A few years ago, 3 to be exact, I went to Florida for a week long training camp with some friends of mine. The ultimate goal for the week was to do a century in 4 hours. It was all very scientific. We found a large square, calculated lap times, looked at wind speeds, watts, etc. And by we I mean them. Jared Nieters, Reid Beloni, Steven Gordon, and Owen Nielson should be squirming in their chairs right about now. In the end, the 4 hour mark was not broken. Between that, and the boring, flat, out and back rides along costal road A1A, I left quite soured on Florida and its riding.
When I got an email asking if anyone wanted to race the Delray Twilight Crit in Florida, I was hesitant. It meant returning to flat, boring Florida. But Ben Zawacki had raved about last years edition, comparing it to Athens Twilight. My hesitation lasted for only a second. Here was a chance to get some sun, do a twilight crit, travel, and as an added bonus Jared, Reid, Steven, and Owen would not be there to pressure me into another century-in-4 attempt.
Early Friday morning – 4 am early, Ben, Joe Lewis, and myself crammed into a team car and drove to the Atlanta airport. Crammed is not an exaggeration. It had taken Ben and I an hour to complete the puzzle of fitting 3 bike cases, 6 sets of wheels, and luggage into the Volkswagen the previous night. After a smooth flight to Delray, we met Mike Midlarsky, a friend of Joe’s, and proceeded to his place which was conveniently located about half a mile from the race and downtown Delray Beach which is a strip of restaurants, bars, clubs, and coffee shops a mile from the coast.
And its spring break? This trip kept getting better!
We slept late the next morning before going for a little ride. I really like twilight crits but it sucks waiting around all day to race and when the race starts at 830, its literally an all day wait. At some point in the day, the hotel room feels more like a prison cell which inevitably leads to debating the cool factor of skin suits and wrestling over it. What? Didn’t expect that one?
At the start of these crits, I look around at the field and think to myself, no way there are 100 people here. This maybe looks like 50. And then the whistle sounds and the front of the race looks like its in the next time zone. Unfortunately, I was near the back at the start of my first big crit of the year. The speed and the intensity is quite a shock to the system and I was not moving up as fast as I would have liked. Then on the 3rd lap, I heard the sound of a crash just past the start/finish line. I slammed on my brakes, but the brand new carbon pads were not stopping and I careened towards the pile of carbon and bodies.
My first impulse was to get back up to speed and into the stretched out field. But I checked my emotions, and got off my bike instead to claim a free lap along with the thirty others who had been involved in the crash. It was such a bad crash, the referees neutralized the race and I snuck into the front row for the restart.
From about 75th to 25th in a lap. After that, I got into a few moves but as time went on, it became clear, the race was going to come down to a field sprint and the race became a fight for the rear wheels of the UHC train. With 5 laps to go, I found myself there but UHC had lost a man in the big pile up and didn’t really go that fast until 2 laps to go at which point, I had been shuffled back a bit. I finished 13th. A bit disappointing for me. I know I should have been top 10. On the positive side, where I like to dwell, I felt good, and got some speed in my legs before Redlands.
The following day, Joe, Ben, and I did a local race, although it wasn’t that local since most of the riders from the previous night raced again. We all ended up lapping the field, although Joe managed it twice. Ben and I led him out and Joe took the sprint and the win. It made an average race from the night before sting a lot less.
Since there had been a lot of lapping and re-lapping in the race, the officials were having a bit of trouble finalizing results which in turn delayed the pay out process. Each 15 minutes that passed, Ben, Joe, and I would look at each other knowing that beach time was quickly disappearing since our flight was leaving later that evening. Finally, the results were finalized and the three of us rushed back to Mike’s house to shower, change, and pack bikes and bags. I was in the shower when Joe knocked on the door. “Our flights been delayed an hour.”
“Sweet. Gives us a little more time.”
“Well, now we can change our flight to tomorrow morning for free.”
“Then do it!!”
This trip just kept getting better. So we kept Sunday night in Midlarsky family tradition: pizza and wings. And ice cream from Kilwins after.
The following morning, we awoke early and headed to the airport. Once in Atlanta, Joe and I built our bikes in the parking lot to spare us the headache of playing Tetris with the car again.
In Greenville, we dropped the team car off at the service course where Casey and Brian were packing the trailer for Redlands. They were preparing to leave the following morning and needed our bags by that afternoon. I went home, did a load of laundry, and packed my bag for California.
As I write this, I am at 32,000 feet headed for the west coast. From Florida to California in a week. Basically living a spring breaker or surfers wet dream. Hanging ten braaa. Whatever that means.
PS. Massive thanks to the Midlarsky family for hosting us. You guys were wonderful.