Cottbus Racing Trip

Lewis Stewart | Thursday 29th June, 2017

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It has been a very slow start to the year so I was slightly apprehensive about racing in Cottbus, as I had not raced since the British Senior Track Championships in late January. However, my excitement to get stuc1k into racing again dominated my nerves. I had missed a couple races in May due to my final high school exams. I am glad to report that I have now finished with high school and have now moved into the big bad world your parents always tell you about.

 

Racing took place over two weekends, the first weekend was the Cottbuser Sprint Cup and the second was the GP Von Deutschland im Sprint. To those who don’t know, racing is quite rare for track sprinters with only a few being held in the UK a year, so racing abroad is a necessity to gain experience.  So, I am very lucky that I get frequent opportunities to race abroad with British Cycling.

 

We arrived in Germany a couple days before racing began, this gave us an opportunity to get on the track before we started racing. I had never rode or seen the Cottbus track before, it is a concrete 333m track with steep transitions between the banking’s and the straights. Typically, a track will be made from wood and 250m with not so aggressive transitions. Also, it is an outdoor track with a roof over the track leaving the track centre exposed, much like a football stadium.

 

The first day of racing was the keirin.  I do not normally get nervous before racing, but

it had been so long since my last race I felt slightly nervous. My most interesting ride of the day would have to be my first round. I drew 7th for the keirin so was placed right at the back. The bike pulled off at two laps to go and it did not take long for it to get fast. After half a lap, I found myself 50m off the back of the keirin on a Polish rider’s wheel, my plan was to stay patient and come around late at the end once everyone had used up their energy. However, I found myself in a sticky situation and to say I was worrying at this point is an understatement. I stuck to my guns and waited on the Polish rider’s wheel and he closed the gap with around 250m to go and I managed to come around to get 2nd and secure my place in the semi-final. I think my coach got a heart attack watching it but ultimately, I stuck to my plan and it paid off. In the semi-final, I got 3rd and progressed through to the final. In the final I drew 6th at the back and due to a lack of proactivity led to me staying there. I finished 6th in a very tough field of riders so was a successful day and I learned so much.

 

The following day it was the sprint. I qualified in 6th position after my F200 with a time of 10.85. Unfortunately, the lack of racing certainly showed this day, I lost my first round against a slower rider after a huge tactical error allowing him to gain a 50m gap on me with one lap to go, I almost managed to draw level but not quite. I was not out of the competition yet, after a win in the first-round rep that got me back in and I was against my team mate Alistair Fielding. We always seem to end up against each other at races and they are always very close. This was no exception he just passed me before the line knocking me out of the competition. I was now in the 9-12th ride off and I finished 10th. Not a great day of racing but I was looking forward to next weekend after blowing out the cobwebs and improve my match sprinting skills.

 

 

The day after we had a rest day, we immediately went out for breakfast as I was getting rather sick of salami baguettes for breakfast that the Germans are so keen on. A chicken omelette and portion of fried eggs with bacon was a welcome sight. Later, that day, we headed to the local leisure centre for a relaxing swim in the pool. Although, this was far from the truth as little did we know there were flumes. So that occupied our time for the best part of 4 hours. At one point, we got 10 riders in the same flume at the same time this meant for a rather bumpy and sore ride… There isn’t such an emphasis on health and safety in Europe as we discovered. The rest of the week was filled with two track sessions and a gym session, prepping us for the next weekend of racing.

 

Friday soon came and the second weekend of racing was underway. The first day was the keirin and the competition was very hard. In the first-round I drew a very hard heat and unfortunately, I didn’t make it through and now had to race the first-round rep. Luckily, I won and was now in the semi-finals. There was some time for me to go back to the hotel, have a shower, relax and listen to a bit of Rocket Man to let myself reset before the semi-final. The semi was full of big name riders, but I rode it well and managed to win and progress to the final. I was not nervous, just very excited as I had a great opportunity. As the motorbike pulled off I instantly moved to the front and got on the wheel of the favourite – Carl Hinze. The keirin sped up quickly and I lost Carl’s wheel leaving me in 4th position with a lap to go I jumped and I came around quickly as the other riders began to tire, but it was not enough and I finished 3rd in a close finish. I was over the moon with my position in such a quality field.

 

Next day was the sprint and team sprint. The day was off to a great start with a personal best in the F200 of 10.69, 10th position. Although, due to an undesirable programme for me I had only about 10 minutes to get ready for the team sprint. I was riding with Alex Joliffe and Alistair Fielding, we had never done a team sprint together. We were racing under the name of Great Britain 2, we wanted to be called Great Britain 1 but apparently, we aren’t as fast as Calum Skinner, Ryan Owens and Jack Carlin and the fastest team gets to be number 1. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion I suppose… We had a bit of a nightmare and after a poor start from me and an interesting man 2 technique from Alex of dropping man 3, it meant I did the 3 laps on my own. To add to this very bad situation, the track is 333m opposed to 250m so I had to do a kilo on my own using dropped bars. This resulted in us finishing dead last and credit to Great Britain 1 for taking the win, perhaps they were faster after all!

 

Straight after that I had my first-round, still catching my breath from my effort I was beaten by a much slower rider and again was back in the first-round rep. Feeling rather fatigued by this point I raced the rep and won! Soon after was the 1/8ths and I drew a very hard opponent in a 3up who qualified 10.4. As we rode round I found myself with a large gap to him and the opportunity of going for a long one arose. Part of my inside was crying at the thought of going long as I that was the last thing I wanted to do right now. My brain took over and seized the opportunity and it paid off, I took the win and 2nd place seed in the process. This should have worked out nicely however, first place seed Carl Hinze had lost his seed and had to come through a rep and I had him in the quarter finals. It was a close race but he proved to be too strong. Now in the minor final and after many efforts in I didn’t have much energy in my legs. The race began and I was at the front and again the opportunity of going long appeared and much to my legs regret I took it. I held on to the end and took 5th.This was a great finish for me considering I qualified 10th so I was very happy.

 

The trip was a huge success and I loved getting back into racing. It was a huge learning opportunity and I’d like to think I got the most from it. Huge thanks to British Cycling for taking me there.

 

If you’d like to keep up with my racing and find out what I’m up to before my blogs are posted, then make sure to follow me on twitter @Lewis_R_Stewart.  I’d like to thank Braveheart Cycling Fund, UK Sport, British Cycling, Scottish Cycling and Glasgow Cycle Team for their continued support.

 

 

 

 

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