Juniors Track National Championships Dallas, TX, July 6-10
After many long drives down to San Jose to ride at Hellyer Velodrome and upgrading to a Category 3 on the track, my dad and I decided to fly out to Texas for the Junior National Track Championships. Despite the horror stories of flying with bikes, my track bike arrived with us in Dallas unscathed. Though, my dad and I had to adjust to the stereotypical sweltering Texas heat and humidity. (Speaking of Texas stereotypes, the first restaurant that we dined at had a sign reminding patrons that bringing firearms into the restaurant was against the law.) We drove our rented minivan from the airport to our hotel in Frisco, the host city of the velodrome that would be the home to Junior Track Nationals for the next week.
For those unfamiliar with velodromes, the amount that the turns of the track are banked, or angled, is usually dependent on the length of the track. Hellyer Velodrome has about 20 degree turns, and is 333 meters long. The velodrome in Frisco is only 250 meters long, and thus its turns are banked 45 degrees. As a result, riders must maintain a minimum
of 18 miles per hour in order to avoid slipping down the track. Numbers aside, these steeper tracks are intimidating to first time riders, and because the only track I have ridden on previous to my trip to Texas was Hellyer, I fell into this category of first time riders. My first impression of these steeper turns was that attempting to ride on this
velodrome would be tantamount to trying to ride my bike on a vertical wall. Nevertheless, I gathered enough courage to make my way onto the track, and after several laps of being scared out of my mind, I finally realized that I would not slip down off of the track.
I found it somewhat ironic that I had a few hours between learning how to ride on this track and racing against the best track riders in the country my age. My first event, the omnium, consisted of six separate races spread over two days. Although one racer won all six of the events, I was able to achieve my goal of attaining a medal by placing third overall. The next race was a Points race, in which points are earned for several intermediate sprints and are won by the racer with the most points at the end. (By the way, for those who think that criteriums are never ending, this race was 100 laps long with sprints every 10 laps.) I was able to lap the field with two other riders (lapping the field in a points race counts for 20 points, which is equal to winning 5 sprints), which almost immediately narrowed down the race to us three. Despite my best efforts, I once again finished in third place. The last race of my week in Texas was the Scratch race, which is a simple race in which the first rider at the finishing line after 40 laps is the winner. Feeling strong, I decided to ride off of the front by myself in an attempt to lap the field. Although it took several laps, I managed to catch the last rider in the pack. Being up one lap on the field, I knew that I only had to hang with the field until the finish. Unfortunately, a world-class track rider who had placed third at the Junior Track World Championships in 2010, was able to lead a group of four off of the front and also lapped the field, which meant that there were now five riders (including me) in contention. I placed fourth out of these five riders.
Although I wasn't able to win any of the events, I still have next year to reach this goal, with me being a seventeen year old in the 17-18 year old category this year. Hopefully, next year I will be able to make the United States team for the Junior Track World Championships, but I still have lots of training and racing between now and then before I reach that point. As for the present, Junior Track Nationals was one of the best racing experiences in my seven year junior racing career.