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Track Season Gains Momentum

by Dan Harm

June 24, 2009

FixedGearClassic

Track racing in the Northwest begins to hit a peak in late July. National caliber events–such as the FSA Grand Prix in Seattle and the Portland based Alpenrose Challenge–lure out the fastest track racers in the USA and Canada with prize lists boasting upwards of $15,000.

After returning from a hard education of track racing in Europe through the winter, Coach Adrian and I raced the track full-time last summer–including the FSA Grand Prix and Alpenrose Challenge, as well as multiple other Nationally ranked races–with the specific focus of crushing the Madison (which is an event consisting of multiple two-man teams and involves complex tactics and pure endurance).

Our ambitions were often met with big wins and healthy pay-days. But, there were also numerous disappointments, such as a second place in the Madison on our home turf at the FSA Grand Prix, losing to a team we had beaten both at the Alpenrose challenge and at the larger event, Nature Valley Grand Prix in Minneapolis. There was also the time at Alpenrose Challenge when I missed breaking the track record in the Pursuit by a mere second. This record has not been broken since the 80s.

This Summer much has changed. Adrian will be out of town for both races, choosing to focus on pursuing his goal of professional road racing, and thus putting track racing on the back-burner. I have chosen to do the opposite and focus solely on the track, yet real life has crept up on me and my usual free time to train for the track has been filled with work obligations and worries about paying off student loans.

Track races season culminates down in L.A. in early October at National Championships. Will Adrian be rusty at the Madison from missing very important races? Am I going to be able to keep up my high level of fitness from past years?

There are a lot of unknowns and variables this summer, and this will undoubtedly add to the suspense of how Adrian and I are to defend our reputations as two of the fastest track racers in the USA. I will keep you posted with inside perspectives from all the upcoming races. Stay tuned.

In the meantime: Come see the races for yourself!!!

-The Seattle FSA Grand Prix is at the Marmoor Velodrome July 25-26. There will be festivities, a beer garden, and events for kids, as well as insane track racing action!

-The Portland Alpenrose Challenge is July 17-19.

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Coach Adrian Keeps the Results Coming

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I am writing this race update for Adrian since he is currently recovering from a long weekend of racing by taking a nap. Somehow, for some odd reason, he has been napping for three days straight.

Last weekend, in Baker City, Oregon, racers competed in a regionally prestigious stage race, The Elkhorn Classic, which is known for its uncanny ability to predict the next up and coming Pro Northwest rider. For the past five years every winner of this grueling three-day/four-stage event has landed a large Professional Contract for the next race season.

After finishing in the lead group on the stage one road race, Adrian assumed the lead after taking 2nd in the stage two Time Trial. He held this lead all the way to the last day, a day full of unexpected drama.

The last stage of this event usually consist of a 105mile road race which ends in a brutal 10mile climb to the finish. Yet, this year, despite the spell of sultry summer sun the Northwest has had, the morning of the final race in Baker City began with 30 degree weather and a snow storm. The official referees of the race decided for the safety of the riders to shorten the race to the last 25 miles.

This put Adrian at a serious disadvantage. His skill set as a racer is best suited for long, hard-man races, not pure climbing. And now he was forced to jump straight into an epic climb without the ability to tire out his competitors in the previously planned 90 miles leading up to the climb.

The final results of this race are still not decided upon as the official results have not been publicly announced.

Here is a first hand account from Adrian of the final moments of the race:

” I think I won? I finished in the front group of about 5-10, one guy won solo by I think 30-40 seconds and I had 54 seconds on him at the start of the stage. I also crashed 1k from the base of the climb and rode the whole way with my bars twisted to the side and my front wheel rubbing.”

Let’s knock on wood and cross our fingers for Adrian…

Here is a sneak peak at a part of Adrian’s race resume–don’t tell him I showed you!

2009 Highlights

Cherry Blossom Classic Stage Race

  • 1st, 8-Mile Time Trial
  • 1st, Columbia Gorge Road Race
  • 1st, Volunteer Park Criterium

1st, Frostbike Time Trial

1st, Icebreaker Time Trial

1st, Carnation TT Series #2

1st, OSU Collegiate A Road Race

1st, UW Collegiate A Criterium

2nd, Brad Lewis Memorial Criterium

3rd, Athens Twilight Crit

3rd, Computrainer Grid Qualifiers

3rd, Carnation TT Series #1

5th, Stage 4, Mt. Hood Cycling Classic

11th, Stage 2

Tour of Walla Walla Stage Race

  • 2nd, Wilson Hollow Time Trial
  • 3rd, Waitsburg Road Race
  • 2nd Overall

Collegiate Road Nationals

  • 4th D1 Omnium
  • 6th, D1 Road Race
  • 7th, D1 Criterium

-Dan

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Coach Adrian 3rd at Athens Twilight

Athens Twilight Podium

Athens Twilight Podium

Last Saturday, April 25th, 2009, in Athens, Georgia, at one of the biggest Criterium races in the World, The Athens Twilight Criterium, Adrian Hegyvary secured the biggest result in his racing career, a third place finish.

