There’s nothing better in the world of cycling than a hard criterium course and good legs. I was hoping for that combination a few weeks ago at the Santa Cruz Criterium, but as I mentioned before, my legs were very, very bad that day.
Haunted by the memories of Santa Cruz, racing Saturday’s Wente Road Race at the crack of dawn seemed like a surefire way to invite The Crow into my life, so I decided to head to the UCSC Pacific Grove Criterium instead. My dad drove the family’s “molester van” down from Chico — a vehicle so fantastic that it deserves a post of its own — and the two of us rolled sleazeball-style to Pacific Grove.
The plan was to arrive at the race venue early enough to watch the end of the Collegiate MA race — which Adam Switters nearly won from a bunch sprint, to the dismay of skinny climbers all over the world — followed by a good old-fashioned father-son bike ride around Seventeen Mile Drive.
Though I may appear constipated, that look is actually the gaze of a man who has just found his legs after misplacing them for over a week. Careful followers of my blog will notice that my dad’s vest has changed color from Fred Yellow to white, concordant with his steadily improving fashion sense.
After we finished the gorgeous ride, it was time for a little lunch; sadly, I forgot to bring a stirring and spreading utensil for the peanut butter, so we were forced to improvise in the manliest way possible.
I should note that we’re very hygienic manly-men. As you might expect from two chemists presented with an obstacle, science prevailed over the disgustingly greasy screwdriver. I used some water from by bottles to perform a quick aqueous rinse of the shaft, followed by an organic wash with the light oil resting at the top of the freshly-opened peanut butter jar.
Before I go any further, I have to thank the UCSC cycling team for putting on such an awesome race. I know many of them were awake at 3am in order to set up the event, and the P/1/2 race didn’t end until nearly 6pm. Thanks to their hard work, I was able to race a technical criterium instead of a hilly road race!
After warming up my lungs by screaming obscenities at my teammate Joel during the Masters race, I was amped up for my race. So amped, in fact, that I attacked on the very first lap and threw every bit of power I had into the effort. I’ve never said this before, and I’ll probably never say it again, but I wish I had an SRM on my bike during Saturday’s race so I could see what “I’m going completely ballistic” looks like in numerical form.
Anyway, Eric Bennett (Adageo) and John Bennett (Cal Giant) bridged up to me after about five laps, and the three of us made quick work of lapping the field. Both my breakaway companions were really nice guys, and they also rode like badasses; I don’t think they’re related, but they might as well have been the Schleck brothers.
As we approached the back end of the diminutive peloton, the three of us agreed to roll around with the field until the last lap, then drop off and contest a three-up sprint.
After five minutes in the pack, we collectively realized that we were bored as hell with 35 minutes of racing remaining. Adding to the sense of urgency was the fact that several of my friends on the sidelines began screaming, “MAKE THIS THING INTERESTING, WOULD YOU?”
Fine, we will.
The three of us attacked again, and eventually John and I lapped the field a second time while Eric — who had finished sixth in the Wente Road Race earlier that morning — seemed content with third place and 120 miles of racing in his legs.
Like dueling gentlemen from a bygone era, John and I chose to drag-race up the front-stretch hill, and I was fortunate enough to grab the victory from my worthy opponent. As seems to be the case with most of my wins, no one captured a shot of the victory salute; it’s probably for the best, because I still don’t have a creative gesture. Any of you readers have a good idea?
Up to this point, it had been a pretty damn good day: road trip with Dad, awesome ride with Dad, double-lapping of the field, and a victory. Could it get better?
Yeah. Remember how I said I’m a closet auto racing enthusiast? Look what was waiting for us at a random Shell station north of Monterey.
Like any good country bumpkin, I waltzed straight up to the guy wearing the logo-emblazoned jumpsuit (no, it wasn’t Kevin Harvick) and asked,”Hey, I don’t suppose you’re gonna start this baby up, are you?” If you must know, my voice subconsciously switched to a Southern drawl as I asked that question. I lived in Arkansas for a year, just long enough to pick up a genuine-sounding accent that tends to surface when I’m in the presence of stock cars (or camouflaged clothing of any kind).
“Well, you’re in luck son,” he replied. “We’re just about to drive this thing into the trailer and head out.”
There’s no better end to a Saturday than the smell of racing fuel and the sound — nay, the feel — of a 700 hp engine.
P.S. Just before my race began, I was provided with a single Ritz cracker by Evan’s girlfriend. If any Ritz employees are reading…that’s two-for-two with the Ritz cracker superstition. I’m always accepting sponsorship deals.