” Man is it hot!” ” Ok Pat- two laps to go. Stay on that wheel. Hold your line. Here come the A’s” I feel a hand on my left hip as the National Road Champion, Matt Eaton is telling me that they are coming on the inside. Mac Martin chuckles as he says,” take it out of park,McCloskey.” Dave Eaton is making his move on the outside. ” Move up Pat- there goes Frank, George and Art behind Dave. Get on their wheel-man!!” 2 laps to go. All of a sudden I hear a loud “BANG” . Hess has rolled another tire and I hear metal scraping the pavement, swearing, and bodies hitting the deck. ” Stay upright,Pat” I hear the bell for the final lap. My legs are screaming, I am trying to hang on. ” Hold your line Pat. Come on hang on, hang on, here is the sprint.” Dave Eaton is leading the charge- hang on, hang on………….finish!!!!” Another Wednesday Night ACA Criterium Race in the books. I have no sprint but I got a good workout and a decent result in the books.
My friend Larry Cohen got me into road cycling a number of years ago and being that I am competitive in nature, I got involved with the Allegheny Cycling Association. http://www.acaracing.com ACA is our local club which sponsors time trials, road races, and criteriums which are the most popular form of road racing in the U.S. Back in the day when our band of weekend warriors were competing in the wednesday night criteriums at the Pittsburgh Zoo parking lot, we had a lot of excellent instruction from a number of national class riders who were members of our club. People like Matt Eaton, the National Road Race Champion and Britain’s Milk Race champion. We had Mac Martin and Tom Chew- two U.S. Road Cycling Team members who didn’t get to go the 1980 Olympics in Moscow because of the Carter boycott. Danny Chew is Tom’s brother and was Race Accross America Champion in 1996-1999. http://www.dannychew.com Criterium races are usually held on a 1 mile course with a specified number of laps. The racing can be fast and furious where you are 6 inches from the wheel in front of you, guys on either side and behind you and the last thing you want to do is hit the brakes in the corners or stray out of your line. Criteriums can either be a concert of cycling fluidity or a crash fest depending on factors such as skill of the riders, aggression in the race and weather. I remember where it was so hot in a crit in Erie that if you didn’t glue your tubular tires securely enough to your rims, they would roll off and you could take the whole field down. The pavement was scorching hot and it was imperative that you properly affixed your tires to the rims. In another race in Parkersburg, West Virginia, I remember getting pushed out of a corner, hitting a hay bale and ejecting out of my pedals and flipping over the bale into the K-Mart parking lot. A harrowing experience to say the least. Another time I was in a criterium in New Jersey when it began to rain and the pavement got real slick in a real hurry. A bunch of guys went down in the corner and I managed to stay upright and wound up in the lead pack. I said to myself,” You don’t belong here Pat- just stay upright and out of the way.” I finished without a scratch. My buddy George Sagan went down and slid right under the announcers stand in the Vet Nationals in New Jersey. I saw the whole thing right in front of me and on the next lap, poor George was hauling his bike out from under the stand. He looked shocked but these things happen quickly in criterium racing. Some yahoo took him out in a corner because he didn’t hold his line. I have a lot of scars on my legs that testify to the “whoa Nellie” factor of criterium racing and when several tri-athletes started to show up for the races and were not used to riding in a pack, they would take guys out in the corners and run them into the chain link fences. It was at that time that I decided to retire from crit racing. Good experience, years of fun, but I knew that I didn’t want any more carnage.
When you see the national class riders in a criterium, it is a vision of speed and grace. They are skilled riders and it is amzing to see the speed and fluidity in those races. I learned a lot in those days of crit racing and my bicycle handling to this day has been honed by those experiences. I am confortable on the road and riding in a pack with other riders. Although I am a lot slower these days, those experiences with the ACA will be forever in my memory. Also, when tellng the tales to the younnger set these days, I always say…………the older I get………..the better I was. Thanks for reading.