Tales from Ben Kersten's corner, January 5, 2006
One of Australia's fastest men on two wheels, Sydney rider Ben Kersten is back in Tasmania for the Christmas carnivals. Winner of the Devonport wheel race in 2004, Kersten is looking to ramp up his preparations for the Commonwealth Games while sampling the tough conditions the Apple Isle has to offer. Cyclingnews will catch up with Kersten throughout the National Grid Christmas Carnivals to get his thoughts on a week in Tassie.
Ahh, the near miss in Devonport...we caught them on about a lap to go; I was going around the outside because I had all the scratchmarkers on my wheel and was heading around slowly to bring them all with me. If I had jumped around quickly I might've been alright, but I was going around slowly, and when the guys at the front started flicking out with the field about 30 deep everyone pushed wide. I was between the fence and another rider, and when everyone went right one guy bascially squashed me between himself and the fence.
One knuckle hit the fence and the other one hit him as he came up off the track, plus his rear axle cut my bar tape. I met a guy the other night who was sitting on the other side of the fence during the accident and said he was getting ready to catch me if I came flying over the fence. I think he would've come worse off for the experience!
It spoilt my night, and was pretty much the story of the carnivals - I've had good success with all the sprints and derbys, when other elements can't interfere with you and your form. But all the handicaps I've been unfortunate in, with things like that incident, people getting in the way, or bad handicapping when you're not even able to close them up...so that was pretty much how most of the carnivals panned out for me. I had good form, but you just can't win them all!
I came into Burnie pretty exhausted; because I'd planned to race New Year's Day and head out after that, when he had the day off my body kind of shut down a bit. I basically had two days off - we had the Burnie crit on New Year's Eve, then the rained out day. The crit was tough - even when I have my road legs on, hotdog circuits aren't to my favour; I have to get so much weight moving out of every corner because I'm over 20 kilos heavier than most of the guys. So when we go around a corner, every time I have to get it going again I'm just burning all this energy - especially at the moment when I'm really just sprinting.
I did about half of the crit to get my legs rolling, but when I started the track racing in Burnie I was exhausted and had to ride myself in. Getting the motivation going was hard - I've never ridden on such a difficult circuit in such challenging weather conditions! It was unbelievable - gale force winds, and one side of the track's 15 feet higher than the other! People get out of their seat to get over the hill, then come flying down the back straight and run out of gears. Everyone spins out and almost crashes coming over the back of the hill because they're going too fast - it's really hard to pick gears!
That nearly ruined another handicap - everyone was standing and as I came around the outside a guy swung out and nearly hit the fence. So I ended up staying put and not risking it, taking third or something like that. Despite some of the setbacks, I still reckon it was a good decision to head down to Tassie and race - I got a lot out of it training-wise, but mentally it helped as well. If I'd stayed at home I would've been going into the LA round of the world cup wondering where my form was at; all I would've thought about was the month and a half I'd had off instead of where I was at in terms of my form.
Now I know where I'm at, and I believe I'm as good as this time last year. Coming into the LA event last year I did a 1.01 for the kilo, and this year I think I'm going just as well. Overall, I'd say the carnivals were a success; it was good because with the back injury I wasn't allowed to life heavy weights or do standing starts, so the heap of racing I did was really good in a lot of ways, and sets up the rest of my season well.
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