My Experience at the Pan American Track Cycling
Championships, Mexico City, Mexico, February 6-10, 2013
By Candice Vermeulen
For as long as I can remember I have always dreamed of representing Canada at an International Sporting Event. This dream has finally become a reality! I was selected to represent Canada as part of the Women’s Team Pursuit Development Squad at the 2013 Elite Pan American Track Cycling Championships in Mexico.
My Women’s Team Pursuit Team included two riders from Alberta, Allison Beveridge and Kirsti Lay, and myself from Ontario. Allison, although she was the youngest on the Team, she has the most International Racing experience, as this was the first International Track Cycling event for both Kirsti and I. The Women’s Team Pursuit (WTP) is a very technical event since you must start and finish the 3km distance with all 3 riders. This differs currently with the Men’s Team Pursuit, which starts with 4 riders, but you only need to finish the 4km distance with 3 riders. So pacing strategy and technique become even more important in the WTP. In order to prepare for the Pan Am Championships we spent one week in January training together at the Velodrome in Los Angeles, California – which is the only indoor, international standard sized track (250m) in North America, and home of the Canadian National Track Team. That training camp was also a great learning experience in itself. At the camp I received my National Team Skin Suit, and a National Team Look Frame to train and race on. We also trained alongside, watched and learned from the WTP Team, several of which won a Bronze medal at the Olympics in London, that are currently racing at the World Championships. After the training camp we all returned home to make our final preparations for the Pan Am Championships.
We arrived in Mexico City just a couple of days in advance of the competition to allow for acclimatization to the altitude and the track. This was my first time ever in Mexico, and first time being at altitude, both of which provided a shock to my system over the next few days. The first two days of being in Mexico I could definitely feel all of the effects of the altitude – lightheaded, headache, shortness of breath, nausea…But you do the best that you can to rest and relax, drink plenty of BOTTLED water, and by Wednesday I was feeling much better. Perfect timing since the competition for me began with the WTP on Thursday. I was scheduled to race the WTP on Thursday, the Scratch Race on Friday and the Points Race on Sunday.
On Thursday morning, the morning of the WTP Qualifier, I woke with a surprise illness that would work its way through the entire Canadian Team and Coaching Staff before the week was over. There is no way that I wanted to let my teammates down. Unfortunately I was not the only one on the team who was sick that day. We took to the start line, with a good start we were off. However, by the time it was my turn on the front, 3 laps into the 12 lap race, I was already feeling the effects of not being properly fueled for the race. We managed to finish the race together in a time of 3:38, finishing 6th overall. The top 4 teams in qualifying, would race for the medals later that evening, all went under 3:30. So, time to prepare/recover for my next event the Scratch Race on Friday evening.
After a good night sleep by Friday morning I was feeling much better than the previous day. I was excited and nervous to start the Scratch Race. The racing on the smaller 138m Track at the Forest City Velodrome in London is in many ways very different to the International “bunch” races on the larger 250m Track. In my preparation for the event I spent some time watching videos on YouTube to get a better understanding of how the race may unfold. For those that don’t know, a Scratch Race is similar to a Road Race where the first person to cross the finish line after a set distance, in this race 10km or 40 laps, is the winner. For most of the race there would be attacks, then the field would chase and bring the race back together, where we would then cruise around the top of track watching each other until the next attack. Several attacks were made throughout the race, with one American taking a lap on the field, leaving the rest of the field to race for Silver. With 6 laps to go the field was all together, I was on the wheel of a Columbian fighting for position with a girl from Chile. I felt boxed in, so in my attempt to gain better position I gave up the Columbian’s wheel and tried to move up the track slightly. However, I found myself fighting for position with another girl, this time from Argentina. I wasn’t going to give up the wheel again, so I continued fighting for my space – leaning into her, elbows out etc. But with 3 laps to go she came down on me in the corner, as I was leaning into her, we hit equipment, I lost my balance and crashed. It wasn’t a spectacular crash, thankfully, more of just a slide resulting in some road rash, bruises and splinters – lots of splinters! As it turns out the Columbian finished 2nd, and the Chilean girl finished 3rd. So I was in the right place, I just lacked the experience in fighting for position.
Lucky for me Saturday was a day off racing, allowing me time to recover (again) before the Points Race on Sunday. The points race was one of the last events of the Pan Am Championships. After all of the events of the week I was hoping for some better “luck” on Sunday. Which I got, but only after some stress of the shuttle getting us to the Velodrome 40+ min late for warm-up. I managed to get enough of a warm up in to feel warm, my ideal warm up would have been longer, but it was a long race at 100 laps or 25km, so it wasn’t a big deal. In a Points Race there are intermediate sprints every 10 laps where you score points (1st=5pts, 2nd=3pts, 3rd=2pts, 4th=1pt). If you take a lap on the field you score 20pts, but then are no longer in the lead, you become part of the field after scoring your points. The winner is the rider with the most points after 25km. The race begins, and everyone starts watching each other, one girl made an attack, no one followed and she took 1 lap on the field inside the first 10 laps. The pace picks ups a couple of laps before the sprint, then everyone swings up the track after the sprint to recover. Occasionally this is when a counter attack will occur, right after a sprint. On the 2nd of the 10 sprints I managed to score 2 points for being 3rd across the line, but that would turn out to be the only points that I would score. These riders were very strong, some taking multiple laps on the field, with this great acceleration, that I was unable to match – yet. I finished the race on my bike and without crashing, in 12th position.
Racing at the Pan American Championships was an awesome learning experience. I learned so much from the experience from talking to the Coaching Staff, watching races, watching the other riders prepare. But the best learning experience was being in the races. I have a greater appreciation of the level of the International Competition. This experience has left me wanting more. I know that I did the best that I could under the circumstance of illness/injury, but I also know that if given another opportunity I will make the most of it.
I am now home in St. Catharines, ON, working and training – indoors on the trainer and in London at the Forest City Velodrome. I am preparing for the upcoming Ontario Road Racing Season, where I will be racing for the InVita-FCV Team Women’s Team. I am going to use the knowledge and experience I gained at the Pan American Championships to fuel my training and racing on the road in preparation for the Ontario Provincial Road Race in July, the Canadian National Track Championships in August and beyond.
For more information on the InVita-FCV Race Team please check out the InVita Sport Website at www.invitasport.com (coming soon!) and Forest City Velodrome…http://www.forestcityvelodrome.ca