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Riding the roller coaster

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Racing's like a yo-yo at the moment - up one week, down the other

My racing over the past month has had more ups and downs than the stock market. Here's a summary of the first months racing.

1. Round 1 Summer Sprint Series - Good. Qualified in A-grade for the first time and wasn't disgraced. Won a race, close second in another. Can do better

2. Tuesday night at DISC#1  - Bad. Struggled to finish a race.

3. Tuesday night at DISC#2 - Very Good. Third in the scratch, second in the points and I win the motorpace easily.

4. Saturday at Blackburn - Very Bad. Started in A grade (what a joke!). Finished in B grade or should I say couldn't finish a race in B grade

5. Tuesday at DISC#3 - Very Good. Win the motorpace again, second in scratch, third in points

6. Saturday at Blackburn - Really Bad. Today I thought I would have done better. But did even worse than last week. Time to reassess the training. I'm sick of not being competitive.

Are you dizzy yet? I am.

On the plus side I've enjoyed watching Emily have some good results. Growing in confidence at DISC and she won the handicap there on Tuesday. And today she backed it up by winning the handicap at Blackburn as well. She's building confidence, stamina and endurance to go with her speed.


Wish I could do the same....




One Perfect Day

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Thank you Carl for a magnificent day

I'm sure I speak on behalf of all the competitors, helpers and spectators in thanking Carl for the amazing day yesterday. It wouldn't have happened without his vision, hard work and determination to make it the roaring success that it was.

So, even though every particle in my body hurts, thank you Carl.


Finishing with a bang!

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In the Apolito household the track season finished with a bang not a whimper

(Apologies for the late post.)

From my point of view, most of the summer track season was fairly predicable and at times somewhat disappointing. That all changed in the last week as the season came to a climatic and surprising end for both me and Emily.

It started with the club championships. Emily had a clean sweep of the J13 girls events. No surprises there. She's a year older and a lot stronger than Anna especially at the shorter stuff and all their races were short. So three gold medals to Emily. The Apolito's are on the board!


Far more surprising was my silver medal in the Master's Men Sprints. I'd always hoped to be able to qualify in fourth place but then to have Mick Thomas disqualified in our semi final was a shock. Would he have won anyway? Who knows. It was going to be a very close finish. A big disappointment for Mick but good luck for me even though I felt a little flat afterwards. The surprises continued when I won the first set against Richard Hurley. Crikey I was now one win away from gold. But order was restored when Richard won the next two races to deservedly take gold.


The forthcoming week was all about preparing Emily for the J13 State Titles on Saturday and myself for the final round of the Trek Summer Sprint Series on Sunday. It didn't start well for me when my bottom bracket blew up while training with Pat and Emily early on Tuesday morning. Nathan fixed it same day but I missed a big day's training. Then training at DISC for Emily on the day the hurricane hit Melbourne and wind trainer for me before we both taper off for the weekend.

Watching Emily at the state titles was simply awesome. She was a bundle of nerves and so was I. Her first event, the 500mm ITT was nearly a disaster. She totally fluffs the start and ends up right off the duckboards and onto the concrete. She recovers, grits her teeth and sets a PB (46.330) by nearly 5 seconds to not only win the Gold medal but also beat many of the boys as well. The poor start probably cost her a second to boot.

The timed flying 200 was even better. Thanks to Carl, Emily knew the line to take and was confident. She sets 16.164 to easily be the fastest girl with only four out of 17 boys faster than her.

Two gold medals and unless she totally mucks up the scratch race she will be the overall champion as well. One of the girls in the race knows what to do to sprinters and is constantly attacking Emily. By the end Emily doesn't have much left in the tank but still manages a strong second place with the "attacker" an excellent third.

So, two gold medals as state champion in the ITT and sprint, a silver medal for the scratch race and the overall title as well. We're all relieved and celebrate with pizza. Then I have to somehow switch from proud dad to competitor as I prepare for the last round of the TSSS.

What can I say about the Trek Series that Carl hasn't already said?

Well about all that is left to say is that I rode out of my skin. Setting a PB in the F200, beating A graders in the heats, hanging on in that tense final.... it was all marvelous and I'm proud of how it all finished. I ended up equal with Jeremy on points and take pride in the fact that I pushed him to the last race of the last round before he could claim the bike! Now if I can just improve by another 100% before next season I might have a new bike this time next year!

The surprises continued into the next week. The local paper calls and wants to do a story on Emily with an angle on me as well. And today, I find that our smiling faces are not only in the paper, but on the FRONT PAGE!

Thank God they don't use newspapers for fish and chips anymore!


Race Report

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A belated review of Sunday's Match Sprints

I didn't know quite what to expect on Sunday. For starters I was quite nervous about the day itself, not knowing how it would go, who would show up and how I would ride.

