Saturday, March 15, 2008

Toe Clips Gains a March

When I was racing, one of my few talents was getting a great start. A skill especially valuable because so many of my cohorts (thanks for that word, Kent, "grown together" I think is the origin of the Latin) used to complain loudly (at the finish) how they'd been doomed by a rotten start.

In a fifty-lap race.

I decided that I would practice a bit, and maybe beat THOSE PEOPLE in the next race.

Worked pretty well.

The payoff came at the Chico Criterium in 1981. That was my inaugural year of bike racing. Chariots of Fire was in the theaters, and politics-wise, women (for the first time in Olympic history) were at last allowed to straddle a bike and go for the same Olympic glory. In LA, no less. My hometown.

Digression: it is customary to visit the Olympics upon the hottest, filthiest possible cities in the world: Tokyo, Mexico City, Atlanta and Beijing. Centers of commerce. The health of the individual athlete is...a smaller priority.

Looking back at Chariots, the lesson I retain to the present was the one about difficult moral choices. The dude 'couldn't' race on a Sunday, remember?
Well, along with selection races, the (male) Olympic coach enjoyed a timeworn team selection technique that took place between the sheets. Since Olympic glory was just a fantasy goal for me, I didn't succumb to any official coach's 'charm', nor could I ride for an automobile company (it's against MY religion).
But back to Chico, California.

Criteriums are those lung-ripping lap races around a city center, minimum four turns per lap.... there are prizes given after a bell rung mid-race. They're called 'preems' (spelled P-R-I-M-E), and their function (along with promoting certain stores and services) is to keep the riders' speed up. Lest we just parade lazily around for most of the race.

The announcer, I believe, was Jeff Lindsay (local frame builder of the great Mountain Boat bicycle). From our spot on the line, we heard him say "the first woman across the line wins a pair of Birkenstocks from blabhblah bootery".

I was off, with no chasers.

Those German-made sandals cost SIXTY BUCKS ( that would be about two hundred clams in today's money).

I had wanted them for years, but I never found them in the thrift shops.

I solo'd across the line, and in few seconds Cheryl Lloyd drew alongside. Over the next lap or two, we discussed how to split up the remaining primes....odd ones for me, evens for her and the last lap was up for grabs.
Somewhere behind us were eighteen young women putting in some miles, perfecting group-cornering, and duking it out for third.

One lap, I won a sack of groceries.

The next, Cheryl won a bouquet of flowers.

We agreed to swap since my fridge was full and my table could use some glam.
Chico is bicycle mad, so every imaginable retailer was donating stuff.

At the last lap, with a summertime crowd cheering so you couldn't even hear your own roaring breath, we both charged the line blindly.

I 'd read somewhere that flinging your arms up in victory never hurts, if it's a close call.

They gave me the win.

And I've been ashamed of "dirty racing" ever since (I have no idea who was in front. I doubt there was a camera...).

The Birkenstock sandals I chose for my Lap One Prime were those ugly sort of flesh-colored leather two strap sandals. The nice store owner opened the store just so I could pick 'em (between races).

Still have them. They've been re-soled (at sixty bux a pop, funnily enough) a couple times.

1 comment:

nollij said...

Jacquie, you kick ass. Dirty racing eh? Why, because you traded prizes or b/c you agreed to split laps? If you'd been overtaken by another woman all bets would have been off anyway, so I don't see the harm...