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Traffic Lights Beep for Courtney by Rich Pink
By Staff
Date: 7/1/2003
Traffic Lights Beep for Courtney by Rich Pink

There are usually two types of people who inhabit a cat 4 race: talkers and non-talkers. The non-talkers stay quiet except for only the absolutely necessary words like "inside," "thanks" and a claxon of some sort to signal he's seen an attack coming up. Occasionally he may involve himself in a small conversation or two, but nothing of substance. Otherwise, it's just snot rockets and silence for this sort. The talkers, on the other hand, never miss an opportunity to be equal parts dictator and cheerleader. Shouting both insults, and instructions no one will follow, the talker considers himself of higher importance, by and large, than all the other riders in the pack. His line is that to be coveted, His wheel sacred. Sometimes rival talkers will be in the same field. Much like rival members of teams, this can result in either collusion, with two or more talkers berating the rest of the herd, or it can devolve into the talkers turning on each other, which during longer or more intense races, can break up the tension and perhaps inject a little levity.

And I had occasion to have a case study of these two species while checking my mid season form at an NRC event, namely the Proctor Cycling Classic. My second trip to lovely Peoria, Illinois, this overgrown cow town plays host to a bike race and to Big Al's, one of the supposed "World's Most Famous" strip clubs. Carbon fiber and G-Strings...what more could an amateur cyclist want?

I happened to be in downstate Illinois for sales calls earlier in the week, so it made perfect sense to duck into Peoria and race both days events before heading home. Having spent the week backslapping, schmoozing, and hanging out in smoky bars with clients, I had feared the worse, but luckily the partying and work was actually rest, and my body paid me back by actually doing what I asked of it (for the most part) in both races.

Being an NRC event, with some good cake on the line, and being the Illinois State criterium championship on Sunday, the dough brought out some big guns; Bianchi, Grand Performance riders, Schroeder Iron, USPS, and more. Some came early to contest Saturday's event, among them the likes of Kenny Labbe and Robbie Ventura of US Postal. For the ladies in the road race, Laura Van Gilder of Saturn came out and toyed with the women's open field like a cat high on nip with a mouse, then decidedly crushed all who stood in her way at the time of her choosing. The valiant ABD gals fell though they tried the hardest, and the Jamba girls, well...they just are too darn cute. They're all winners in my book. Laura showed up at the crit the next day, and won there, too.

For little old me and the Project 5 racing team, it was a mixed bag. My good friend Matt was my only teammate and coincidentally my roommate for Saturday. We left the lovely Holiday Inn in downtown Peoria at 6am, and drove the 18 miles northwest to Brimfield, Illinois, a town of 950 residents where the road race would be held. I remembered this vividly from last year. One bar, one Casey's general store, and a bunch of freaks in lycra. The contrasts, oh, the contrasts. The course itself wasn't too hard, though it had three fairly challenging climbs before a mile long sprint to the finish line, which this year had been moved back an additional 500 meters or so. I did my job in this race, staying near Matt, dragging him out of corners and back up to the group because he wasn't feeling so hot at the start. Once he clipped out on one of the climbs, but I was lucky enough to be there to grab him by the backside and push and keep him in his original place in the group. It inevitably came down to bunch sprint city, and by then Matt had shaken off his blah's and he fought hard for a 15th place finish, and scoring his first every placing in the money. I stayed seated in the sprint, and did just enough not to get in anyone's way, and rolled over in 24th, if I recall correctly. Out of the money - it matters not. I did take solace in the fact that I finished a somewhat hilly road race in the front group, surely a good sign.

That evening was a screening of The Tour Baby! at the race hotel, and I was honored to speak to the large audience and introduce the film, at the behest of Scott Coady. Kenny Labbe was there to speak afterwards and answer questions, and before the film, he asked if I'd like to go hill training with him. Oh boy, that will be the best 2 minutes of my life before I am dropped and never seen again. But of course, I graciously accepted the chance to ride with him. Kenny Labbe, consummate team rider, and one hell of a nice guy, to boot.

