September 06, 2013 (Dieppe, New Brunswick) – I have had this event as a priority ever since I completed track nationals last year. I left the velodrome in Dieppe feeling like I had found my calling and that I was meant to race on the track. With very little track time (almost none) I came and competed with the best in the country learning the rules right before every event. I told myself I would be better prepared in 2013 and that I wouldn’t put myself through that again.
But what I did do was exactly what I’d said I wasn’t going to do. Eventhough I had identified this as an “A” priority event I found myself on the track for only 90 mins in total since the last track nationals. I went to my “A” priority event without practicing. No flying lap, not a single pursuit. What a dreamer… who does this? Writing this down in this report upsets me. I took a week off work, added up all of the costs, hotel, rental car and even bought a new bike, disk, aero bars and helmet with only 90 mins of track time since the 2012 national track championships last year. For an elite athlete who also coaches this is unacceptable. I set myself up for disappointment and as I write this I feel disappointed.
I share this with you because once again I’m leaving this event feeling like I was meant to race on the track. I have dreamt about getting big results and racing on the world’s biggest stage. If there is a discipline that I might aspire to be world class in…it is on the track. My hope is that if I admit it, and let all of you in on how foolishly I approached the championships this time, then maybe – just maybe – it won’t happen again.
The racing began with the sprint events and this year I decided to take a pass and just focus on the Omnium. I made an appearance at the track to cheer on my team Ontario teammates and to get my bike set up for a full day of racing on Day 2 which turned out to be cancelled due to rain. Friday’s racing resumed but it was after a full morning of showers and light mist. We finally got on the track and our first event was the flying lap.
This event gave me more anxiety than all the other events put together. The weather in Dieppe was brutal and I didn’t get any practice time on the track at all. The build up as I warmed up on the rollers was getting to me. I’m pretty relaxed before a race but I wasn’t for this one. I guessed at the gear ratio, clipped in and got pushed to the top of the track by Ontario coach Rob Good. The last time I did anything like this was a full year ago.
I rode around the top of the track and bombed down to the red line as I passed the start finish hearing the bell go off in the background. All of that stress and it was over in 14.787 seconds. I was faster than last year and started the competition with the sixth fastest lap – 2nd to 6th were separated by mere hundreds of a second. It was a great start considering that I have done this only 3-4 times in my entire life. Getting a better result in the Flying Lap doesn’t happen by chance. The best possible results take patience, focus and repetition. Disciplined daily practice is what it takes to win. Showing up without any practice means settling for 6th.
The next event was the Points race and it was postponed to the following day. It was getting dark and the track was getting moist (slippery). There were a ton of crashes as we were getting ready to go and a few of the riders asked for our event to be held first thing the following day. I was upset at first but knew this was the right call. None of us wanted to hit the deck after a full day of waiting through rain delays. I was now ending Day 2 with only one event done and 14 seconds of racing under my belt.
My flight was supposed to leave first thing in the morning so I could compete at the Ontario Provincial TT in the afternoon and then race the Via di Italia in Windsor on Sunday…and then Detroit on Monday. I was excited to do two days on the track and get home to battle Aaron Fillion, Bruce Bird and Derrick Ivey in the TT – and then race two crits back-to-back to try and pay for all of this travel.
It was a tough call but I decided to switch my flight and stick around to finish what I had started here in New Brunswick. I was making the call to compete for a national title over a provincial title. It was a $600 gamble as changing flights and an extra night’s hotel room and rental car isn’t cheap. What would you pay for a national championship?
Day 3 – I got to the track at 8:30am as we were told it was a 9am start. I was one of the first ones there and of course it was wet. Our Points race was the first event of the day and there was no way it was happening before 11am but I wasn’t taking any chances. Our first event didn’t go until around 1-1:30pm and now we had five events to do before the day was over.
The Points race was the first event and featured 60 laps with sprints every ten laps. This event is brutal because it’s really 6×10-lap races back-to-back. You need to give every sprint an all-out effort but still have something left for the next one. Is that even possible? I had a ton for the first and second sprints coming 3rd by an inch both times and getting myself in contention right away. Then the trouble started.
