Flats Are Not Your Friends

Bloomington CRIT 2016 Illinois State Criterium Championship
Masters 1,2,3

Bloomington has gone nuts. The downtown streets that are part of the original route 66 have been eulogized in song, but are now being cursed by Cat 4 racers, dismayed organizers and anyone who believes in freedom, the pursuit of happiness through lycra and carbon, or basic american decency and tolerance.


Some mean spirited selfish arse has sprinkled tacks on the course, bringing down a string of riders in a nasty crash, and stopping the race.
This petulant act might feel to them like a protest prank, but it’s about as much a prank as cutting car brake lines. The crash results in a pile up that sends several to the ER, and throws one rider over barriers into a stream of live traffic. The consequences of that could have been death. It's that simple.

So Mr ‘I want to park my pickup in front of the bar without these damn cyclists tekkin my road’ or whoever you are, whatever your tragic little protest. I hope you die. You probably will, slowly, of liver disease and diabetes.
Teammates Jeff and Daniel are in that race, and it’s a mess. I’m not feeling confident for mine coming up. I already had to deal with an exploding tire of my own. Nothing to do with dirty tricks, just leftover damage from the last race suddenly failing in the hot sun of this 90 deg day.

Well the course is clear, a new tire is mounted, the 3s have run without a problem and some of Bloomington's finest are now present. It will be OK…time to line up.
It's an impressive field of Intelligentsia, Burnham, and Weather Channel guys massing at the start, while most of the local riders from last year seem to have melted away. This could be a problem.

Off down the course and one fairly easy lap before the hammer goes down and stays down. Each time up the hill and against the wind is brutal as digs lift the pace. I’m hot and in a bit of trouble hanging with these guys. Another turn up the hill, lugging a gear and there’s an explosion. My front wheel, my new tire, just bought and installed has let go. Damn this place, damn stupid vittoria, screw them all. I almost crash taking the turn then I come to a halt, but I’m close to the line and neutral service so I duck under barriers and make my way there, slowing just a moment for the bunch to come around the top of the figure of 8.  No way do I want to beat them to the line, get a new wheel, and be pushed back into the race on the same lap.
There are still spare wheels, so I’m swapped out and taking the opportunity to drain my bottle and catch a breath. Then back into it.

Feeling much better I settle in and pull up the bunch. One rider has gone away alone, and while that’s never going to work I’m happy to lead a lap and pull them back. Everything feels OK but the pressure is slowly going on. No massive attacks, but the pace just increases relentlessly until I’m at the back gasping with the chase moto in my ears like a siren of doom. It’s so hard the only respite is a freewheeling moment at the bottom of the hill clattering over the bumps into the fast turns.
I’m counting down the laps in exhausted overheated pain, it's willpower and no more keeping me in front of the ever present revving USAC sportbike. At 5 to go I’m close to cracking. At 4 to go I’m gapped but get it back.

Then a masters miracle.

The pace slows up the hill. Riders are cagily looking at each other, while I just follow quietly trying not to look like I’d be dropped instantly if they put the hammer down. Normally this phase of a masters race is frustration but today I’m saved by it. Ahh recovery.
Same with 2 to go and I’m able to pick up a place or two. Bell lap and it goes megadrive again, but surprised to find myself on the wheel of top riders from weather channel. They are done in too? Last time up the hill and I have no fight to take places anywhere except one, on the line. 11th.

Oh and my puncture wasn’t tack shenanigans, just a good old fashioned cut sidewall. Whoever spread the tacks was probably long gone by then.

~Bevan Brookfield