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The Playbook

Look, I…am not an organized person.

So the thought of a pre-race routine is almost laughable. I break down the race into three key parts.

1. Constant frustration while I realize what I have forgotten.
2. Paralyzing fear that “all the other riders will be much better than me.”
3. An early race, overzealous attack hell-bent on lapping the race. (sidenote… this NEVER works)

    So here we are in West Chester Pennsylvania for the Iron Hill Criterium. For those of you unfamiliar with criterium racing, it’s a repeatable circuit under 1 mile (the NASCAR race of the cycling world). With 100+ riders jammed onto a course in a downtown circuit full of beer fueled rambunctiousness, crashes are almost a certainty.

    Final words from the officials, fans screaming. 3...2...1. The race has begun.

    One hour from the green flag and it’s time to suit up. Dropping shorts in front of the race fans is the perfect way to keep your mind off the fact that your heart will soon be pumping at 180 BPM for 90 minutes. Surprisingly, all of my gear is in my bag.

    T-minus 45 minutes, and it’s time to warm up. This is my zone of self doubt. With headphones in and Kanye’s “Power” on repeat I find myself looking at everyone like they are somehow more prepared.

    10 minutes till race time and it's off to the trainer for final check. Tonight, I’ve got the honor of a call-up. Based on standings, select riders are given front row start spots to ensure they have a clean start. With a field of 100+ guys foaming at the mouth to show off for the crowds, the front row is a great place to be.

    National anthem, final words from the officials, fans screaming...3...2...1…the race has begun.

    Our lap is 4 left corners with a slight down hill between corners 2&3 and a slight rise from corner 3 to the finish line. A clean start from the front row and I go through the first corner in 6th position. Through corner 2 and on to the backstretch it’s time to implement step 3 in my foolproof pre-race plan. With the lead rider pressed hard to the right of the course I look down and launch my overzealous attack to the left, overtaking the leader down the hill to the tight turn 3.

    Out of the saddle into turn 4 and up toward the finish line, a group of 7 riders have come with me separating themselves from the main field. Over the next 40 laps, the 8 of us in the group worked together to lap the field.

    Holy shit, the early attack worked!

    Words by Chris Riekert. Photography by Andy Bokanev.

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