Springbank Crit – The Larbi Report

Before every race you must check in, present your race license, initial the form and pick up your numbers to pin onto your jersey. Same old thing, every race. I’m at Springbank park this time and am going to do just that. I walk in, present my license and wait to get my numbers. The lady says to me “uhhh, this is a presto card”. Oh yeah, shit. You guys want a race license, you don’t take presto cards (which is also a green card). I give her the correct card, grab my license and walk out. I’ve developed a habit of putting my cards back in my wallet RIGHT away before I lose them. So, I go to put my license back in my wallet. But, where is my wallet? I do the universal pat down of every pocket. Hmmm… no wallet. I do the exact same pat down, but slower, hoping that would do the trick. No wallet. I walk back in to the registration area, assuming I left my wallet on the table. “Hey, I don’t have my wallet, did I leave it here? I scan the table. Not there, then check my pockets again. The lady looks at me with an ‘are you kidding’ sort of look. Then she stares down to my hand with my race numbers in it. Ah ha! Underneath those numbers was my wallet…. IN MY HAND! I worry for a second that maybe a high speed bike race isn’t something I should be allowed to do without some sort of psych eval first. No matter, I keep walking and as long as I can find my car in the parking lot I should be just fine.

Springbank Crit is always a blast. It’s a 2ish km course going around a park. It’s got one tight downhill turn and a few other, less significant, bends. For a crit, it’s not so bad. Team OCTTO today is Larbi and myself. Larbi, still recovering from a sickness, seems a little grim an hour before the race. He promises me before the start that he’s going to take one of those energy drinks and I hope he will come back alive.

After a little warm-up it’s time for the race to start. We line up and the race is off. The first technical turn is right off the back. I’m near the back. I’m feeling a bit cautious and prefer to ‘ease’ into this race and it’s corners. The first few laps go and there’s a few little attacks but nothing sticks. I try and stay closer to the front as it’s the safest spot. A few more laps in and they call out the “next lap is a prime”. Prime, being a lap where the first to come through the finish line on the next lap gets some money. I’m a sucker for things like this. I know I have no business doing a sprint this early in the race but somehow ‘knowing not to do this’ is not the same as ‘not doing it’. So, the lap goes through and I stay near the front. 400 meters from the line and I’m AT the front. Larbi is beside me, and we are continuing to ramp up speed. Wait, this isn’t right, why am I racing my own team mate? I don’t believe Larbi was interested in any prime, he just happens to be at the front because…well… that’s where he likes to ride. So, he tells me to go for it. I do, and for a second I think the money is all mine…. but then Keezer comes up alongside and we sprint it out and he takes me by a foot at the line. No money and 1 spent match. Good start.

A few more laps go by and then I go for a doomed solo breakaway just because. I got maybe 250 meters ahead and am caught within a minute or two. I don’t know why I bother. Getting the gap is the easy part but as soon and I do then the realization that I can’t actually TT worth a damn sinks in. Unless the peloton stops for lunch, which they rarely do, I have no chance of travelling faster than a group.

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At one point later in the race I ended up on the inside of a turn and had to take the turn way too tight. I nearly caught a curb. I hit the lip of the concrete and my front wheel went all wonky for a second and thought I was in trouble. Serves me right. I made a mental note to remember this so I could administer 20 lashings to myself for being one of those sketchy riders. Never again.

Another lap or two goes by and Larbi goes off the front solo. Now, Larbi on the other hand can get the gap and keep a gap. As he went off the front I saw him kick into TT mode and knew this could be good. As he goes off, the gap grows quickly. Nobody is worried this early into the race and nobody takes up the chase. As the team-mate that is left in the pack it’s my job to make sure the group goes as slow as possible. So, I go to front and ride slow. Riding slow… this is the job for me. Maybe I AM born to be a cyclist? After half a lap or two the race picks back up and attacks start happening. If it’s just a few guys who break away, I let them go, hoping they will bridge to the TT machine up front and they can work together towards victory.

10km go by and Larbi is still out front. He has a 40 second gap. And here I am, riding slow. Awesome. Eventually 2 riders attack, get away and attempt to bridge to Larbi (eventually they do). At certain points the pack drills it and a rider or two falls off the back and the race gets hard. I tell myself that I’m not allowed to get dropped in this situation, not with a team-mate out front making it easy for me. That would be a disgrace and I would need to administer more lashings for this. So, keeping a good spot in the pack, I’m just counting down the KM’s one lap at a time. There’s 20 km left and they still have a good sized gap. Maybe they will stay away….

No. The pack had been attacking and drilling it the last 5km and the race is moving really fast. We’ve already spit a few people out the back. 18 km to go and Larbi and the 2 others are caught. Shortly after, Casey Roth solo attacks and is quickly out of sight. There’s a group of 20 or so left at this point. Even though Larbi has just been caught, he seems to be at the front again. Oh god. I go to the front and do a measly amount of work but decide this isn’t really our race to lose and tuck back in. In my mind, a few teams have a few more guys in this group and they should be the ones maintaining the pace. Plus, I’m tired.

The race continues and Casey has a 40 second gap with 8km left. We aren’t catching him. We are racing for 2nd now. A few hard attacks go and split the back. I am nearly caught on the wrong side of the split but just make it into the lead group. 15 or so people left and the pace is still pretty high. A few hard attacks go but things keep coming back together. I think I may have even done another doom and gloom move in the excitement but I may have just been at the back crying, who knows. We go through the finish and I hear bells. Was that the bell last lap? I ask another dude “is this last lap”. He says, “uuugh I dunno”. I look at my Garmin and it says 65.5km. So, based on this this, it’s the last one.

Some riders attack and drill it into a hill and I’m at the back and now there’s a small gap. Larbi is here too. I didn’t see it but he must have converted back into TT mode because he got us back to the pack within a few seconds. He explains the lap situation to me. There is 1 more. Good. Because we’d just rode hard up to the back of the pack (to catch back on) we were moving faster than the group; so going into the last downhill turn we had made it right to the front. Larbi was AT the front, I was on his wheel.

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As he makes the turn I start slowing down, giving him a bit of a gap. He gets 10 meters or so ahead but doesn’t seem to have converted into TT mode yet. He gets 20 meters and is still not in TT mode. I yell at him “GO”. He looks back, sees the gap and nails it. I stay at the front, doing what I was born to do. Go slow. Well, not TOO slow. Fast enough that nobody will easily come around. I look back and nobody is passing me. Larbi is riding like an animal, gaining ground up the road and still nobody is passing. No riders want to burn a crucial match at this point to catch him. I kept on the front for like 30 second and still nobody pulled around me. Eventually, somebody couldn’t take it and blasted off alongside and past me. The pack went with them. I made it on the back. We went through the last KM and it was obvious Larbi was not getting caught and was going to take 2nd. I took out my bottle of champaign.

I suppose the race wasn’t over. The sprint for 3rd was coming up and I was surprisingly well positioned for it. There were two ‘trains’ of riders and I was 3rd wheel on one of them. Unfortunately, the train that I was in was one of those trains that take tourists through the Hamilton walk way path while they point out birds and old buildings. The other train was one of those high speed trains in Japan that go at like 400km an hour. They go blasting right by and I’m still trapped on the slow tourist train. Eventually I swung up to the outside of the guy in front of me with 200 meters to go, passed a guy and then was passed again on the line. 12th for me.

All in all, a good day for team OCTTO. Big kudos to Larbi!

I will try the energy drink thing next race..

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