by Tara Unverzagt
Pursuit – World Champion
After my rest day, my third race was the pursuit. I’ve been working on pacing for the pursuit. Being a sprinter, I started originally training for the 500. Part of my training included kilo training. So when I did my first 2K, for the master State Championships, I just did a light kilo. I didn’t know how to do anything else. I’ve always done unusually well at pursuit, for reasons I could never understand. This year, I actually tried to learn to race the pursuit correctly, start mellow and have either consistent times, the ideal, or negative splits. I have major trouble with the second lap. The first lap, from a standing start, I can do an easy 500 start and get exactly the time I want for a pursuit. But the second lap, I’m often 1-2 seconds too fast. That can KILL a good pursuit time.
I heard my coach yell three laps to go and I was right where I wanted to be. When I heard two to go, I sprinted with all I had left. I was able to speed up for those last two laps. So not a perfect pursuit, but respectable. I was about a second off my goal, but it was a sea level PR, so no complaints. The fastest ladies were in the heat after me. The Irish Lass was particularly worrisome to me because I knew she could go a second faster than what I had just done. But this wasn’t her day and she ended up half a second behind me. So we were going against each other in the final.
My UK coach discussed with me how I wanted to work the final. Did I want him to tell me when I was ahead or behind? I said that I wanted him to call my splits, but if I got behind, to tell me that. If I was ahead, I just wanted him to call the splits. I had decided that if I was too fast on lap 2, I was just going to hold it the best I could and limit the fade, instead of trying to back off to the split times I wanted. I started a full second faster on the opening lap. I was very concerned that was going to be a problem, but I followed my normal plan, breath and relax in lap 2 and start pushing a bit each lap after that. Lap 2 came in 1/2 second faster than I wanted, but a speed I thought I could hold. Each lap, my coach called a split time, so I knew I was not behind and probably ahead. My split times were fading, but not bad at all. I had blanked out on listening to the lap count that my second coach was calling, which turned out to be a problem. At one point I heard him tell me to go, so I knew I was in the final two laps. I thought it was the last lap, but when I came around expecting to be finished, I heard the bell! Argh! One MORE lap! I thought, “my coach is still calling splits, so I must be ahead. I just need to hold my speed the best I can and this should work out fine.” And indeed, I did come in first, as the gun went off when I crossed the finish line! Her gun went off 1 1/2 seconds later. I had actually beaten my qualifying time, which is pretty unusual.
In my mind, I kept hearing my coach say “don’t do work. You don’t need to be in a break, they do.” My normal MO would be to go with the break and try to lap the field. That’s just what I do. But my coaches plan seemed so much smarter for a World Championship, so I stuck with it.
I won the first sprint. The second sprint, the Irish Lass went early. I went with her and tried to get around her, but didn’t quite make it. I got 2nd for 3 points. The third sprint I won. There is a HUGE score board in between corner 3 and 4. So I often looked up to see where I stood, who was closest behind, how many points difference, etc. It was a huge advantage in my mind that I knew the points, but I also figured everyone else knows too. Normally, one of the hardest parts of a points race is keeping track of your points and everyone else’s so you know who’s a threat. Doing math while oxygen deprived is really hard!
Going into the fourth and final sprint, I knew I was ahead and the Irish Lass was 2nd, behind by 4 points. So if she won and got 5 points, she’d be ahead. I had to keep her from getting first. Neither of us realized that an Aussie had gone off the front. Thinking back after, I had known she went off, but she wasn’t a threat, she had no points. I had other people to worry about. Once she was out of sight, I had forgotten about her. The Irish Lass and I were head to head going into the finish and I couldn’t quite get past her again. Argh! I have to figure out how to race the BIG corners that most tracks have! She kept beating me by mere inches! I thought she got the 5 points and had won. Then after a lap on the apron and a little more oxygen in my brain, I realized she had gotten 5 points, but I had gotten 3 for coming in second. I had won!!! Then I looked up and saw that the Aussie had gotten 5 points, that’s when I remembered she had been off the front. So I had only gotten 2 points, but the Irish Lass had only gotten 3. Either way, I won overall! Yeah! This was my biggest thrill. Points race is what I love the most, being that it takes sprinting ability and endurance AND you have to think, do math, understand who you’re really racing. It’s not just about “going around an oval fast.”
Match Sprint – Silver Medal
I always wonder about gearing for the flying 200. I like to ride it in a bigger gear than I should because I like to feel like I’m really pulling on some weight when I jump. But I was feeling so tired and weak that I went a bit lighter. When I actually did the 200, I felt like it was probably too light a gear, but I’m not sure I could have done better, regardless the gear. My time was pretty horrible, but it was still good enough for top seeding for the sprints. Yeah! I went back to the hotel and laid down for the five hours between sessions.
I came back that night feeling MUCH better, refreshed even. I was looking forward to some good match sprints! Thankfully, I was first up against the woman who beat me at Nationals. I was pretty mad about that race and was eager for a “redo.” It actually ended up being anti-climatic, she let me just ride away both races to win the semi-finals. I went into the final against the German Frau, who had been strong in all the races that week. I knew she was fair competition and I was excited to do some “real” match sprinting for once.
The first round, I was inpatient, as I said before, patience is not my strong suit. I went too hard too early and faded at the end, allowing her to nip me at the line. The second round, I was focused on pacing better and waiting to initiate the sprint. Going into the final lap, she was behind me and jumped to pass me in corner 1. I did let her get slightly ahead of me, but we were crossed by half a bike. I punched it to keep her above the red line through the corner, but she slammed down on me. I was going to hold my space until I realized she was fully committed and was fine with crashing me out to get in front. Yikes! I wasn’t that committed. I backed off and went for gapping and running her from behind. I couldn’t quite pass her by the finish. I told my coach to protest because she entered the sprint lane while occupied, which he did. The officials said it was a “questionable” move, but they were going to let it stand. I felt like I had earned 4 gold already during the week, I’m not greedy, and I was tired enough to be fine with not racing one more time. It was probably about 10pm at this point. So I got the silver, disappointed, but I had lost to a worthy opponent.
I can’t believe what a great week I had. I have to say that my coach, Tim Roach, did an excellent job getting me to peak form by the week of worlds. Dr. Phil Goglia got my body fat % down and laid out a food pattern that made eating for maximum performance easy. I was exactly at the right point in my monthly cycle for going fast too. And the combination of skills I’ve learned from Coach Roach with the tactical advice from my UK coaches, Lee Povey (from Helleyer) and Pete Mitchell (from the UK), was a perfect storm for me to reach my full potential. I’ve set the bar high for next year and feel eager to put in the work until then to have another fantastic week.