Now, you must understand, cycling results are very different from most other sports. In most other athletic disciplines, you win or you lose. Whereas in cycling, a high paying professional athlete may go years without ever winning a race. The esteem of a bike racer depends upon their ability to help secure “results,” whether it be by helping a teammate win, or by placing top ten in a world class race. Adrian placing third at the Athens Twilight Crit is a monstrously amazing example of this.

What is even more amazing is how Adrian got to this place in his bike racing career. Last year Adrian had had one of his worst racing seasons ever. He had an entire year of no results on the pro road racing circuit (though he did kick butt on the velodrome), and ended the season with a horrific crash that put him in the hospital with a torn shoulder that would prevent him from attending track National Championships, where he would have been a favorite to win the Madison and other endurance events.

In the Fall Adrian began attending the UW Law School. Doubt concerning the direction and possibility of his future racing career haunted him. On several occasion Adrian was on the verge of hanging up the bike and calling it quits. After seven years of solid dedication to cycling, his ambitions seemed to be leading nowhere.

But, despite the stresses of life and school, Adrian decided to just keep on doing what he loved. And what he loved was to train and ride his bike. In all honesty, it is quite frightening how much Adrian loves bikes.

You see, the point behind all this is simple: there was no magic new training plan that Adrian did that took him to the next level. There was no fitness fairy that came from Never-ever land and sprinkled Adrian with lactate threshold dust. Nope. Adrian’s jump to the next level as an athlete occurred solely because he did not quit. He kept on training, stuck to it, and after seven hard years he is finally seeing the results that will land him a high-paying professional contract.

One last thing should be said about this all. One of the main reasons preventing Adrian from quitting–even when quitting seemed logical (just ask him about his European racing experiences…)–is that Adrian loves racing his bike. He is not doing it to prove his self-worth, or to prove anything to anyone. He is doing it because he is passionate about it and it fulfills him. This mindset is absolutely mandatory to make any life passion sustainable.

All to often people burn out because they are trying to prove something to themselves or to others, and they begin to forget the simple pleasures of their activities, and when this happens the little voices of failure begin to get louder and louder. So, always remember to do something because you love it.

Take it to the next level.

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Getting on Track for Next Season

by Adrian Hegyvary

Winter is often the time of year when cyclists take a step back from their training, think about the season, and plan their approach to the following year. During this time it’s important for athletes to determine their strengths and weaknesses, and figure out how to structure the following year to address those skills. For many riders, one of the most beneficial modifications to their season is to integrate track racing into their training regimen.

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There are three crucial skills that track hones more than any other type of racing: pack positioning, leg speed, and maximal power output. Many track races can be thought of as the key parts of road racing without all the filler—the final minutes of a race, the crucial splits, etc. without the miles leading up to them. And considering that each night you go through these scenarios multiple times, race skills and tactics get pounded into your head like no other discipline.

Three events that can improve your racing are scratch races, points races, and miss-n-outs. A scratch race is the simplest of all—you race for a set number of laps and the final sprint decides the race. But what’s special about this type of race on the track is that everything happens so quickly that there is little time for thinking and immediate decisions and responses are crucial to success. There are also different ways to win—waiting for the sprint and keeping the race together, attacking and sprinting from a break, or lapping the field (sometimes multiple times) to ensure a placing.

Points races are similar in that they demand constant attention to pack position, but differ in that a wider range of tactics can be employed to race successfully, sometimes simultaneously. Points races are over a set distance but also have intermediate sprints—usually every 5 or 10 laps. The first four riders across the line at those sprints receive points (5, 3, 2, 1) and the person with the most points at the end wins. Because there are several “finishes” throughout the race, you have numerous opportunities to try different tactics and catch your competitors sleeping, but consistency is still rewarded.

