And the results are in.
Friday the 13th turned out to be less than lucky for me, as per my prediction - I prepared perfectly for the 10pm race, slamming a can of Coke an hour beforehand. Yes, I also checked the bike and topped up the air pressure with Hayward's leaky pump. Even better, I nipped by the Co-op and snapped up a Grand Prix Attack front tire (handmade in Germany!) 22mm of 370 (!) threads-per-inch advantage. A cool eighty dollars. I was ready.
Perhaps I had more speed than I was entirely ready for. We lit out from the darkness of High Park (from the lawn and around a stump no less!). Once into the Bloor/Keele down-and-up I accelerated away with Tofu and Jim Kuz. We were hammering at over forty km/hour and it was clear that this would be the selection. I beat them at one small intersection and re-accelerated.
Through my racing brain ran a couple of key thoughts. The first being: Great, I'm right where I want to be, with the main field of thirty already dropped behind us. Second: I'm racing Kuz, a man with over a decade of alley cat-winning knowledge and he's got gears for a change. Plus Tofu, who I used to work with at the Path, and who goes to the Worlds every year and does quite well on his brakeless track machine, strapped in old-school styles (kitted out w. vintage 7-11 team cap and jersey no less). Two deeply talented competitors, with serious abilities in the cats, ie, blasting through city traffic steadily and fearlessly in the late-night hours. I was breaking away, leading out the sprint for the first checkpoint.
I knew I was going harder than I should have been as those who go 110% in the first part of race have a way of being swallowed up towards the end part, but the adrenaline got the better of me. There's nothing like that feeling of strength in the legs and lungs when you're going really hard and still feel like its sustainable. And there my troubles began. Going the speed of traffic or slightly faster or slower is fine but when you're going more than twice the speed (or even three times) you can get into real trouble. There are three lines you can take: the curb lane/to the right of parked cars; the yellow line dividing the road; or between the two lanes of traffic on your side, which is what I was doing. It feels safer than the curb lane because you needn't worry about pedestrians or getting doored, so there I attacked. But the best line is ultimately the yellow line because there you will find no pedestrians, no doors opening, and no cars changing lanes to your left, and with maxium cheating room to charge four way reds. But I wasn' t there and suddenly a cabbie decided to start pushing into the left lane (as they're forever trying to switch into the faster lane after picking up a fare) even though there was no opening.
I was forced to swerve left in my narrow lane-within-a-lane, doing it pinball style against cabs that were barely moving, using a free hand to push off the first car, careen to the second and push away again. By the third one I was starting to lose control and hit the right side mirror, apparently severing it completely. I didn't notice being too busy crashing to the ground in front of the stopped cab in the left lane, grinding in with both knees as Kuz and Tofu shot by on either side asking if I was okay. 'I'm okay', I called, even as I continued sliding along on the shins. For a second I was worried I'd broken my Look pedals and wouldn't be able to re-clip in, but in fact the bike had no damage due to my finely executed controlled wipeout, and I continued on with the knees crying out their shock and disgust, seeing red you might say.
Adrenalin prevailed over dismay at my lost advantage and I picked up speed again, heading for Parliamen and making mental note not to stop too soon, which I then proceeded to do anyway. That desperate mental state is the racer's greatest enemy, proven once again as I decided Sherbourne was Parliament and watched four more zip past me, not to be seen again. Ultimately, I took a respectable eighth place (though Hoffman didn't bother submitting it to the overall global standings).
Perhaps it was just - Tofu (currently on the road) won in 30.5 minutes over 21 km, about 40/km an hour. With my form I knew I could have been right there, but it wasn't to be. Kuz (currently on the road) hung on for third about forty seconds off Tofu's winning pace and so the bald-headed vegan gets his free trip to the Worlds in Dublin this August. I should go just to race against him once more.
And the knees? Still a bit sore on Monday with the scabs holding out nicely, eitherwise fine. Couldn't upload the picture I took of them, sorry.
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