Athlete Octane’s Karl Baumgart raced this year’s Masters Track World Championships in Manchester, England in the Men’s 40-44 age group.
Day 1: Individual TT – 750m – 4th Place, 51.141
The week started off with a very close call in an event I had little expectation to medal. I missed the podium by 26 thousandths of a second… or 2.6 hundredths. Put that in perspective, both third place and fourth ran the same time at 51.1 seconds.
While I earned a silver medal earlier in the year in the kilo (1000m) at elite nationals and also earned a Masters National championship in the same distance event; the 750 is more challenging for me. Over a shorter distance, I struggle against pure sprinters and their ability to start out of the gate, or pure torque to get the bike moving.
My physiology allows me to execute on a final lap holding speed longer than others; hence my placing higher in a 1K, versus 750 meters. So I already knew I was up against some giants in the event, and in fact a new world record time was set in our group by the defending champion as he went 47.9 seconds over 750m.
This was a personal record run for me and also the very first 750m I’ve ever raced… so obviously I was stoked with the result.
Day 2: Individual Pursuit – 3K – Bronze Medalist, 3:30.779; Qualifying Heat: 4th – 3:31.1
Once again, given the field that shows up at worlds, I had little sense that I could medal in this event. And watching the near new world record run by my friend and team pursuit teammate, Dean Phillips (he went 3:25.7); a bronze medal is a fabulous result.
Truly, I had to earn this one more than any of my other events. Being in a bronze medal heat, third and fourth place qualifiers end up fighting for a single medal (unlike the gold/silver heats which they’re each guaranteed a spot on the podium).
Coming in as a very slight underdog, I knew I’d need the ride of my life to get on the third step. Interestingly, in my qualifying heat; I had to pass someone which I believe cost me a ride against Dean (World Champ) for the silver medal (2nd place qualifier was only 0:00.2 faster than me).
With that said, I didn’t really feel like an underdog, but I knew I still needed to leave everything out there for a win of the race; my competitor had won a silver medal in this event the prior year in the younger age bracket (35-39), and has put up a time faster than I ever have.
Thankfully I ended up going faster in my final, so this ended in two consecutive personal best times for me in this event.
Day 3: Team Pursuit – 3K – Silver Medalist, 3:20.397; Qualifying Heat – 2nd 3:21.1
This was the event I thought we (all the team members) had the best opportunity for a gold medal. Given previous year’s times, we felt we had the squad to deliver the goods here. The amazing thing is, we did set the second fastest qualifying time and earned a spot to ride for gold. How we did it was even more amazing – we basically fell apart in the first three to four laps and had to claw our way back into contention.
Riding just prior to us was a new World Record ride by the local Manchester squad, Secret Training. Seriously, they ran like clockwork and had the gold and silver medalists from the 35-39 age group on their team.
They ended up going 3:16 and 3:15.5 in the qualifier and the final respectively.
Seeing how strong they were, we needed to devise a plan to attempt to overcome them, and unfortunately in the final we shredded our squad into two parts over the first kilometer of the final.
The crazy part is we still had a time that would have won a gold medal in the previous two years of competition. It just speaks clearly that how you place in most races is a matter of who shows up, more than how you do. We threw down seriously respectable times, and hit the marks we thought we could. You can’t plan on another squad showing up and dropping a world record on your head.
That’s bike racing…
Day 4: Scratch Race – 10K, Silver Medal, Qualifying Heat – 1st
After crashing in the final 2.5K of this race last year (caused by a tired/unaware rider), and missing out on a championship and gold medal, I was looking forward to seeing if it was a fluke performance, or if I could be a regular force in a mass start race.
This is not the best type of thinking as a racer. It messes with your head.
There were more than 30 riders from all over the world riding at the top of their game and it would be arrogance to believe I deserved any certain result. Honestly, the worlds scratch race champ from two years prior, Jeromy Cottell, (also a team pursuit team mate of mine) was in the race and I knew he and a handful of other guys could easily win this one.
In fact, both he and I qualified first and second in our respective heats. But being another marked man, Jeromy had a hard time shaking the Argentinean contingent in both the heats and the final. On my end, no one even bothered to stop me in the heats from taking a lap.
It wasn’t until after the final that I was told the winner rode my wheel for the entire race!
Apparently he put his race on my wheel, even to the point of staying with me after my attempt at an early break set me off the back to recover. He stayed on my wheel so closely; I didn’t even know he was there.
