Track season has finally arrived! For most of my teammates, September and the months that follow signal the off-season. My roadie friends breathe a sigh of relief at the chance to get away from the bike for a bit, whether that’s camping deep in the woods or hitting up every party in a 50-mile radius. As a trackie, I too breathe a sigh of relief … mainly because for the next few months I get to go really fast, turn left, and not go up any bloody hills.
Track shenanigans kicked off with Nationals in September. I was a bit apprehensive heading into Nats this year, mainly because it was my first time racing track since Nationals 2015 (the Olympics made development racing opportunities a bit sparse in 2016). While I wanted to perform in the omnium and team pursuit (TP), my focus was all on the individual pursuit (IP).
Kinley Gibson - 2016 Track Nationals Individual Pursuit - National Champion
I went to Milton looking for a 3:42, which would have been a 2 second personal best. Some hidden, sanguine part of me was secretly hoping for a 3:40, but I knew that was a long shot. So when I finished my effort, looked at the timing board, and saw 3:38? Yeah, that was a pretty good feeling. I tend to be rather hypercritical of my performances, picking apart every little detail and trying to find any and all errors. I can say, for once, that I was 100% happy with my performance here – from the warm-up, to the gate start, to the pacing. Believe me, I don’t say that often.
Checking heats at nationals -
Picking up my first elite track National Champion’s jersey, along with a silver in the omnium, made for a very memorable Nationals.
A great omnium points race with overall winner Steph Roorda -
With Nationals finished, the NextGen women’s team banded together and set our sights on Pan Am Championships in October. We had a fun few weeks training in Milton, with the lineup going faster and smoother than it had all year. Following a bit of racing at the Milton Challenge – where I got to redeem myself in the elimination after a rather dumb exhibition at nationals – we headed down to Mexico where we met up with our 4th TP rider, Olympian Jasmin Glaesser.
Finally winning an elimination race at the Milton Challenge -
Milton kids keen to watch track racing -
Team Pursuit at Pan Ams - smooth and fast -
All our effort in Mexico was directed toward the team pursuit. Although I had been picked as the omnium rider, that was a secondary goal. We were focused on not just winning the TP (only a few teams were entered) but more so on setting the best possible time.
Aguascalientes is considered the fastest track in the world, but riding a fast TP is trickier than you think.
For one, the corners are somewhat technical – they tend to drive you down below the black line in the middle, and launch you high as you exit. This means sitting in the line and recovering is more difficult, as the wheel in front of you moves more than usual.
Secondly, you’re at 8000 feet of altitude, which means the air is thinner. When you get to the front, there’s a weird sense of not having to push against anything – it’s easy to ramp up the pace.
This sounds fantastic, except for the fact that if you ramp it up too much, you put the hurt into your teammates. Less air to breathe + wiggly lineup = lots of pain and not much recovery.
With all this and much more in mind, we went into qualifiers looking to ride conservatively, feel out our legs, and try to stay smooth. Expecting a high 4:20’s kind of a ride, we were a bit surprised to ride a 4:24. We kept our momentum going into the final, where we rode to a gold medal in 4:21 – a very fast time for our group! We exceeded our own expectations, and it felt really, really cool.
Jamie Gilgen, Kinley Gibson, Ariane Bonhomme, Jasmin Glaesser- 2016 Team Pursuit Pan American Champions
I wish I could say I kept the momentum going into my omnium. The first day was okay – I was reasonably happy with my IP, although not thrilled with my bunch races. That evening, for some inexplicable reason, I made the rather bold dinner selection of chicken enchiladas. Let’s just say, day 2 of the omnium was a challenge.
I’ll wrap up this (excessively) long post with a big thanks to the club. Having a bunch of you out at track nationals this year was a ton of fun – there was infinitely more verve in the Alberta pit this year thanks to the enthusiasm of Juventus! The positivity and support all of you bring to the table makes a bigger difference than you know, so again, thank you!
The Juventus team at track nationals made everything so much fun!