At least that's how it felt racing last night at the Central Coast Track Open. It's been a few years since I've raced this carnival (for obvious reasons), that the ever energised Paul Craft of RAW Track fame organises. It's always been a favourite - all the good stuff you get from a country track carnival without having to travel too far - it's about a 90-minute drive from my place.
When I say good stuff, I mean you get value for money races. Lots of events, something for everyone and the usual Crafty entertainment value. Shame you can't say that for many of the events hosted in the city.
I went up early this year as they were desperately seeking extra commissaires for the junior carnival which was being held in the afternoon before the senior carnival. So I spent the afternoon checking junior gear rollouts and standing (sometimes sitting) in the sun making sure all the little tikes behaved themselves out there on the track. It's fun watching 'em go round.
Once that was over I pulled on the Bicisport skinsuit, pumped up the tyres and got out on the track for my warmup. Looking at the program I had been given a mark of 195 metres, which put me at the top of the C grade field. I think in days gone past I'd be closer to the 90-110 metre mark and in the B grade group.
For those not familar with what I mean, in Australia we have a form of track racing called a "Wheelrace". Riders line up on the track at their designated handicap mark, the gun/whistle goes and the winner is first past the post after a designated number of laps. So in theory all riders have a chance to win since the fastest riders have to complete a greater distance. The rider(s) off zero metres is/are called the "scratch" marker(s). So in this example, when I race the wheelrace I start 195 metres in front of the "scratchies".
Now what also happens is you can't have everyone who's racing the carnival on the track at the same time, so heats are run to determine who qualifies for the wheelrace final. There are many ways to do this so I won't bore you with the details.
Just before that race was the opening scratch race, which I came second in after a bit of collusion between two Bathurst riders prevented a fair sprint - with one deliberately blocking me for his mate (the winner also qualified for the wheelrace final). Collusion is not legal in track racing but the comms didn't pick that one up. Generally doing things like working hard to pull a mate along is OK but deliberately blocking another rider is a BIG NO NO - you must contest the sprint. I had a seriously good lunge at the line despite only getting to poke my nose out at the very last second. Damn I thought, the legs felt GREAT!!
Wheelrace heats were run as graded wheelraces and in my heat I was the next to last marker but I won my heat (and a few $ for my effort) by passing all riders in front of me. I think the extra motivation from the scratch race finish spurred me on this time. And good legs.
After the scratch race and wheelrace heat, there were Kierin heats, which I placed 2nd in to qualify for the final (three went through to final).
Then we had one of Crafty's special races, the "miss n out handicap". Simple race, riders roll out and every lap the last rider across the line is eliminated, except that in this case the A, B & C grades start at different points on the track. So in the opening laps a few A graders get eliminated early until they catch B and/or C grade. Once it comes together it reverts to a standard miss n out. Our race came together reasonably early so I did what I always do and be attentive to position in the bunch while other (often much stronger/fitter) riders get eliminated behind. In the end I was 4th last rider eliminated, with the remaining riders being the A grade road runner dudes. Once again, nice work legs.
Right after that was the Kierin final! I came second by about a wheel. And a few more $. Petrol money really.
Then the Wheelrace final. That wasn't so good as I had a slight mishap with my cleat off the start, which cost me too much distance to the riders in front and I couldn't make it up, so I retired gracefully and called it a night.
So six races with one win, three seconds, two finals and a 5th in the miss n out. And a few $ for my efforts.