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Bad Luck and Large Cops
By Janna Trevisanut
Date: 6/17/2002
Bad Luck and Large Cops

Gadzooks. Sometimes you get the luck of the draw and get a bike race in bike race friendly confines. Other times, you do not. Sometimes the cops that are mandated to be hired by USCF races to "marshall" the course are there to help and are as nice as pie. Sometimes, they are not. Somedays you get a little good luck, somedays a little bad. Today had a little of all of the above facets blended together as an unusually small crowd of riders infiltrated the near Chicago suburb of Melrose Park on what held out to be an absolutely gorgeous Father’s Day Sunday. A little one mile race course had been carved out of the melting pot of the town, with all four sides of the alotted square having either a length of train tracks, some houses, some industrial buildings, and a large municipal facility. All of which were flanked by somewhat befuddled Melrose Park police officers, who sat idly by, enjoying a veritable cop smorgasborg of chocolate, pizza, tylenol, and cigarettes (there’s a theme starting here.) The dichotomy of the folks out today was beauteous, truly it was. You had the athelete types on bikes milling around the athelete types who were in said municipal building playing some serious basketball, mixing on the streets with the not-so-athelete type cops. I have the utmost respect for our law officers, I appreciate the job they do, blah blah, and more blah, but these guys were unbelievable. Once festivities were starting to get underway some of them felt the need to get involved. Others chose the cool shade of out-of-the-way awnings under which they could munch pizza pie and smoke. When their rancor was drawn they were yelling and irate and it became evident they were truly convinced of their self importance in the whole grand scheme of things, and overtly pissed to be there on Father’s Day. The ponderous bulk of this 12-man dispatch of cops shepherded us around what we could and could not walk on, and gazed with even glumness as we, the Cat 5 rats, had to scurry around for brooms with which to sweep the gravel laden corners on the race course.

Having done my civic duty by finding a broom and employing it on turn 2, I return to a field of I think 28 to take the line. I was hurting a little today, after yesterday’s intense training ride with our on-sabatical Cat 2 rider, Jon. Jon is one of those insanely fit freaks who can destroy mere mortals on bikes on a whim, myself included. There’s a pretty big saturday morning ride around here, that has some super fast, way-out-of-my-league type guys. I got dropped hard, twice. Jon was good enough to turn and wait, then drag me by the scruff of my neck back to the group both times. Well, almost,....I dropped again trying to get across. Embarrassed, I licked my wounds home with the slower group. I felt it all though this morning. My legs were tight from giving me all they had to help get humbled the morn before.

Now as the race started it was obvious to all the riders that the strongest dictatorial force to this race was going to be the wind, not a rider. One side of the course hosted a fast tailwind, and conversely its parallel street’s breeze was equally swift, but right on the nose. And aside from the elements, it was the objects we had to contend with. One lap, the wind had blown a large orange safety barrel right out into the middle of the street, and we smartly all split around it. Another had an errant coke can decide to go play in our midst. Another a truck, driver very much aware he had made a grave error in entering the race course from one of the factory parking lots just as the field came around the corner aiming at him. Of course there was a smattering a "permanent resident" obstacles: manhole covers in those perfect corner spots, patchy pavement, gutters, etc. It was a true miracle no one went down in our race today. At times it felt the wind alone was enough to knock someone down, but we pressed on, zipping up to 36mph with the wind and down to 13-14 mph looking at each other when against it. No one was interested in working really hard when into the wind, and although some teams had mutiple riders, there were no clear pace setters. We all took turns almost as sightseers to the front of the pack, some popping up just to look, others taking brief flyers. Then the windy part. We may as well have been poker players, there were so many furtive glances. They reminded me of an older cereal commercial as everyone’s faces were saying "You eat it." "No, you eat it." "I’m not gonna eat it, youuuu eat it." Inevitably some, myself included, took turns playing Mikey, because we like it and we’ll try anything. I made a few jumps and even got a little gap, as did others, but the wind equalized everything on the backstretch. So it was in effect quite boring in retrospect from a race standpoint, but fun from a quasi-video game standpoint, with huge obstacles flying by (trucks, barrels, rotund cops) and sketchy cornering in the wind.

Though today marked my first occasion to race in a criterium with team mate Dave, a young lad of a mere 20 years who’s quite the rider. He had been busy much of the earlier season representing our squad on the trails in the MTB races and well, being 20, and this was only the second time ever that we raced together. We had a good time working together, taking turns near the front, taking flyers, trying to make a few things happen. But in the end it was obvious that the 18 or so riders who had stuck it out through the various accelerations were going to end up in a mini-bunch sprint. And also in the end it was obvious that Dave and I, both of the "need rocks in our pockets to not blow away" kind of frame, were not too geared for sprinting. We finished neck and neck – him in 10th, me in 11th. A friend ended up winning, so that was nice.

Several others of our squad stepped up in the Cat 3/4 race and between Mike, Rejean, Jason, and Ed, we put three guys in the top 15. Not too shabby. It was great to see so many jerseys of our squad today and to see them do so well.

We attempted, in between races, to relax and lazily throw a frisbee on the nearby soccer field attached to the muncipal building ringed by the course. This was quashed by the mighty Melrose Park police department after one of them, yelling and screaming to "Get off the field - NOW!" lumbered over our way.

No luck, bad cops. Next week, Spring Prairie road race in lovely southern Wisconsin. This race beat me stupid last year.

Rich Pink

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