Words by: Ivy Audrain (LA Sweat)
Imagine yourself at your typical family Italian restaurant. There is a waiter walking around with a parmesan grater, and they instruct you to ‘say when’ once you’ve had enough extra cheese on your dinner. There always seems to be some kid there that just….never seems to say ‘when’, and the mound of cheese just grows higher and higher over his macaroni, and you’re like, “SOMEBODY tell that kid to say ‘when!'”
Well, I was that kid in the week before the San Rafael Sunset Criterium, and someone really, really should have told me that at some point that I should just cut my losses, know when to say ‘when’, and maybe not start the race. Not me, though. There is never enough cheese.
This week adversity began with a crash on the track at Marymoor Velodrome in Redmond, Washington. The crash made a pelvic dysfunction that has been troubling me flare up again, so I was in all sorts of lower-back pain for the week following. Not ideal for bike racing.
Back injury? NO PROBLEM for the next few days where you move all of your belongings into a storage unit. The bike racer life is so luxurious, guys. Bummer levels: still relatively low. Until… My time in San Francisco was plagued with troubles. My car was broken-into; nothing stolen, but presented me with a ton of logistical challenges and a super late night before the race. If this wasn’t bad enough, this was quickly followed by the news that my beloved Cinelli Strato Faster (named ‘Gucci Mane’) had been totally lost in transit. There was some hope that he would show up Friday before the race, but no dice. (#GucciManecomehome). Stress levels: Off the charts bananas. I had everything in this bike bag. Literally, everything. I found myself the day before the race, with only a pair of running shorts, a t-shirt, flip flops, and a down vest. Hence: my new signature look is born.
The day before the race is complete and utter chaos. My team is already all in San Francisco, so no chance of getting a team spare bike, without any quality sleep in days (what a GC rider thing to say!), having not been on a bike all week. I really wanted to cut my losses and not start. However, our ‘brother squad’, Team Clif Bar, was not going to allow such behavior.
My friends at Team Clif Bar got me set up on my pal, Michael Jasinski’s bike, only a few hours before the race, in his shoes that were at least 4 sizes too big, but still sponsor correct Giros I might add. The one caveat being that I would need to hustle to the SRAM neutral support pit immediately after finishing to turn them over to Michael (who was racing directly after me).
This is some seriously janky stuff, and I lined up feeling like the world was trying to send me some sort of message that I should not be racing.
After getting a call-up for being ranked 8th in the USA Crit series, I still was not mentally in it. The whistle went off and immediately the attacks ensued, beginning with Mary Maroon (Academy), who seemed super keen for a break to work. I found our guest rider, Libby Painter, who was towards the front, and decided to just mindlessly follow her around until I could get my head on straight.
Well, around five laps into the race, I woke up; naturally I should attack up this riser with 60 minutes of racing left, right? Obviously. The only person to come with me was Hanna Meugge (Team Mike’s Bikes pb Equator Coffees), thus: the break was born. Mary bridged to us only a few laps later, and we stayed away for the remainder of the 70 minute crit, and let me tell you, every minute was miserable.
WHAT was I thinking?!?. “*ERRORdeletedelete, I was kidding guys.”
We continued to race; winning was literally the last thing I had thought about, until my friend Daniel Holloway, who has ‘taken me under his wing’ so to speak, checked in with me with eight laps to go. My response was so indecisive, a derpy “eeeh I uuuuhh well… eh?”, so I spent the whole next lap critically thinking about how I actually felt, and what my chances were.
Hanna has this insane diesel engine that I couldn’t hold a flame to, and going toe-to-toe with Mary has shown to be unsuccessful for many. The next time up the riser, I gave Daniel the nod, meaning I would try. He told me to be second through the last corner, which I would not have known or done on my own, and he was totally right.
There was a headwind and the finish line wasn’t terrible close to the last corner. Fiddlesticks… now I knew how to win, and my team had worked so incredibly hard to control the field behind us, and I couldn’t let their efforts go to waste by not even putting myself in a position to try.
Boy oh boy did I try… that sprint came.
Thanks to this amazing community for making sure I had everything I needed to race, Ashley of USA Crits for being the biggest boss there is, and Mike’s Bikes for putting on such an incredible event. You better believe I’ll be back, sans jank.
Ivy Audrain lives in Seattle, WA.