Tuesday, June 24, 2008

ToPA - YouSahDah

The little boy belted out the Star Spangled Banner, his voice carrying over the PA system. As he got to the end, he held onto "Free" ("Land of the free"), to the cheers of the crowd. I didn't see him do the last phrase because I was busy wiping my eyes, um, I mean my glasses. Allergies. Yeah, I had allergies.

It never fails, hearing that song. I've heard a lot of criticism about that song from a technical point of view (pointing out various problems with its rhythm or note choices etc.) but the fact that it's the national anthem makes it very special. And when a young blind boy can sing it like he sings it, well, it's special. No weird practice scales inserted into the song to prove the singer can sing (and is not lip synching). Just a solid, full-of-emotion performance.

We all put our caps or helmets back on and the officials started the countdown. "5, 4 BANG 3, 2, 1" and half the field was already by. The surprise gun is a trademark, I suppose, for starting "serious" crits. And they were off.

The day started when I finally slept in. I kept forcing myself back to sleep, trying to get some rest. I woke up every 15 or 20 minutes from 5:30 AM on, hitting the mental snooze button until 7:30. I knew we had to get to the course by 8:30, and since it was 2 miles away, I figured I'd get some food at, say, 8:15 AM.

Then my phone rang.

"Where are you?"
"Um, I was just about to come down."

After, you know, showering, dressing, brushing my teeth, and figuring out what to wear. But I skipped that part.

"We need you down here. We have a crisis."

And so the day started.

I forget the exact crisis but shortly after that I found myself standing in the lobby doing Race Tech kind of stuff. I may have unofficially snuck some food from the racer buffet but I don't think I did. But I found the petite pastries might have tasted really good.

After not sneaking some food from the buffet line, Robin and I left for the TT. We dealt with more standard Race Tech stuff and I wandered over to the staging area for the team cars. They were to line up about 100 meters past the start ramp and slot in behind their rider after the first turn.

Somehow I ended up staging and checking team cars in the TT. Although this seemed like a normal kind of thing, it wasn't.

One team seemed really distracted, the director missing virtually all his riders. He missed the second by such a margin he had to tear across a hundred yards of grass to shortcut the course and catch up to his flying rider. Another of his racers happened to launch right when the power to the PA cut out, and since the director wasn't paying attention, I had to scream his team name out to point out his rider sprinting past him. A big squeal of tires and he was off.

Ends up that his mechanic did something like fall out of the car while they followed their first rider crashing into the ground (broken wheel), and the director ran over his mechanic or something. Ambulance trip, double sets of stitches (internal and external), and the mechanic was back in time for the evening crit.

I guess running over my mechanic would distract me a bit too.

That director's antics amused the one following him, so after a couple mishaps he'd roll up to me with a grin and ask, "So, where's your friend?" And then 30 seconds later my "friend" would tear by to catch up with his guy.

To be fair the distracted director had a good racer that placed way up there, but then again the following director got two in the top ranks, so neither team was shabby.

Another distracted director almost launched his car with only one fork dropout sitting loosely in the fork mount, the other dangling an inch above the other side. I screamed a warning, they jammed on their brakes, almost booting the bike off the side of the car by doing so. They got out and started fiddling with the fancy shmancy roof rack, an unfamiliar one (provided by the race for their use while they were in the country), and managed to figure it out, adjust it, and slam the locking lever home as their guy launched down the start ramp. By the time he flew by both the director and the assistant director were in the car and roaring alongside the racer.

The rest of the TT pretty normal, all considering.

We didn't eat with the riders again. In fact I might not have eaten some fruit and didn't drink a glass of water because just before the racer's "dinner at lunchtime" was served, we ate at Chipotle. Appropriate, as you'll see later, and it was a first visit for me, I think. I might have had some in California but I can't remember anything about that experience if I did, so I counted my Chipotle visit today as my first time.

Just before the crit I learned how to be a dope control person. I got a USADA tag (say "you-sah-dah", not "U.S.A.D.A." like I used to say). We went over our tasks, got a YouSahDah pen, a YouSahDah badge thing for the race, and were told to meet the YouSahDah person around the finish area after the race finished up.

At some point I had to kill a couple hours in the hotel lobby, just like everyone else in the race entourage. I nodded off, trying to catch up on sleep, but succeeded in sleeping for only a few short minutes. Bleary eyed I watched a hundred bored 19-24 year old guys wandering around the lobby of the hotel. They were all slim, tan, and sleepy looking with their ruffled hair and rosy cheeks. I think that if a collegiate aged girl showed up she'd think she just died and woke up in heaven.

The crit was pretty cool, the riders so fast, so strong, so aggressive. VMG/Felt (Chann McRae, DS), the Slipstream feeder team, tried to do a big leadout at two to go, putting four guys at the front with their U23 champion sitting 5th in line. At the bell a ZteaM racer (Steve Bauer, DS) tried to Cancellara the leadout, but in the end VMG put their U23 national champ on the top step of the podium.

I found the YouSahDah rep, got my folder with my racer's number in it, and went and found the racer. I don't think I messed up anything, took a pic of my YouSahDah badge, and returned it to the YouSahDah folks.

One day down. Five to go. How are we going to make it? It's unfathomable, luckily. If I could imagine all the stuff that I would have to do, I might snap. But I can't, and in this case being blindly ignorant is a blessing. I know this because of how I feel right now.

I'm looking forward to tomorrow. The first point to point road race.


1 comment:

Chole said...

Oh my gosh! I watched the Crit in Philadelphia yesterday and it was AMAZING! Thank you so much in helping make it all happen.

I was very very impressed by #85, Jackie Simes, who crashed in the first 10 laps or so and hung on through out the race, left side of his chamois completely torn through.

I wish I could have followed the race to Pittsburgh, that would have been fantastic. You are so lucky to be in the middle of something so incredible.