Sunday is supposed to be a day of rest, this would perhaps explain the lackadaisical attitude of the assembled bike racers, spectators, judges, police and sundry hangers on at the final showdown of our south of the border stage race. When we arrived the hangers on weren't even ready to hang on yet, let alone the racers ready to race. Fortunately the police were, like good cub scouts always ready and had taken to ripping some hot laps on their motorcycles.
The program was pretty clear on this one, high noon, and given that it was a crit we were able to find the start without our usual confusion and panic. Of course, we hadn't accounted for the time change. The suspicious lack of riders gave me a flashback to yesterday "are you SURE we're in the right place?" i asked as the car park slowly filled up with women, veterans, a taco trailer and none of the elite riders. After a brief chat with some of the assembled possee it was decided that there had indeed been a time change, the direction of which remained unclear. In order to facilitate an increased amount of confusion, and a longer trophy presentation ceremony it was decided that we would now race first, at 10am, with the other categories racing at the same time. Huzzah! Nothing excites me more than passing a novice peloton 200m in the air over a busy motorway.
Oh i didn't mention that did I? see this wasn't just your run of the mill criterium, no sir, this was a criterium on stilts, literally. The course was a hot dog loop on a closed section of a major road (vuelta perrito caliente?), with the toppings on said sausage being the climb of a freeway overpass, the descent and then the re-ascent of an adjacent overpass. Never a dull moment.
Having spent the best part of three hours waiting, lamenting the lack of coffee, drinking my extrem endurance extend and eating the oranges which seemed to be a sponsor gift as they appeared at the start of each stage i was somewhat surprised to hear cries of "cinco minutos" reverberating around the streets of the empty city. lycra flew, glucometers bleeped, gu packets were stuffed down shorts (this isn't some kind of spinal tap prosthetic, there aren't pockets in my skinsuit) and the central barrier of the freeway saw some cyclocross action as i rushed into the bunch. Having hurried up, we began to wait, and wait. riders were told they couldn't start without gloves, so they got gloves. the GC presentations began, and we clapped. finally we took the line, got mentally prepared, breathed deeply and looked at each other and the course ahead. I had a good spot at the front of the grid and intended to go from the gun. i checked my pedals and shoes, my sunglasses and gloves. And then the inflatable finish gantry fell on my head and knocked me onto my arse.
Once we'd finished making light of the situation, pulled the giant, flaccid rubber structure from the course and disconnected the generator,we raced bikes. I attacked, got my head down and started riding hard enough to taste blood in my mouth. i looked around to see a hefty and growing gap. Sadly the main reason it was growing was that i had overshot the 180 degree turn by about 100 yards. Arse. After more blood tasting i got back on and we adopted the usual format, i was wearing my tractor beam and some of the other guys had the good sense to lock on and enjoy the ride. while some more of them managed to give the bunch the slip, and so we rode around in circles, like a merry go round. on the bridges we revelled in silence and the sound of our gears and gasps. on the corners, we were surrounded by smoke, dust and noise.
Descending after 60k i realised i was hydration free and so i vacated my bottle cages. Despite my immaculate aim, the bottles were filched out the back of the pickup by the time we'd made the 180 degree turn and our team helper was graciously proffering a coke on the other side of the road. Having indicated that i would prefer to be fed without having to climb over a concrete barrier in the middle of the road, and completed another lap i couldn't help but notice a flag being waved. The bottle wasn't offered next time around, as it turned out the beer was getting warm and the race dull, so they'd cut a couple of laps. Charming.
We made it to the final corner, i sprinted like a novice, got off my bike and found that coke which i'd wanted 12k before. We sat in our bibshorts, ate oranges and almonds and drank beer from one of the 9 kegs which the organizer had secured. We waited longer than we rode and clapped as trophies were handed out and phone numbers exchanged. ONce we were off the bikes we were the best of friends. we ate more tacos and i drank a delicious horchata. We sat in the back of pickuptrucks and then walked into the USA as the people who'd give everything to do the same looked on, and hawked air fresheners. Bike racing is all about contradictions and so is my life; a $15,000 bike and not a penny for food parts of my body which don't work as well as most people and parts which work better than nearly all of them. i hope you've enjoyed being part of the circus, don't go anywhere,there's always more to come.