Canada Day has come and gone, and along with it the Canada Day Criterium in which Fiera Race Team’s Cory “Sugar” Boddy was contesting the Category Five (Cat 5) criterium race. I should say here that Cory is not new to racing and he is fast. He would probably fit well into Cat 4 or 3, but to get out of Cat 5, you have to earn your way out by placing well in races. In road cycling, it is not often the fastest rider that wins, but often the rider that has the best team, or choses the right time to attack, or the right time to rest, or just happens to get right behind the right rider. Further, a lot can go wrong in a race, and there are only so many races in a season, and only so many weekends available for racing, so sometimes moving up a category is a monuments task.
For those that are not familiar, I will provide a brief explanation of what exactly a Cat 5 criterium is:
Imagine if you will, a 1 to 1.5 km long obstacle course in the form of a circuit, and comprised of narrow streets, and sharp corners. Obstacles include manhole covers, storm grates, curb bump-outs, potholes, stray dogs, and poorly attended children. Now imagine 25 or so nervous, adrenaline-hopped, and fairly frightened, aspiring athletes with experience ranging from zero to almost none, hurling themselves around this circuit as fast as they possibly can, riding in a tight group such that their wind resistance is not that of 25 nervous individuals, but rather that of a single frightened beast. As they lean into the corners, their naked, freshly shaved legs come within a few short inches of the road surface which is essentially a concrete belt-sander revving at speeds well into the 50 kph range, poised to shred skin, spandex, and carbon fibre at any opportunity. Elbows touch, wheels bump, adrenaline swirls in their wake, and inevitably, the belt sander reaches up to take a few of them. Please don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean to imply that these races are dangerous, as there are ample safety measures taken. Almost all riders, for instance, wear fingerless gloves which of course protect each racer from suffering the discomfort of being fully gloved. Further, many racers wisely wear sunscreen, thus preventing the affliction of a nasty sunburn while they lay at the curbside beside their broken bicycle waiting for a first aider or maybe an ambulance while the race continues on without them. Further yet, it is mandatory for the sake of both safety and fashion that each racer have perched upon their head and securely fastened under the chin by a ribbon, a bit of styrofoam to protect the road surface should their heads collide forcefully with it. Finally, each bicycle is equipped with two safety levers on the handlebars, one on the right, and one on the left. The right lever serves to warn riders behind not to follow too close. A rider feeling crowded from behind simply squeezes the right lever forcefully causing his bicycle to slow suddenly, only for a moment. The rider behind, in the interest of safety, applies his right lever more forcefully causing his bicycle to slow more suddenly for a longer period of time, and so on, causing a happy rippling shudder of safety and well-being to pass through the group, from front to back, growing exponentially more pronounced as it goes. At the back of the group, a blissfully unaware racer with his eyes rolled to the back of their sockets, and wondering “why, why, why did I do this to myself?” and “why, why, why did I pay money to do this to myself?” will become aware of the approacing shutter of safe cyclists too late, and he will be forced to apply the left lever (also called the front brake). The left lever engages an emergency rider ejection system ingeniously powered by the perfect ratio of panic and inertia. The endangered racer is promptly ejected out of danger, hurtled up and over the handlebars to the awaiting safety of the belt sander I mentioned previously. He will slide along the belt sander for half a city block, while his $5000 bicycle cartwheels along beside him, the happy spectacle of which will likely entice others to engage the panic and inertia ejection systems on their own $5000 bicycles. The sound of bodies colliding with curbs, and carbon fibre skidding unabated along residential asphalt will ring like music in the ears of those whom continue racing, giving pleasurable goosebumps and causing them to look back over their shoulders at the scene, while spectators look away, covering the eyes of their children. The ejected riders will eventially come to rest, and those that are conscious will worry for their bicycles, and those that are able, and who’s bicycles are able, will probably get back on their bikes and rejoin the race, ignoring the gaping rips in their spandex, their buttock visible to all who dare look, oozing red, pink and clear fluids in quiet mourning for the skin left smeared on the pavement.
So now that you know what a criterium is all about, I won’t keep you in suspense any longer. Cory survived the Canada Day Criterium in Cat 5, with bike, spandex, and buttock fully intact. In fact, he finished in a very respectable 7th place, earning him some valuable upgrade points that could help him move up into Category 4, where the pace is faster, the bikes are more expensive, and hopefully fear and panic and inexperience play slightly less of a role. You can see all the results of the Canada Day races here.