All four members of his team hold national titles with two of the riders, Karl Baumgart and Lewis Elliot, hailing from Arizona. They will compete Thursday in the 3-kilometer team pursuit on for men ages 35-44 and a 4-kilometer team pursuit for a national record attempt. That time slot has yet to be determined.
“We saw an opportunity to go after the record and put the four all-stars, four national champions, together,” Francis said.
During a three-day training camp in Los Angeles over Labor Day weekend, the team clocked a time within five seconds of the national record – 4:35.823 – and Francis believes they’ll be able to surpass that in England.
“The track in Manchester by its configuration and based on times of riders that have ridden there a lot, it’s a faster track,” Francis said. “We practiced at the velodrome in Carson, Calif. which is the only indoor velodrome in the United States somewhat close to the configuration of the velodrome in Manchester.”
The biggest challenge is creating a composite team in an event that’s all about razor-thin margins, he said.
“We’re going 38 mph,” Francis said. “You have to have a high level of trust on a fixed-gear bike, with no brakes on a velodrome going 37 to 38 mph. You have to have a high level of trust that those exchanges are clean so that you don’t overlap wheels and cause an accident.”
His team pursuit squad consists of Lewis Elliot, Karl Baumgart, John Murazak and Dean Phillips, all of whom have won national championships individually and are very strong individual pursuit riders. Baumgart and Elliot met Murazak and Phillips while competing at Masters Nationals in July in Rock Hill, S.C.
During their September training in Los Angeles, the four worked on their exchanges and getting up to speed to simulate the actual race.
“With these four guys you have enough horsepower here that you could probably wing it and come real close,” Francis said. “Spending three days on the track we worked out a lot of kinks and we got the start order how we like it. My confidence is high that we’re going to have a shot at that four [kilometer] record.”
But without a velodrome in Arizona, having a shot at the world record meant nearly 15 trips to southern California simply to practice. Francis believes that Arizona has enough elite athletes for a velodrome to be built and that by doing so the state could send even more riders to national championships.
“We hope that sending three of us from Scottsdale to the world championships will change that,” Francis said.
Baumgart said he finds it shocking that Arizona, with one of the largest cycling communities in the U.S., does not have a velodrome.
“I have to go and ride a road fixed gear on Legacy Boulevard and don’t get the flow of the track,” Baumgart said. “We are still mindful and concerned with cars, and we run out of road when attempting four [kilometer]-plus efforts. Meanwhile, others in the U.S. and the world drive over to their local velodrome and have track specific workouts, can train on bikes without brakes or fear of cars and can get the flow and feel of the track down.”
But Baumgart still considers his team “the dream team” and that the goal of a world record is a challenge they could easily achieve even without a track in Arizona.
“[With] all things weighed as to what makes a great team, I take these three guys and don’t look back.” Baumgart said. “We bonded amazingly during camp, we trust each other on the track, and we all put our egos aside for the common goal – the team. That’s rare when you put four national champions in a room, and we’ve done it.”
Watch the live feed of the guys at worlds next week.