I left work Monday dreading the long drive to Frisco. In order to get on the track Tuesday, I had to leave Littleton Monday after work. It was a nice drive and only took 11 hours to get there. The longest part of the drive seemed to be from 287 across 380 through Denton to Frisco. Traffic was a nightmare. I arrived safe but tired at the Superdrome and picked up my packet.
I could hardly wait to get on the track. I did a couple blow outs and picked my 200 line, but decided it was time to get to the hotel and get some sleep. When I arrived at my hotel I was glad my wife was not with me. This place was not a family hotel and I was rather worried about getting some rest here. I talked to the manager about needing peace and quiet and he assured me that it would be quiet. He then placed me on the far end of the building near an exit with no one in the wing with me. My time at the hotel turned out to be surprisingly quiet. I did, however, see some things that I had never seen before, but I will save those things for group rides.
I woke Wednesday excited and ready to race. Unfortunately, the weather would not cooperate and the evening races were cancelled. I went back to my hotel and tried to keep mentally prepared for the next day. My alarm went off Thursday morning but it was still dark out. I got up, opened the window and found nothing but darkness and rain. I was really bummed; this killed my motivation. I had planned my events knowing I would have a full day of recovery between the points race and my 3k time trial. This really had me on the fence. There were many times I was going to go and scratch. In the end I was there and already registered, so what the heck.
This was my first year competing in a points race at nationals. Honestly, this is the first year I have actually even tried to race points. There were many people talking about helmets and some being illegal. I knew right away my helmet was illegal. In the ACA it’s not a big deal but USA Cycling has had it on the website since January. I went up to the official and confirmed it. This was not a huge deal since I brought a spare.
I like to start on the rail towards mid track. As I tightened my toe straps I felt someone pat my back. I looked up and saw Jet and Vic Williams. This really helped me to calm down. I held up my hand and it was visibly shaking. Jet told me something that instantly calmed me down. He said to relax and that I deserved to be in the field. He told me to watch riders and that there is some pack fodder in the field. He also recommended that I watch whose wheel I get and if there is a gap, jump to the next wheel. The whistle blew and I rolled off thinking, “I am not pack fodder!”
The race seemed to start slowly and I didn’t like the pace. I jumped a little to let everyone know I was there to play. All I know is that inside I continually told myself, “Keep attacking and stay up front!” I got 5 points then 2 the next round. Over the loud speaker I heard some riders got a lap. I didn’t even see them go. Now I was angry at myself for not seeing this. I felt tired. I wanted to quit. My entire body was screaming at me to stop this madness. My brain told me to attack hard in the corner and I did. I hit it hard and when I looked, I could see a huge gap. I kept on the gas and I could see the group sitting up. This made me go harder. All of a sudden I saw the whole group in single file again. This scared me but I told myself to go hard as I knew that rest would welcome me at the hotel.
Once again I saw the group go up track and then the riders were about 20 meters in front of me. I was in the group listening to the announcer and planning my next move. Then I heard, “Robert Kelly has got a lap!” I knew right then they have scored me. Now I needed just a few more points to climb up.
I moved to the front and tried again for more points. Now, in the beginning, I got 5 points and 2 points + the 20 for the lap. While lapping the field I wasn’t sure if I got points or not. Tallying all this while riding in the red is not easy. In the end I was 5th with only 1 point between me and 4th.
Friday was a nice day for track racing. I got to the track way too early because for some reason I woke up at exactly 3:36 am and could not get back to sleep. During that time I rode probably 2,000 pursuits as I tried to sleep. So I decided that I would just go to the track and wait for my race. The 3k is one of my favorite races. I had a strong warm-up and laid it all out on the track. My legs felt heavy but that was no excuse. I gave it my all and left nothing on the track. With my effort I ended up 7th.
Saturday again I woke up at 3:30 and stared at the ceiling for hours. I had to be at the track early so I headed to the Superdrome. This was my third attempt at sprinting in my life. I was warm, ready and had a good line. During the pre-race warm-up there was a little commotion about a Casco helmet being illegal. I just minded my own business and kept warming up. Finally my heat was up and the rider before me was not there. They called him up and it was the same rider complaining about the helmet. Now this guy was a muscle builder type and was extremely upset. In fact this was probably the biggest display of unsportsmanlike behavior I had ever seen. The official warned him twice and then said, “One more word and you are going home!” The whole flash anger had me shocked. But, this was no time to dwell on that confrontation; I had a race coming up.
I went around the top as close to the rail as I could get and then hammered it down my line. I feel good and fast and then it happened. In the last corner at around 40MPH, my front tubular popped. It sent me down to the blue band and I had to let off the power a bit to regain control. I forced it through the line and actually qualified 16th. When I got back to the tent I was a little upset with the tire situation since I had just had a flat on that same rim two weeks earlier. Again, there was no time to worry about it now. I borrowed a 404 and changed gears for my sprint.
Being 16th, I had to go against the #1 seed. I figured if I drew a 1, I would attack from the gun. A 2 and I would attack with 1 and a half to go. I drew a 1 and attacked from the gun. I caught him totally off guard but still lost and was eliminated. My goal for the sprints was to qualify and I met that goal.
My next race was the Kilo. Now I really love this race but at times it’s a love/hate relationship. I was tired, sore and now the plica in my knee was giving me fits. I warmed up and my legs returned to normal. I don’t have my tri-spoke but Jet loaned me his 808. I was pumped and ready to go. I started out fast but when I got to the first corner I went really high. I got to the next corner and tried to get in the aero bars and went high again. Now you may think I am crazy but the way the 808 handles is far different than the tri-spoke. I finished in 7th but I felt like I did leave some in the tank. I typically get serious track hack after pursuits but didn’t have it after my kilo. I have a full year to practice this.
Finally, the race I had grown to love arrived- the team pursuit. I have been riding this with Vic Williams and really found a good partner for this event. Vic stayed late on Sunday just to ride this with me. His wife had to be to work Monday morning and they all stayed just so I could complete the ride. At the last minute I talked Pat Larabee into doing it with us. So in the end Vic and I rode with two guys with whom we had never done exchanges and one of them was a dedicated sprinter. We talked about this before the race and decided that Vic and I would do full lap pulls and the other riders doing half lap pulls. Pat and David Gray really kicked butt for us and we ended up 4th. Not bad for a toss together team.
Last but not least, the BAR competition. I finished 9th with a goal of top ten.
It was a pleasure to ride with the Vic’s team this year and I can’t wait to get back in the group ride mode again. Last year I was really on the fence about racing. I was talking to Paul about this and wanted to tell everyone here that it is because of you and this team that made me fall back in love with cycling. It is such a great honor to ride with National Champions, National record holders and people who are the best in the world at what they do. The advice I have received by so many of you has been priceless.
Pedal Hard! Rob