As one of the helpers my job was to prepare all the printed material. Most of that was pre-done but I was stressing about the little database program I'd written. We were only using it as a means to printing a neat draw for everyone but we only had a small amount of time to do the draw and get it printed once all the Flying 200's were done. In the end it went OK but there is still room for improvement.

Because I was needed at the data entry table I did my Flying 200 early. It was tough to make a quick clean transition from helper to racer and with very little warm up I did 14.72 seconds. Last summer I was under 14 seconds quite easily but a couple of weeks ago I was above 15 seconds so I wasn't too disappointed. I can improve on that time through the months ahead.

It was very disappointing to see Nathan have to withdraw with a back injury. Our times were very close and I was looking forward to racing him. Nathan is a natural sprinter and had worked very hard through the winter for this series. I hope he's back racing soon.

Because my fitness was suspect my overall plan for the day was to control the races as much as I could, keeping them at my pace, then jumping with the hope of opening a gap. I didn't want a long sprint and I didn't want a long drag race. At the same time I wanted the pace to be high enough so that I didn't have a lot of inertia to overcome in the kick. It was going to be tricky to balance all those.

My first race was against Leah Patterson. Leah and I had some ding dong battles in C grade last summer at Blackburn's regular track racing. Leah is strong and smart and has some experience at match sprints. I'd seen her training at DISC a few weeks ago and she looked good. I won the toss and elected to lead and by and large kept the race under control for the first lap and a half. Leah jumped from behind coming into the home straight with a lap and a bit to go. I didn't want a long sprint shoulder to shoulder from this far out so I let her get in front of me with the intention of sucking her wheel. But she kicked again and opened a good gap. For a moment I thought I was gone but dug deep and caught her wheel at the end of the back straight then proceeded to come around her outside. She drifted up a little as we hit the home straight but it worried the judges more than me and I went past her for a close win. It was a close thing and I had to really go deep into the red to catch and overtake Leah. I suddenly felt very tired and was worried about the other races.

I won the toss again for the second race against Maria. I didn't know much about Maria but had watched Rob Monteath beat her in the first round so I thought I would again lead and control things making making sure she didn't surprise me as Leah did. The plan went well and I feigned taking her up the bank with less than a lap to go before diving down, getting a gap and holding it for a win. Two out of two but would my energy hold out?

I watched Rob very impressively beat Leah in his second race with a long (approximately 400 metre) sprint. This had me worried. Rob's fitness was superior to mine. He would be able to drive for longer. If he went for home from a long way out I would have to just try to hang on to his wheel and sprint past at the end. But his gearing was quite a bit bigger than mine 91.8 versus 88.2 so I really wanted to avoid having to spin like crazy for such a long time just to hang on. So the plan was once again to take control and go for a short sprint with maximum acceleration.

Again I won the toss and again I decided to lead. The heat was in effect a dead rubber as we were both already into the final but there was a psychological advantage to be gained as well as aggregate points to consider. I pretty much tried the same thing I did with Maria, jumping at the same point. Coming into the home straight, the sun was behind me and I could only see one shadow - mine. So I thought I was clear but looked around just to make sure. And there was Rob charging at me. I tried to kick again but I was gone and Rob caught me on the line. Bugger. That's one that got away but full credit to Rob.

The final came around quicker than I would like. I was still licking my mental and physical wounds but I was determined to turn the tables on Rob for beating me in the heat. My plan was to keep to my plan. That is, take control and keep control and then execute the finish better than before. But this time I lost the toss. I was afraid Rob would lead and drag me around for a long sprint but alas he elected to follow. I tried to keep the pace down because I wanted to keep everything for one explosive burst at the end. But Rob would speed things up and since I didn't want him to take the lead I was forced to speed up also. A couple of time I considered jumping from the front when he fell back a little but he still had the height advantage and it was a long way from home so I decided against it. I was getting nervous and  gave Rob opportunity to dive under me but luckily he didn't take it.

As we went past the bell Rob was still above me. I thought if I went now, before the bank it would mean he would either have to contend with the slope or come down behind me. Either way it was a chance for me to get a gap. So I hit the pedals hard. Stuff the ribs, I was out of the saddle sprinting with every fibre in my being. I only sat back down after the 200 metre mark and just continued to drive with everything I had. There was a chance I'd blow up before the finish but I wanted to make sure I had as big a gap as possible. There was no point keeping something in reserve for a second kick, I was putting all my cards on the table now! (OK, no more cliche's)

I knew I was going fast and it was an effort to control the bike in the bend and keep in the sprinters lane. Straightening up for the line I didn't know where Rob was so I just buried myself and went over the line for the win. Totally exhausted but elated.

And so ended a great day. Everyone - competitors, helpers and spectators had a ball and we're all keen to do it again in November.

If you've done any sort of track racing before you are going to love this stuff. Thanks Carl for the vision and determination to make this happen.


