Upgrade Races on the Velodrome by Trina Jacobson

Last Saturday evening, I attended one of 6 sanctioned races held at the San Diego Velodrome aimed at providing an opportunity for track racers to upgrade. Usually us women don’t get enough racers to earn any upgrade points and this night was one of them. Knowing I couldn’t earn any upgrade points in the women’s field, I decided to do some men’s races. I had my pick of the men’s fields since I’m a Category 3 racer on the track and can race in any race a Category 4 male can. I decided on the 4/5 field as well as the women’s field …it wouldn’t be that hard…WRONG.

The first men’s race was a short scratch race and crazy fast! In a scratch race, the first person across the line is the winner, like a crit. It was faster than Tuesday night racing with the B’s and it was all I could do to hold on until the last lap where I was spit out the back. With the first race done and legs completely loaded, I not so gracefully dug my bar end into my thigh while getting off my track bike. I think I see the Virgin Mary in my bruise. At least I didn’t have the dreaded slow motion tip over.

After changing my cog for an easier gear and spinning out my legs on my road bike in the trainer, I lined up at the rail for the first women’s race – a scratch race. I got another few minutes to recover while the rest of the women were “rolling out” for the official. You see, this old lady was about to race with junior women on restricted gears. I have to admit that I thought it would be easy to race with Little Ladies on little lady gears. About half way through the race, I decided to make it hard on myself and went for it. I held speed for longer than I ever had before and won the race while battling cramps of the buttocks, otherwise known as Time Trial Butt.

I went back to my road bike to spin my legs out again, and then I lined up for the next men’s race, an elimination race, for two reasons: 1) the workout and 2) they needed me to. Without me and one other woman, they would not have enough starters for the winners to earn upgrade points. So, I’d do as much of the men’s races as I could to get those intensely fast efforts. In this race, the last person across the line is eliminated. My goal was to not be the first one pulled. I surprised myself and lasted a few laps longer than I thought I would!

Before I knew it, we were being called to the rail for the second women’s race, a race that tests my dedication to the sport – a tempo. A tempo race is a sprint for points on each lap and the rider with the most points wins. It’s incredibly hard. Because I want to learn track race tactics and dynamics of a woman’s field, I did not want to ride away from the Little Ladies. In addition, I didn’t want to ride them into the ground, taking all the fun out of it and I wasn’t going to just give them the race. I don’t even let my 4 year-old win all the time. So I adjusted how I rode. I rode at the end of the 5 racer line to let them dictate the race and force me to react to them. The Little Ladies surprised me by attacking and taking turns attacking! I easily won a few sprints, so I made myself ride above the blue line (it’s half way up the track, so I’d be covering more distance than down track). By the end of the race, I was spent and my abs were now screaming for a horizontal position.

I did about half of the men’s points race, then came the women’s points race, which was mercifully shorted a few laps. In this race, there are sprints for points every 6 laps. Anything goes in between the sprint laps. I did the same as the previous race with the exception that we sat up a bit for the smallest Little Lady and encouraged her to get back in the group after each sprint. She was a trooper! I won most of the sprints, and I started getting tired. The older Little Ladies gave me a run for my money that night and the race came down to order of finish in the last sprint since we were in a 3 way tie.

I won all 3 women’s races and was at the back or did not finish (DNF) the men’s races. It was a ridiculously hard night of racing, but so very fun. I was happy to have been useful in the men’s race, if only to provide the opportunity for someone to earn upgrade points, and I was happy with learning to race with women while providing them some competition and encouragement. I feel like we, both the men and the women, bonded through the adversity of needing to scrape together enough riders for upgrade points and the hard work done on the track.

I even have a really rare and unique Lucha Libre belt to show for it.




  1. Tara says

    Sorry I missed the race! Next year we’ll definitely do better getting all the women to all the races. After April 15, I’m in! :)

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