Go Fast, Take Chances.
Every Friday night, from May to August, the elite track racers in the Pacific Northwest head to the Jerry Baker Velodrome in Redmond, WA. They take a week's worth of training out on each other as they battle their way around the oval, racing into the late evening hours.
Heather Nielson is an experienced road racer, with 11 years of racing on the Utah, California and Washington circuits. She has been quickly gaining track racing skills for last two years, working her way up to Cat 3. With the success she’s had this season, an upgrade shouldn't be far away. She joins the Friday night faithful at the track, ready to prove herself against the very best in the region.
Every racer has their own process, and Heather is no different. Warm up on rollers, warm up on the track and repeat until the first race starts. Small adjustments to the bike, music, and hydration keep her busy as she waits for her turn on the velodrome. Even with the focus and concentration on the races ahead, the feeling on the infield is one of social hour, albeit with a lycra dress code.
Once racing begins, she changes to a racing gear with a wheel flip. Tonight she keeps the 48 chainring, though other nights she might swap that out for something a little bigger.
As the night of competition starts, the schedule calls for three women’s field races. Some of the more experienced competitors join the men’s races. Heather races in the Scratch Race, Miss-N-Out and the Points Race.
Between races, after a warm-down, Heather passes the time as most do - scrolling social media, chatting with other racers and satisfying her sweet tooth and need for energy with gummy treats.
But it’s not all about relaxation. Heather takes detailed notes after each race - how she felt, what strategies worked, and what she thinks she can improve next time. By the end of the summer, she’ll have a season’s worth of insight into her own athleticism.
Heather has four tattoos, all self-drawn. She took about a year to determine and draw each one, before getting the ink set permanently.
As she carefully explains each tattoo, the one she seems to treasure the most references both her bike life and the Greek huntress Atalanta. A fitting muse for Heather’s independent spirit, Atalanta was rescued by bears and is known for her athletic prowess. She was, to say the least, fierce.
Heather watches as the race before hers finishes, cheering the field as they hit the final stretch. Then she takes to the track for her own race.
As she continues to improve her skill on the track, Heather receives advice and encouragement from more experienced racers.
Heather places third in both the Scratch and the Points Race, and fourth in Miss-N-Out. The combined points place her on the podium in third for the evening’s Omnium. She messages friends with the happy news as soon as the results are posted.
“I have a new motto for the season,” she says. “Go fast, take chances. And why not?”