The next day brought the fireworks, and the talkers. Man, that race was one of the fastest I have ever, EVER been in so far in my cycling career. All the big regional teams were present in numbers, and we at Project 5 Racing had some reinforcements as well, with Tim and Bill coming in to lend firepower. Unfortunately for us, it was 92 degrees at the start, and given the consistent high pace, the 60 starters were whittled to 35 or 40 fairly quickly. Thanks in part to a great big pile up in the very first lap. All Project 5 riders were mildly hindered by the crash save for Bill, who opted not to hit this opportunity, and sit up and wait for the group to reform. Matt and Tim came up by me shortly afterwards, and it was spin city. I think the average was up near 25mph, not too bad for a course with one deceivingly tough climb and some wind howling between the downtown's buildings.

Eventually, attacks came, and some small groups got away, and the talking began. This one joker in particular, he's certainly the worst offender of them all. He wears orange, and rides for a club form a city south and west of Chicago, one state over and down. He's always in the back third like I am (except when I am making my trademark suicide attacks) and I have seen him a few times over the season. Talk, talk, talk, talk. As an escape of 4 formed and got a nice gap, it was him in the back, next to me, shouting at people "If you guys don't chase that down, it's gonna be gone all day!" I couldn't resist. "Why don't you get up there and close it down, then?" I said. I had had enough of this dude's jawing.

He rockets a whole 4 positions up in the field, shouting at me to come with him. I say "I'm with you. I'm with you," then just ducked back into the group. Sort of like that trick you play on your little brother, whereby you act as though you're going to throw him the football, keep telling him to go deep, go deeper, then just drop the ball and walk in the other direction. It gave me great pleasure to do this to The Talker. Last year, we had the Cat Asser, this year, The Talker. It's like some kind of screwy Chinese cycling zodiac signs.

The night before, Matt and I had supped at a bar/restaurant on the corner where a comely young waitress by the name of Courtney worked. While sitting on the veranda chewing succulent bovine goodness and one (just one?) ice cold Heineken, we noticed that the traffic lights in the downtown area always beep loudly when about to change colors. We know not why. Was there a school for the blind in the city? Perhaps a mayor had a blind child and had the whole city decked out with talking traffic lights? We never found out as Courtney, too, was baffled. She was to be working during our race, so we asked her to tell all her customers to cheer for Project 5. Turns out she went out and got sh#$housed and never made it to work on race day. Good girl Courtney. The traffic lights were calling you. Nonetheless, Matt and I were screaming her name through a few corners, just for laughs, when we actually had the breath to shout with.

But then it got down to business in the race. An escape of three was now doing well off the front, and it seemed the pack was content to race for fourth. One of the escapees cracked and we swallowed him, and we were now racing for third. Guys were tired. No attacks were coming, just people looking at each other. In one of the last corners, I had to "hitch up," as we say, deviate from my line because the guy in front of me did, but only for a second before resuming my line. Guess who was on my wheel?

Yep, the Talker. A stream of expletives comes out of his cakehole about how much I scared him, and how I need to watch my line. All this from a guy by me in a point of the pack which would yield no opportunity to sprint for any cash, effectively done for the day. I said nothing, choosing instead to calmly extend my middle finger off my bars. Had I been in one more iota of a bad mood, I would have flicked him into the last curb, an act which would no doubt earn many thanks and high praise from the rest of the cat 4 peloton. I can sense they all hate this guy as much as I do.

As the ponies rounded the last corner, it was chaos. Luckily no one went down, as guys were sprinting as hard for 30th as they were for 1st. Other talkers joined in the tune struck up by alpha talker, yelling at guys for sprinting because it was dangerous. Good god folks, if you don't want danger, don't race your bike! It comes with the territory, you morons! If you're out of it, then sit up on the last lap. You'll be left alone in no time, and you can take a line of your choosing to the finish line. I certainly cannot wait to upgrade to 3, though I really need some good results. This weekend should be good.

In the end, we had guys in 20, 21, 30 (me) and poor old Bill dumped his bike pretty hard. The bike's ok, but he has a healthy portion of road rash to show for his efforts. Get better quick, Bill.

That's it. Sorry I've been sketchy in writing lately. Thanks for the continual emails and whatnot streaming in from the DP readership. It means so much to me, so do not hesitate to keep writing!

Rich Pink, Project5Racing

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