Miss-n-outs are the most tactical and difficult races to ride at first. In this event the last rider across the finish line is pulled from the race each lap until only three remain. After one neutral lap, the three riders sprint for the win. Miss-n-outs demand constant attention to what your competitors are doing, and racers frequently have to anticipate one another’s moves in order to remain at the front of the field. Though this skill doesn’t have a parallel in other types of racing, it teaches quick thinking and rewards riders who can “read” a race well.

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Finally, the physical demands of track racing compliment any training regimen and create strong, well-rounded cyclists. Because you have just one gear, leg speed is a crucial skill for a track racer. Simply putting on a huge gear doesn’t make you race faster, because it becomes so difficult to accelerate that you won’t make it to the front of the race for the finish. Thus, track finishes are frequently decided at cadences well above 140rpm, a number most road riders would never even consider racing at but does great things for coordination, and ultimately your overall sprinting ability. Similarly, because most track races last just a few minutes, riders build their maximal power output with frequent race efforts lasting between 30 seconds and 3 minutes. These intervals are the ideal duration for developing VO2 max, and that fitness translates perfectly to the important parts of road racing, mountain biking, cyclocross and triathlon—the start, the short hill, the crosswind, the crucial field split, the final laps, etc.

The best way to start track racing locally is through the Marymoor Velodrome’s introductory track class and Monday night racing. Information can be found at http://www.velodrome.org. For riders who are interested in pursuing track racing at a higher level, or those who already race on the track and wish to further hone their skills and training, Cycle University will offer intermediate-level track classes designed to take your riding to the next level. Information can be found at http://www.cycleu.com, or email adrian@cycleu.com for details. If you’re ready to take your riding to the next level, be prepared to get on track this coming season.

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Cross Focus: Refining Your Cyclocross Skills

by Adrian Hegyvary

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The end of the cyclocross season is in sight, which means it’s time to buckle down and refine both your skills and fitness. Because there is little time left to make any drastic changes to your form or technique this season, we’re going to focus on three very significant aspects of cyclocross racing: tire choice, cornering, and top-end aerobic capacity.

Depending on what tires you’ve been using this season, you could see a dramatic boost to your handling abilities by switching tires. For clinchers, few tires have the reputation and palmarés of the Michelin Mud. It’s tread pattern is great for muddy, technical northwest courses, and the supple sidewalls provide excellent response. If the course is flat or more time stands to be lost cornering than climbing, try using thick, “thorn-resistant” tubes in your clinchers. They are heavy, but allow you to run ultra-low pressure (into the 30s, even for 170lbs+ riders) without pinch flatting. For those running tubulars, look into the super-swank Dugast or Challenge tires. They run about $100 retail, but are considered the best on the market. And for the ‘cross racer who has everything, look into the Dugast/Michelin fusion tire: a handmade tubular ride with the proven Michelin tread.

Once your tires are up to speed, it’s time to review proper cornering technique to be sure you’re conserving every ounce of speed through the turns. Regardless of the conditions, your outside foot should ALWAYS be down and fully weighted when cornering hard (if you aren’t pedaling through it, you should be railing it). Your upper body should be low and forward, both to lower your center of gravity and to put as much weight as possible over the front wheel. Bend from the hips to position the bulk of your mass forward, and bend the arms to absorb shock and hunker down that much more. With whatever mental attention you have left, concentrate on getting through the apex of the turn quickly and preferably before the half-way point. Since you are always dealing with compromised traction in cyclocross, it’s better to get through the apex of the turn quickly (and back on the gas fast) than go into the turn hot and either crash or have to scrub speed by swinging wide. To this end, try waiting longer than you think to dive into the corner, then cut sharp all the way to the inside of the turn so you have ample room to run-out the exit.

Finally, the most significant gain you’ll make to your cyclocross engine will come from focusing on your top-end aerobic ability. ‘Cross races are not decided on endurance and rarely in a sprint (if you’re sprinting for top-3s already, keep up the good work!), so where you stand to gain or lose the most are during the hardest portions of the race—when you are well above threshold and trying not to over-cook it. To hone that high-end strength, do 3-5 intervals of 3-5 minutes in length during the week. If you have been doing this type of training until now, try keeping the recovery intervals short—1:0.5 or 1:1. If these intervals are new to you, recover fully between efforts to maximize the quality of the interval. Be sure to taper going into the last events of the year, and allow adequate recovery time before and after weekly races.

Cyclocross racing is the epitome of a proper balance in fitness, equipment and technique. By focusing on these three aspects of the sport, you’ll finish the season strong and faster than you’ve been all year. For information about Cycle University’s cyclocross classes and training programs, visit http://www.cycleu.com or email service@cycleu.com.