How to lose a race

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I stuffed up my chance to win the D grade road race at Crib Point

I could see the finish line. I could feel it. I could taste victory.

There I was a mere 200 metres or so from the finish line at Crib Point on Saturday thinking I had it won. But it wasn't to be. I blew my chance due to a bad case of impetuosity. Or was it bad luck, bad timing or inexperience.

Basically I sprinted too early into a strong head wind and up an ever so slight hill. After all it was only a couple of hundred metres and I know I can sprint the last lap of the track at Blackburn and that's 330 metres. So where's the problem?

With about 400 metres to go I was third wheel and sitting pretty behind a guy and a girl driving strong. But then they both blow up simultaneously and I'm left on the front. What do I do now? Where's the coach in my earpiece when I need him? I was faced with a dilemma. Do I get off the front?  No. That would mean I drift too far back and with the finish so close I could get blocked or be caught by a late attack or early sprint.

So I look behind me. The guy and girl are no longer a threat and there's a small gap between me and the next bike...So I go for it. Head down and I start sprinting for the line. The gap widens. I think I've going to win. But my legs are burning (I shouldn't have raced DISC on Thursday night) and the headwind is killing me. I'm dying a rapid death but I will hang on. Then a guy goes past me... What the #$@#$@? Oh well second is not bad. But then 3 or 4 more riders go past me. Shit.Shit Shit. And on the line I'm hit by a bunch of 4 or 5 guys all now going faster than me. Crap. I've gone from thinking "I'm gonna win this" to "Oh well second is not so bad" to finishing somewhere between 5th and 10th within the space of 200 metres.

Where did I go wrong?

Well the legs were sore when I started courtesy of Thursday night racing but they did loosen up after about 10km so I'm not sure that's a valid excuse. I do know I didn't have the kick I normally have. Until the last lap (D grade was 6x 8km laps and about 30-40 riders) I had raced the perfect race. I had managed to hide in the bunch, do minimal work and just have a good time chatting up the Kathy Watt pink girls. On the last lap I thought I better move toward the front but go too close to the pointy end and ended up doing a turn into the wind and up the hill proper. Then a guy attacks and guess which fool chases him? I mangaed to catch him pretty quickly but I'm stuffed and drift to the back thinking my race is over.

So with half a lap to go I'm at the rear again but work my way back to a good position with 400 metres to go. I impressed myself with that fact alone. In other races, in other years I would have been totally blown and come in last but here I was able to finally contest a finish. So I should be happy.

But what might have been....


Am I a sandbagger?

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Last nights win at DISC seems a bit hollow

I returned to DISC for last nights racing but since I hadn't even sat on a bike in the previous fortnight (illness, working 7 day weeks, father in hospital, sore hip, excuses, excuses..) I put myself in D grade.

The scratch race was awful, no one could hold a line, I was chopped (and probably did some chopping myself to be fair ) and at one stage ended up on the boards to avoid someone who suddenly decided to move into the sprinters lane. I finished third but felt bad and really tired.

The points race wasn't any better. I had a dip at the first sprint, got a third again but blew up badly for the rest of the race. Again I was just glad to stay upright as it was real messy.

The motorpace was good. Being a controlled paceline made it safer and the gradual increase in speed suited me. It also meant the weaker riders dropped off the pace as the speed increased and gaps opened up in the pace line so twice when I peeled of from the guerney I was able to drop back in without having to drift to the back. I found myself third wheel when the motorbike peeled off and was able to easily sprint over the top to take the win.

A win is a win I guess but given I'm normally a C grader I felt guilty. (I donated the prizemoney to Emily). Back to C grade next week and hopefull that aboc guy is in a generous mood and will look after me.


From Leongatha to Las Vegas

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Greetings from the land of the free and the brave

Was it all just a dream? Was it really just a couple of nights ago I was hurtling my bike around the Leongatha velodrome in my first ever open event?

I'm horribly jet lagged at the moment and feel like a zombie so can someone tell me what happened on Saturday night? Did I race really fast or was I dreaming?

I have vague recollections of Bev talking a lot with me driving somewhere. And I saw signs and banners along the road saying "Come see Australia's best track cyclists". Surely I was dreaming - they couldn't possibly be talking about a race I'd entered.

Further vagueness about a guy in yellow and the words "you've got the handicap from hell". Ah yes that's right. Only 20 metres, just ahead of the scratch guys and way behind the types I normally race against. Dim recollections of riding faster than I ever have but still not catching the out markers or holding off the scratchies.

Then another handicap. This time longer but still a cruel starting point. Managing to catch some people and hang on to the end but alas still failing to qualify for the final. And finally a points race. Going as well as I could in a bike race but failing to get one point.

Someone please tell me I wasn't dreaming because I keep seeing images of myself with a big smile but nothing to show for it.

Then again I don't want the dream to end......

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