Colombia and Covid

Since I last checked in, I’ve had some ups and downs. After a solid block of training in Los Angeles, I performed well at a few races in Trexlertown, Pennsylvania. From there I traveled to Cali, Colombia, for my first experience representing the US at a Nations Cup, among the world’s highest tiers of track cycling. Things went well there, but with a few twists!  I’m writing now from my Saint Paul, Minnesota home.

Some shots from the madison in TTown. Credit Ron Short

My trip to Cali, Colombia started with a 1:30 a.m. wakeup in Trexlertown. Along with the rest of the national team, we drove to catch a 6:00 a.m. flight out of Newark. After several flights, we were met on the ground with armed police escorts to take us to the velodrome and our hotel. Cali can be a high crime city, so the local government didn’t take any risks with athletes from 44 nations flying in. In the early 2000s, Cali was plagued by kidnappings, ransoms, and car/bike jackings, some of which involved athletes and coaches at Nations Cups. As a result, there were about twenty armed police officers at our hotel, and about triple that number at the velodrome. In addition to this security presence, we were confined to our hotel, the velodrome, and the bus between. Unfortunately, I saw little of a country that I spent a full week in, but I did get to use some of my Spanish with people along the way.

Once we settled in, we had two days to train on the velodrome. Unlike a standardized basketball court or swimming pool, velodromes vary in geometry.  Even if they are a consistent 250 meters in circumference, they vary in width, the length of the turns versus the straights, the angle of the banking, and the aggressiveness of the transition between the turns and straights. So training time is critical to understand how the track “rides” at high speed.

My racing started with the team pursuit, where we placed a disappointing but not unexpected 5th out of five teams after almost no pre-race preparation. Two days later came a 50km (200 lap) Madison with my partner Eddy Huntsman. Though Eddy and I hadn’t previously raced together on a 250 meter track, we scored a few points and stayed with the field to finish 8th. The race averaged 55 kph, which is about 5 kph slower than many world class Madisons. In that respect we were lucky for our first high-level race together.

Some great shots from the Madison. Credit @inkdustrial.

Deep into the Team Pursuit. Ow. Credit @inkdustrial.

After Saturday’s Madison, I rode the Omnium on Sunday. With 20 hours to recover after the Madison – and though I didn’t realize it till later, a brewing case of Covid – I was tired but ready for this grueling four race event. The Scratch race started well. Partway through, I took a lap along with four other riders. After mistiming my sprint and positioning I finished in 4th.

In the following race, the Tempo, I went off the front and took sprints 3-12, scoring 9 points before getting caught by the field. With the tactic I used it was important to keep 5% of reserve energy so that when I inevitably got caught, I didn’t get dropped or lapped! I executed well, and worked hard in the last third of the race to ensure that a dangerous lead group didn’t lap the field and knock me down the results. 

With my second place in the Tempo, I started the Elimination race leading the Omnium standings. The Elimination proved tricky. Three riders crashed early and the race was neutralized for several laps until they rejoined the race. The neutralization left me on the wrong side of the field at the restart, and I finished 17th, pushing me down to 8th place overall. Clearly, even when a race is neutralized, tactics remain important!

In the final race, the Points race, I followed wheels at the beginning and then began racing more aggressively, trying to make a move work. I succeeded with about forty laps to go, again, lapping the field with three other riders, which put me into third overall. But after a hard effort, I had no legs left to sprint for points in the remainder of the race, and made some errors that put me on the back foot. In the final few sprints, two riders scored enough points to pass me, pushing me down into 5th overall in my first Nations Cup Omnium. This result is a great validation of all of the training I’ve done, but I know I can improve tactically in many ways. I’m both encouraged and frustrated by this result.  

Some shots from the Omnium Points race. Credit @inkdustrial.

Here are links to video from the Omnium in Cali. Each video has a nice explanation of each race in the first few minutes.

Scratch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cdyV0M3tae8

Tempo: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JadhpCm268A

Elimination: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aTr8oflm80U

Points: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sbvdepr8QQE

COVID. Shortly after the Omnium concluded, I started feeling sick, but attributed it to having turned myself inside out on two consecutive nights. After a long travel day, a missed connection, and a night at a Miami airport hotel, I finally landed in Newark, New Jersey, hoping to briefly visit family and fly to Europe the next day. As a precaution, I took a Covid test. Positive. Ugh. Looking back, I’m almost certain that I raced the Madison and the Omnium with Covid. Weirdly, this is encouraging. I know I’ll race even better in the future when I’m healthy.

Since my Dad had flown out to join me for New Jersey family visits which were now off the table, we rented a car and drove 18 hours back home to Minnesota. Shout out to 3M: despite sitting two feet apart for the entire drive, the 3M N95 masks that we wore worked and he did not get COVID. I consulted various doctors and coaches including Stuart Cox, my longtime ENT, who I spoke to as he was standing on turn ten of the famed Alpe D’Huez climb, waiting for the 12th stage of the Tour de France to come by later that day!  After a few rough days with various Covid symptoms, I have recovered at home, taking five full days off the bike: the longest mid-season break I’ve ever taken. I’m now recovered, and will fly to Europe later this week. The current plan is to race the Pordenone and Fiorenzuola six-days in Italy, followed by the Pan-American Championships in Lima, Peru, where I will again race the Team Pursuit, Madison and Omnium. It is an honor to be named to the Pan-Am squad. These races will present more chances to learn and prove myself on the world stage, and I couldn’t be more excited for the opportunity.

Before I sign off, huge thank yous go out to: Luis Che and Sarah Mattes for housing, Pete Coulson for motor pacing, Scott Butler for the use of his vehicles, Dave and Kathy Underhill for housing, Matt Diefenbach, Linsey Hamilton, Gary Sutton, Stuart Cox, and my Dad for driving the full 18 hours back to Minnesota!

I’ll check back in after the Pordenone and Fiorenzuola six-days and the Pan-American Championships with a race and travel update, as well as a preview of what’s next.

3 thoughts on “Colombia and Covid

  1. Hey Peter, Great update; enjoy hearing about your travels, training and racing. Not surprised with the security in Cali. I served in the Peace Corps in Colombia in 2016-2017 super high level of robbery and theft. One of my PC colleagues was robbed 5 times on the street and witnessed 7 robberies during his 24 months of service. Bad luck re Covid. I was also kept off the bike 5 days in May with the virus and similarly, Monty is back riding today after 7 days off the bike. I trust you will come back stronger. Good luck!

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