I never raced Kissena before but friends convinced me that opening weekend at Kissena is loads of fun and worth the trip down from Boston. It’s true. It’s really quite a production and a scene, with canopies up on the infield, rollers lined out on the apron, officials everywhere and large number of racers, many of whom are very good.

I registered for both the Cat 4 and Masters 40+ omniums. My goal was upgrade points so Cat 4 was my priority. The omnium format this weekend was not favorable for me:

  • 1 km time trial
  • Team sprint
  • Points race
  • Match sprints tournament
  • Scratch race
  • Miss and out (elimination race)

I do a mediocre kilo and I can’t sprint for peanuts. In the bunch races I stand a chance but I’m hit and miss in the miss and out.

Kissena is 400 m and a moderately banked, very bumpy tarmac track. Turns 3 and 4 re particularly bumpy and it’s perfectly normal to bounce around (airborne) a lot, especially coming out of turn 4. It made the kilo interesting. It’s a sprint event–don’t pace yourself, go all out– and I used aero bars. Plus it was The Pollinator’s first outing (besides two weekends at Forrest City Velodrome where the track’s extreme weirdness dominates the experience).

Bouncing laterally halfway across the sprint lane is interesting, especially on aero bars, but The Pollinator was great. Absolutely solid and predictable. I just accepted that’s what racing at Kissena is like and nothing’s going to go wrong if I don’t freak out. The bike’s going to land somewhere and keep going in roughly the right direction so just keep pedaling as hard as possible. In bunch racing I assumed that anyone coming around me will make allowances for these effects and I would have to do the same.

I did two team sprints, Cat 4 and 40+, taking second wheel in both. We were third in both contests which is bad for omnium points as they are allocated 7, 4, 2 for 1st, 2nd and 3rd.

Next the Cat 4 points race with a field of 11. We were up at the rail in turn 1 when the start whistle went off. I led off down to the pole line and brought the speed up to tempo. Before turn 3 I looked back and was astonished to see everyone else dawdling up track in turn 2. Odd. But good. 12 laps is 4 km and I know how to pace myself for that distance so I started a pursuit effort. The gap grew nicely so I kept it up. But the fast guys, Brean and Mark, timed the chase right and got me on the first sprint, bringing me back to the field. I had another go when things got slow, dropping down track from the rear in turn 2, and getting a gap. Same procedure, I got a big gap and was caught but still got 3rd or 4th on sprint 2. And so it went also for the final sprint. I got third overall which I’m pleased with. It was a huge effort. I was on my own for over half the race. I did a lot of training for recovery at tempo after an effort and I wanted to use it. If one other racer had worked with me we could have lapped the field but Brean and Mark were marking each other closely and I was completely unknown so that wasn’t going to happen.

By the time I rolled onto the apron after that race the masters were already at the rail for their miss and out. I was hacking up a lung and couldn’t consider joining them. It was like someone had been cleaning my windpipe with an abrasive bottle brush. There was a lot of pollen around.

Sunday started with the Cat 4 scratch race. Again I rode hard to set a high tempo because I knew there were sprinters who could easily gap me. I didn’t contest the prime but attacked shortly after it while those that did were in oxygen debt. Like in the points race, I got a gap and then got caught, but sooner. In the back straight I was 4th and managed to come around Steve for third. Again I was pleased with that.

At this stage Brean and Mark were well ahead in the Omnium and I was tied with someone for 4/5th. All I needed to do was do better than Steve in the last two races to get 3rd in the Omnium.

In the match sprints I was dismal in the 4s but I won one 2-up sprint against Joe in 40+, my first ever sprint heat in which I didn’t finish last. I rode a steadily increasing speed up to threshold and kicked entering turn 4 on the second lap. Given how he did in the 40+ points race, I think maybe he could have got past if he’d tried. I didn’t ask.

Steve made it to the sprint finals and I did not. This was not looking good. My last chance was the miss and out.

It’s a very difficult race tactically and I screwed up. I chose to race tempo on the front but the speed was high and there’s a sprint on each lap so it was a fast race. On the second sprint I was first wheel with about 20 meters to go but got eliminated because I looked back, figured I had it and backed off. I slowed while the group was still accelerating. Stupid error. That blew my chance for upgrade points. Phooey.

Steve went on to get 2nd in the sprints which got him 3rd overall, Siraaj won the sprints which vaulted him past me and because I got nothing in the miss and out I was pushed down to 6th. I really only stood a chance in three of the races and I did was well as I could in two of them and screwed the third one up with a stupid blunder.

Meanwhile, in 40+ there was a points race. Oddly only 4 were present. 9 laps, 3 sprints. Three times I tried to drop Joe with a lap and a half or more to the sprint and three times he caught back on and got me by half a wheel or less.

Throughout, the bike was great. It never entered my consciousness during racing. That means it behaves exactly the way it should, otherwise I would have noticed something, and that it fits. I’m not a powerful rider but I didn’t notice it budge in the slightest under any condition. The 404s are clearly good strong, stiff general purpose wheels.

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