There was a huge counter-attack after that second sprint and I didn’t get a wheel right away. I didn’t react as quickly I should have and in a split second I was 20 feet off the rear wheel trying to chase back on doing 50+km an hour. This was a huge mistake because the group did not let up. I barely got on the back only to have the group surge again without being able to jump. I chased for 30 laps staying close but unable to stick to that last wheel. I was fried. I came off the track and fell to the ground. A 20-minute race had me really messed up and the worst part was it was all for 8th place. Not the start I needed.
I regrouped and stayed focused. I made some big efforts to be there, one poor result wasn’t going to get me down. The Elimination race went really well but a close call and photo-finish had me losing a sprint and getting called off the track to receive 4th. Not bad but not enough. The Pursuit was next. It is the event I was most excited about. Eventhough I haven’t done one all year it is the event I know I could be really good at. This event decides who has the best 5-min power in a tight aero position.
I know I have world class 5-minute power sitting upright, now I need to be able to do that in TT position sticking the black for 16 laps. It is tough to pull off. You need to a good standing start and then you need to pace perfectly. With four to go you fight all the way to the line when your entire body is shutting down. I had my best Pursuit but my best was only good enough for 4th behind Remi Pelltier-Roy, Zach Bell and Alex Cataford. I did my best and was happy regardless of the placing. The three that beat me are awesome talents. I would love to race with these guys, the four of us would make a mean men’s team Pursuit squad. I would devote the next two years of my life to race with these guys on the track – that would be a dream come true.
After the pursuit I was sitting 5th overall. The Points race really messed me up in the Omnium. I was third last year and was hoping for more. The Scratch race was where I was hopefully going to move up in the standings. I had my pre-race instruction with coach Andrew Iler and we both knew Zach was the guy to watch. We both felt confident he was going to get a good result in this one no matter what and that I could win this one if I played my cards right.
I stayed up front in the rotation the entire race making sure to not do too much. I was aware at all times and ready to launch with any move Zach was in. With 10 to go I heard Andrew yell “find your wheel” and that was exactly what I did. Problem was there were a few fighting for that wheel and with 2-to-go it was JM Lachance on Bell’s wheel. I stayed put but knew I was too far back. I didn’t want to kill myself in the wind overtaking him on the outside too soon. With one-to-go I blasted out on the outside and came around JM, but when Zach lit things up I was stuck doing the same speed and unable to come around. It was freakin impressive! I got 2nd and won a silver medal in the Scratch.
All that was left was the Kilo and man was I ready to rip the bike apart. I was 4th and needed another big result if I was going to catch Cataford for 3rd. The kilo is 1-kilometer and you go as fast as you can from a standing start. At the 40-second mark you completely run out of juice and suffer like a dog for another 30 seconds. It is painful but it is over so quick. I shaved off two full seconds from last year and finished 3rd but Cataford had a great kilo too and took 4th. In the end I finished 4th overall , one spot off the podium. I was happy that I stayed to finish the event, but I’m sad that I didn’t prepare like a champion.
This report is written to make sure you don’t do what I did – please prep better than I did for your “A” event. This report is also written to show you that none of this happens without a dream which goes out to anyone who has started racing late in life and thought they are too old.
I was told that 27 years years old was too late for me. I was told that I couldn’t make it… that I’d passed my prime. What if I had listened? What if I hadn’t believed in myself? I wouldn’t be here that’s for sure. I wouldn’t have enjoyed an incredible week of racing on the track with Canada’s best. My message is to keep dreaming. A silver medal and being on the podium with Zach Bell is a dream come true at any age.
To be honest, writing this report in Pedalmag is also a dream come true and it wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t dream that it was possible either. I have a few more dreams that I’m working on and a lot of them have to do with the track and the new velodrome being built in Milton. It is an exciting time for our sport. Thanks for reading.
Ed Veal is a Cat 1 racer for the RealDeal/Gears p/b Fieldgate cycling team. He is also owner operator of RealDeal Performance – www.realdealracing.ca – Ed@realdealracing.ca