During the race there were plenty of attacks by Jeromy and other riders, which I had to cover. All the while, the Swiss rider was glued to my wheel offering no help. What’s more, it turned out that this race was over 31 mph and the fastest race of the entire week!
Some feedback from my team and coach led me to believe the race we held at a high rate intentionally so that neither myself, nor guys like Jeromy could attack and put a lap on the field. There were no laps on the field in this race, which made it an outright jailbreak at the end!
I had a microscopic opportunity, with seven laps to go, and attacked the field in the sprint lane, ending up on the gas for 2 straight laps in a two-man breakaway with the Swiss rider to the end. Some in-fighting transpired behind me allowed us to hold pace for the seven laps and finish clear of the fight for bronze in a field sprint.
But it was clear with three laps to go I was gassed compared to the Swiss rider. So much so that the announcer was already calling me the silver medalist given the amount of snap the Swiss rider had in his legs when he came through for his turn at pulling. I honestly had a hard time getting to his wheel to get a draft; which is insane.
Here’s a lesson: save as much energy as possible during a race – if you’ve got a card to play in the end you’ll appreciate it.
It was painful to watch (in real time) what I felt was my gold medal ride away from me in the final lap sprint. Smart racing on his part, and an honor someone would believe my wheel was the one that he had to be on – only coming out from behind it to work when it counted.
Day 5: Points Race – 20K – 6th Place, with 25 points; Qualifying Heat – 1st, with 18 points
With legs spent from four previous days of hard racing, I was feeling a little ragged coming into this day. It would end up being my last chance to win a gold medal, and seeing I took a lap on the field last year, solo, I had very high hopes on this race.
It was a serious concern that I would be riding with Jeromy Cottell again; he did win a masters nationals points race championship just six weeks earlier. Both Jeromy and I qualified first in our respective heats for this race, and we discussed a “team” effort to avoid being ganged up on by other countries.
Unfortunately for both Jeromy and I, we got the start time of the race wrong and ended up with me barely making it to the line for the final and Jeromy missing the final all together.
So with no warm up, no rider to work with me in the race and tired legs; I put down the best effort I could, racing as smartly as I could – but it wasn’t meant to be. The Argentina squad was focused on me this go around, and it was an effort to respond to attacks in what was the fastest 80-lap points race I have ever been in…30 mph (the fastest points race of the week)!
I was able to score points in three of the eight sprints and also took a lap (with no help from Argentina who was trying to prevent it). With just two sprints to go; I was out of contention for a gold medal, and it would be a massive effort to earn another bronze medal.
With all their effort from their four rider squad, Argentina failed to close to deal and lock up a gold medal, and a local strong British rider ended up scoring lots of sprint wins in the break earning him a gold medal. Argentina did end up with silver and bronze, but I was glad to see the efforts to focus on me cost them the ultimate prize.
I would have had more respect if they had instead worked as a team to earn more and more points and set up sprints every 10 laps. But they thought isolating and covering everything I could do was a better strategy. They had the horsepower to control the race in a positive manner, versus colluding to prevent others from racing hard as well.
There were a lot of lessons learned by me yet again in this week of world championship racing.
- I learned there are a lot of fast old guys out here racing still.
- I learned not to be too predictable; your competition will know who you are and how you race and are prepared for it.
- I learned (or rather was reminded) not to expect a result, or ranking; those are an outcome in part of who shows up to race that day. You can only focus on your efforts and yourself.
- I learned that a World Championship jersey isn’t something that’s handed out to anyone; no matter how fast you are or how well you race. Too much can happen, and if it’s meant to be, it will happen.
- I learned I can still go faster, and have even more to learn to continue to excel at the sport.
- Finally, I learned we are at a massive handicap in Arizona without a track to practice on. I could have benefited from regular track time to help me with the ebb and flow of mass start racing, as well as starts, pursuit lap pacing and general track awareness.
Our team’s monthly trips to the Velo Sports Center in California certainly help, but there are so many elements that can’t be explained, but have to be lived. That’s why I’m excited to transform the 2016 Athlete Octane Track Racing team, into the Foundation for American Track Cycling’s own team, Velo Track Club. We have a number of sponsors already on board with more to come, including but not limited to GQ-6, FFWD Wheels, and The Velo bicycle shop in downtown Phoenix.
All racers from Arizona are encouraged to contact myself or our other team board members Bob Francis or Wayne Lewis for more information.