 2 and myself man 3. We were up in heat 2 against SES, Rory set us off with a 19.3 opening lap, Rowan then towed me round, starting to tie up a little from being on a slightly smaller gear, I then brought it home with a 48.42, which qualified us in 7th, meaning we got another ride. Rowan then upped his gear a couple of inches, with the hope of not tying up quite as much. In our next ride, we had the guys that qualified 2nd up on the track on the opposite straight to us. Rory did another 19.3 opening lap, Rowan got on a bit better and drove nearly all the way to line, and I finished it off with a 48.384, which means we went faster, but not fast enough to get us into the top 4 slots. North west A won, Sportcity came second and North west B came third.
All in all, a successful Nationals, lots of good PB’s, and some great racing! Looking forward to what 2017 brings us!