Tuesday, April 24, 2012


By John McKee

I got to the Home Depot Center Velodrome on Sat. April 21st, 2012 and found out my pursuit team was named the "Gentleman's Team". I had to smile to myself. Made me think of all the strip clubs that are called Gentleman's Club. Not that I would know anything about strip clubs or at least recently. Lol. Use to go with some work friends to Laker games and then hit a few "clubs" in the area afterward. That was a  long time ago though. I can't even remember if the gals took all their clothes off but they must have because you couldn't buy alcohol.
The "Gentleman's Team"- John McKee, Jerry McDonald, Alan Wignall, & Monty Pettus(post race pic)

The story of the "Gentleman's Team" goes back a few months. Alan Wignall was trying to build a 60+ pursuit team for 2012. He had heard about Monty Pettus and myself from his friend and Paramount member, Howard Miller. Both Monty and I were a go. We figured this would be fun and would make us stronger road riders. Monty wanted to go back to Bend, Or. for national road champions  a stronger rider and be more competitive in 60-64 and I wanted to move up from 2 to 1 in the criterium in 65-69. I wanted that red, white and blue jersey put on me at a podium in September 2012. Tall order for me but those were our long range goals. Alan had been on a team in 2011 and had been training almost exclusively at the track and was getting very strong. The search for a 4th person came upon Alan's friend, Jerry McDonald. Jerry is a long time trackie and very savvy about riding at the track and as I learned, very strong as well. The 4 of us starting working together under the tutelage of Roger Young and everything was going great. We were committed to state and natz. About 3 weeks ago we learned that USA Cycling was shaking up their categories and 60+ would not be one of them. 55-64 would be one and 65+ would be another as I understand it. Since Monty is 63 and Alan is 64 this year, they would not be in the same age cat as Jerry(65) or myself(66). Jerry and I would have to find 2 new partners and Monty and Alan would also have to find 2 new partners but for the 1st local LAVRA time trial the original guys would do it together for the 1 and only time. We had trained all aspects of the 3 k pursuit- starts, exchanges, the finish, cornering, riding tight, etc. I wasn't very good at much of this I have to admit.
The event at the Home Depot Center was going to start at 9 am. The 2nd event would be the pursuit and our team was 2nd up. I got to the venue at around 7:15 am and started setting up on the top level of the velodrome with the trainer, road bike, track bike, & bike bag. I set up with my team and other riders overlooking the track. There was a door behind us that we could walk out the back of the building, down a stairs and in the back door to the infield area of the track. Most of the infield is taken up by volleyball courts that is filled all hours of  weeknights and all day on the weekends with teenage girls on expensive volleyball club teams. I must admit that they train and practice hard.Their are always parents in the stands looking out for their investment.
The track was open to warm up from 8 to 9 am. We went down and did some warmup laps and a few 3 lap accelerations. Back up to our road bikes on the trainer. Keep the heart rate up. Everyone that didn't have their race bike in the proper gears made the change to the prescribed gear ratio of 92 inches. I had a combo of a 14 tooth cog in the back and a 48 chainring in the front. Back down to the infield and went up on the apron of the track near the start and watched the first group. They were thrown together just before the start and they looked it. One rider was dropped half way through the race and the 3rd who is the timed person fell off on the last lap. That was my biggest fear, getting dropped or how about not getting on at the start and chasing. Yikes.
Our turn came and we set up like we had in practice. Jerry McDonald was 1st on the track. Just above him was Alan Wignall and then Monty and myself. We were slightly staggered with myself the greatest distance from the pursuit line(center of the track) which is different than the sprint line. All being held by volunteers but Jerry. He was in the start machine.

