"Who Was That Guy?" Fun at a Crit! (What happens will shock you!)
Our local team hosted a city center crit yesterday. I went and volunteered and have to say I was pretty bored. Zero spectators or promotion for this full day of racing around the Capitol. (Organizers short-staffed of course, but also PR is just not a priority.) I marshalled a far corner by myself for hours. Just me, a quarter mile of road, and the roadies. City center crits can be entertaining sports parties that thrill the whole community -- and quite a few succeed.
There's something about the modern roadie scene that is somewhat interesting to me these days, but not much. I just don't think racing has much meaning in itself -- it only works in relation to an audience. If the racers are the only audience then we pretty much have boring ingrown incest. At any rate, if the public isn't involved then a crit should probably just happen in a parking lot somewhere to stay out of everyone's hair.
It was 95degF and there was a lotta complaining. ...Heck, it's just another angle some riders can use to advantage or test themselves with. But having a water hose or sprinklers or some kind of splashability around woulda been nice. Oh, I know: people coulda brought a garden sprayer tank w a few gallons and gotten sprayed easily that way, even during the race.
So I was gonna leave after my shift when outta the blue something fun happened!
Actually, two things happened: first, I saw some locals who were new to bike racing and who were interested. So that got me worked up right away, to at least help someone see the basics, and to explain how some races are different: "Pretend there are thousands of people here, and food trucks, and loud music, and restaurants w tables out on sidewalks."
But the big deal was when I saw this old bike laying in the grass and thought "cool townie bike." It was a 1970's chartreuse Gazelle w kludged parts. Old 30mm clinchers. Then I saw it again in the starting line-up for the state champ Cat 3's race!! WWHAAT??? I told the kid riding it that he had the coolest bike there ("sorry guys" to the rest).
So now I was staying! My friends understood the unusualness as well. I had to see what happened! I thought: Give him a few laps, maybe. Well, the kid was animated and came to the front during the whole race! A small break went away but after a few laps he was asking the announcer for the time of the gap. The kid was in the action!
There were some young people at the barriers. ...The ONLY young people at the race. Turns out I knew the girl from XC skiing. They said the kid was their program's Junior Coach! So here's a young person racing AND giving back already!
...A young rider got lapped and pulled then joined our group. He was 16 and said he got dropped each lap on the downhill due to his 14t restricted gear. I didn't know they still did that. So there we all were hollering for The Kid. (We were hollering for the kid who got dropped earlier.)
I tell ya, I have NEVER seen such a thing! ...A guy w a totally "wrong" bike in a fast crit! Has anyone else seen a 70's bike kicking butt in a field of total aero-brifter-carbon?
I asked another guy who knew him if that was his only bike. C'mon, this had to be for kicks. He has to have a "real bike." Guy said that's his only bike. And when he sprints the thing flexes every which way.
So the pack never catches the 2-man TT break and it's time for the field sprint and our kid gets 2nd! Slashing his way at the front!
Afterward, the kid is friendly and relaxed. No roadie attitude. He immediately wants to pet dogs.
Then I see he's wearing actual sunglasses!
His bike even has L'Eroica-approved exposed cables!
I'm pretty sure he coulda slayed everybody and been in that break if he'd had a modern bike w aero wheels. So he's prolly a Cat 2 grade kid in Cat 3 clothing. The bike had to be a handicap -- but it was one he was up for. And it did give some spice to the event. So I'm happy about that!
A lot of the other racers are prolly pretty nice, tho roadies DO have a temperament these days -- an earned rep that includes both introversion and Type-A+beyond intensity. Racing today doesn't seem to play up the "Cash Register Phinney" angles of yore. ...Tho maybe the Pro races do step up a bit. Anyway, I'm not sure the combo of modern bikes, apparel, helmets and shades that give the full spaceman effect give much chance for charisma. ...But if there aren't crowds, what point is there. This steel kid was at the front looking left and right for tactical action -- he seemed to somehow bring a little more zest to the scene. Can't quite put my finger on it. ...Hopefully everything got fiestier for the Pro race. I did leave after the Steel Show.
(OK, the reflecto tape on that sweet bike is fugly but whatever. Also, I see he's doing what I did w my "last gasp" steel -- a self-styled compact frame from a frame that's too small -- post and stem are max long for a semi-compact result. Still 24 lbs... The last time I saw or heard of an old steel bike in a roadrace was me about 10 yrs ago at Kensington. I mighta got top 10 in the 5's and afterward the winner rolled up and said "Did those shifters work? I've never even seen them before." At that point I first realized how far outta date I was. And then I only got slower...)