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Tales from the Peloton
Crashing to victory
Representing the USA in the points race, Larssyn Staley was determined to just ride her own race at the recent Junior World Track Championships in Moscow, and not take it too seriously. Getting competitive despite herself, she was almost robbed of victory in a last-minute crash. Here's her race in her own words.
Wow, I cannot believe I am World Champion in the points race. I'd been nervous for at least a week before the race. I was a bit surprised by this, because last year at Road Worlds I was not nervous and it had been my focus of the year. Track Worlds this year was just for fun. I'd only decided to go four weeks before the race. When I was first offered a spot on the team I was unsure of even accepting. I told them I had to think about it, but I decided I could train for a couple weeks strictly on the track, so I flew my coach Mirek Mazur out to my home track for two weeks before leaving to Moscow.
I knew I had a lot of catching up to do, but my points race training was coming along quite well, and I figured it was my best shot at Worlds out of my three events; the points race, the 2km pursuit, and the scratch race. I knew I would have to be aggressive. I had no idea what to expect from the other girls, but I decided that no matter how fast or slow the race was, I was going to race my race. As I've looked back over my races over the past two years it seems that the races I am aggressive in and take control, no matter how fast the race was, I always rose to the occasion. Just the same in the races that I easily should have won if I did not take initiative, I lost. So it was in my head that I had a job to do. This made me nervous.
On the start line I was all the more nervous; but I'd had a perfect warm-up and excellent preparation, in the three weeks prior. My plan was to sit in and relax for the first two or three sprints; there were ten in total, one every six laps/two kilometers. I was going to see how fast the sprints were and if I could sprint with them or if I had to watch for a move to get off the front. I'd had this plan in my head for two weeks. I had it set in my mind that there was no way it would not happen, though the result of it I could not have guessed.
Being so nervous on the start line I realized something. Track Worlds had never even mattered to me one month ago. I was there to have fun, the more important event I was training for was on the road in Hamilton, so the outcome of this race did not matter. With those two thoughts of racing my race, but not caring, just having fun, I left the start line.
The first two sprints, I was completely spun out in my gear I could not even move up one position on the sprint laps. I wasn't at all maxed out in fitness; I just had no gear or speed in my legs for it. I began to wait. The third sprint was slightly slower, so I was beginning to sense they were getting tired. The Spanish girl counter-attacked the third sprint. She stayed away to pick up the fourth and fifth set of sprint points while off the front. Girls were starting to get antsy to bring her back, as she had a third of a lap on the field. The Canadian attacked and got the chase going. I just followed the wheels.
As soon as the Spaniard was caught, just after the fifth sprint I counter-attacked and was alone. The Aussie bridged up a lap and a half later. I took the sixth set of sprint points over her and in the process I dropped her. I stayed away to take the seventh set of sprint points as well. Soon after that I was caught by the Lithuanian and the Latvian girls. I was comfortable off the front by myself, maintaining a quarter to a third of a lap gap, but I appreciate them coming because I'd gotten away just after the midway and that last ten kilometers would have been a long way alone. The Lithuanian took the eighth and the ninth sprint; I was second in both and the Latvian third.
With two laps to go we lapped the field. In UCI rules, laps do not take precedence over points, rather for lapping the field you are rewarded twenty points each. As soon as we reached the group the Lithuanian went above the group, and the Latvian stayed at the back. The coaches were yelling at me that I still needed points so I followed a train that was setting up in the lane for the final sprint, which is not double points.
Everything was going well. I was set up third or fourth, I don't remember exactly which, but no girls of consequence were ahead of me. Going into the third corner I knew I needed to start going around. I could sense a train about to come over the top. I had the fight and the speed in my legs. Things were good to go. The girl in front of me then also wanted to go around and took me dramatically up track. Things were still okay between us, except that the train coming over the top didn't see the girl going up and they smashed into each other full speed at the blue line. The track's about two stories high so you can imagine how high the blue line is. I had nowhere to go but over them. The girl behind me slammed into my back and flipped over me. I saw her flying in the air. Then I saw one other girl flipping in through the air completely clearing me.
I knew I needed to get across the line, I feared my lead was gone. I grabbed my bike off the track despite the pain in my back and jumped on only to realize my chain was off. So I began to run to the line with my bike. When I got to the line an official says to my, "I think you won, I think you are World Champion now." I didn't know what to think. I couldn't think. All I knew was that my back hurt. All the USA coaches were running towards me. Another official then said, "Congratulations you are World Champion." I didn't even know if I could believe him, it was too unreal to me.
I then was cleaned up by medical on the infield and then was walked to the podium ceremony. Directly after that I was taken in an ambulance to a Russian hospital which is a story in itself.
And I am forever grateful; to my coach Mirek Mazur; I could not do it without his caring insight in my training and racing and the time that he gives to make me a champion, to my team Hot Tubes and Toby Stanton because they are my second family and will always be there for me. Thank you to everyone else who has had faith in me and taken the time to be a part of what I do.
1 Larssyn Staley (USA) 35 pts 2 Agne Bagdonaviciute (Lithuania) 33 3 Laura Telle (Latvia) 27