Toronto Hustle taking the Win at Twilight!
July 27, 2018 // It was a Friday night. A mass migration of cyclists could be spotted in Victoria Park in Kitchener/Waterloo for the annual Kitchener Twilight Grand Prix – a 90-minute criterium + 5 laps event. What’s a criterium you ask? It’s generally a short race consisting of many laps around a kilometer in distance.
What separates criteriums from road races? A crit is usually a timed event and not based on laps. The race is purposely made to be shorter so that it can be spectated in its entirety. This allows viewers to see the race unfold from many perspectives. Speeds are in excess of 50 km/h at times so it usually takes about a minute to do a full lap. Since a lap is only about a kilometer long, this leaves little space for riders to navigate. When the pace is fast and single file, the lead group can be on corner three with the tail of the pack just going around corner one. This makes for a very intense race. Imagine sitting in gridlock traffic and witnessing someone trying to turn into your lane with no space to enter. That is what crit racing is about – except at breakneck speeds. Crashing is a very common occurrence at these kinds of events which is why they also include a pit lane. If you are involved in a crash, you have the ability to collect your body/bike parts that may have been strewn across the road and head over to pit lane try to piece everything back together. Then you re-enter the carnage. You have to remember that you now are entering the race from a standstill with the pack sometimes flying at well over 50 km/h. Talk about stressful!
Now let’s get to back to the race...
I am not a sprinter by any means. My job for the day is to control the race as much as possible and keep the pack together so our sprinters can contest the sprint. One exception to this rule is if am able to get myself distanced from the pack on my own or with a competitor I feel I can outsprint. This tactic is great because it still gives our sprinters the affordance of sitting in the pack and forcing other teams to give chase if they have no one represented in the break.
It didn’t take long after the start of the race to find myself up the road. I escaped with two other riders, Martin Rupes from NCCH, and Keith Brouillette from Ascent cycling. A few laps later the three of us were joined by a few more riders, including my teammates ANTON VARABEI, and TREVOR O'DONNELL. With them came none other than Ryan Roth, Ed Veal, Gaelen Merritt, and Derek Gee. The move could not be any better. Three out of 9 riders were Toronto Hustlers! Knowing that ANTON and TREVOR were with me, I fully committed to the move. I was racing for the fast finishers. Our break had huge fire power and it was only a matter of time before we lapped the field. Everyone takes a pull off the front and rotates into the direction of the wind. Although we are all on different teams, we must work together until the final closing laps of the race or until someone decides to attack. No one attacked and we all worked together to lap the field.
Now this does not mean we can relax. We had just caught the field and had to deal with navigating from the back of the pack to the very front as quickly as possible. This is the tricky part, as everyone in that break has the exact same idea of getting to the front again. It was nearing the end of the race and you definitely did not want to be stuck at the back of the pack while your breakaway companions are at the front and leveraging themselves for an uncontested sprint. I managed to get to the front of the group for the second time and started setting pace. I wanted to be near the front and chase someone down if they tried to pull a fast one. I then thought to myself: "Hey, I want to win too". And with only a handful of laps to go, I know I cannot contest the sprint. That’s when the pack decided to slow down a bit and I put in a last-ditch effort. I got a clear gap from the pack and found myself off the front. I managed to stay that way for 3 or 4 laps taking the gambler’s prime in the process. These last-ditch efforts may seem like selfish acts - a total abandonment of the team. However, they come with many advantages. For one thing, you could hold off the pack and win! I am representing my team; my teammates obviously won't chase me down. With only a handful of laps to go, it puts all the pressure on other teams to get their asses to the front and chase, wasting all their energy and leaving my team to surf wheels and get in an optimal position. For a brief period of time I actually thought I was going to win, but alas, I was caught with 1.5 laps to go...As soon as I was caught I was toast I tried desperately to stick with what was left of the pack. I had my teammate, TREVOR fly past me, led out by NOAH SIMMS and BENOÎT BOULAY! They cracked the whip and lead out Trevor for the final sprint. BENOÎT crashed into the barriers early in the race. He was taken out by another rider and busted his chin wide open. He taped that sucker up and got back into the race, covered in blood and in need of stitches. Despite all that suffering, he guided TREVOR through the chaos and to the line. And just like that TORONTO HUSTLE with our collective efforts, was able to pull off something special and take the win. We took matters into our own hands and raced the race.
Bike racing is hard it has its up's and downs. Every now and then with a little... okay a lot of hustle we can piece things together and deliver our guys onto the podium.
Big thank you to the race organizers for making the course pleasant and the City of Waterloo for putting on this great event!