McKee(can barely see on left), Pettus, Wignall and McDonald at the start- photo courtesy of Pat Benson
The start is a highly involved technique that I never even thought about when I committed to the team and I soon found out I was terrible at it. You get on the outside of your time trial bars and when you get the go you lock out your arms, thrust your hips forward, look up and push down on the pedals as hard as you can. As you get going you bring your eyes down and get in a more sprinter type position and each person drops behind the person in front of him after starting straight out. I would be the last to drop in. Roger was great working with us on this but also Johnny Walsh helped me a great deal with my start because I was so lame. Johnny is very knowledgeable about all track techniques and track protocol. Don't break protocol in front of Johnny or you will hear about it.
Wignall, Pettus, McKee & McDonald- looks like Jerry is getting a good draft off of me- photo courtesy of Pat Benson

McDonald, Wignall, Pettus & McKee at the start/finish line- Photo courtesy of Pat Benson

I can see Monty is already starting to drift a bit to do his exchange and I am thinkng of coming through for my pull- Photo courtesy of Pat Benson
My daughter Amanda with Jonathan-  50th anniversary edition of Go,Dog,Go!
OK, the countdown comes. The anxiety...five, four, three, two, one, go! Go Dog Go!! "Go Dog Go" is an old Dr. Seuss book that my daughter Amanda loved when she was a child that she is now reading to her son, Jonathan. Off we go. I get off without falling. Good there. I push to the max and go forward. I finally drop in at the corner and yell "Aller". That is go faster in French because I am on. 3 words to communicate on the track are Aller(go faster), Woo(go slower) and Up(move up the track and get the hell out of the way). Our main goal was to do the entire race together and look good doing it. 2nd was to do the lowest time possible. Our first lap taken out by Jerry was 23.7 and over a second slower than we had done in practice but we were tight which we hadn't always been in practice because of me. Our target was 19 second laps(per Roger) which wasn't super fast but we figured we could do that and finish the race. We had done shorter distances at much faster times and done 20 second laps for a long time but figured that 19 seconds would be right for us. Alan did his 1st lap at 18.5. Good time. Alan always is pumped up and this was no surprise. Monty did the 3rd lap and his 1st lap in the lead at 19.4. I was a little surprised at this. I followed with an exact 19.4. I was pretty happy to have copied Monty's time. Our exchanges were going well. Jerry followed with a 19.7.   I was really surprised here because Jerry has been so sharp but it turned out he was over cooked for the race. The prior Sunday he did 18 flying sprints chasing "Big" Mikael Weitze at the track plus Roger's grueling workouts on Tuesday and Thursday. The times after this are a blur but they were all in the low 19s. My 2nd time was 19.3. My legs were starting to load up. 4 laps to go and I needed to recover from my lap pull and have enough stuff to lead our team home on the last lap. That I have done well in practice but not after 12 laps. Monty did his last pull and I came through. My legs were loaded with lactic acid! I went to the max with my effort. Breathing really hard. Brain to engine. Go Dog Go! I wasn't getting the response I wanted. Not bad but not good. After the last corner I was too drift above the red line and Jerry who was right behind me would fly above me and to my right. Alan who was the 3rd man was too stay on the black pole line and come underneath me. Monty would come over the top if he could since he had just made the pull prior to the last lap.
I was coming toward home and had almost nothing. Really out of gas. Alan came by me underneath and then Jerry on my right. Alan was 1st to the line and then Monty came out of no where to finish 2nd. How did he do that?? Lol. Most of you know what a good finisher Monty is on the road. Jerry was 3rd. We were all very close at the end and we definitely got good style points for that. I think we got a 2 second deduction in our time for style. Our official time was 3:59:13. Not great but the first time we had done the whole thing for real. I was really happy. Finished it and didn't screw up!! My lap times were right there with everyone else and my last lap time was actually faster than my other 2. I felt great. Done! Over! What a relief!!
Looking back on the race there is not much we could have done different except go faster here or there like our start and overall our effort got an A grade. It is sad we have to break up for the SCNCA and Natz but onward and upward. We shall see what the future brings. Thanks to my teammates for showing support and encouragement and thanks to Roger for his help. It has been a great experience. Hard but really fun! I had never ridden at the track in tt bars and it isn't all that easy at speed doing the turns and staying tight on the person in front of me. You are suppose to stay 3 to 4 inches from the wheel in front of you and I definitely don't have that down but better than the pictures show. Thanks again to Pat Benson for the great action photos. The post race picture was taken on my Nikon camera and crafted by Gerald Agnew. Gerald will be joining Jerry and and I on our 65+ team. Ricky Shorts will be joining Monty and Alan for their pursuit team. That's all for now folks! Train hard and race safe!

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