Reflecting on My First International Racing Experience

I can’t say I thought about my trip Saturday or Sunday, as I was mostly thinking about death and how completely OK I would have been at welcoming it thanks to the ebola or whatever I had.

But I have now had time to think about it. And because everyone loves listicles, here’s my Top 8 reflections on Aguascalientes:

1. A demonym is the term for residents of a place; i.e. Michigander for someone from Michigan or Illinoisan for a guy from Illinois. The demonym for Aguascalientes is…. (drumroll…) hidrocálido. Or hydrothermal. Brilliant.

2. Having soigneurs, like actual soigneurs, is amazing.  Whitney, take note: not only did I receive a 30-minute leg massage, but I had a new cold towel on my neck/shoulders every couple minutes during warmup in the 93-degree stadium; my water bottle magically replenished itself all the time; I didn’t have to carry things, like my bike, to the start line; and my road bike would magically appear underneath me after a race, so I didn’t have to rely on silly and tiring bipedal locomotion. Thanks, Viggo and Paige!

Copyright Missy Erickson, whom I will pay when this blog starts raking in the big bucks.

Copyright Missy Erickson, whom I will pay when this blog starts raking in the big bucks.

3. Middle and South Americans race differently than we EE. UU. folk. In the U.S., when nothing is really happening and everyone’s just being lazy waiting for the real racing to start, we tend to take steady pulls down in the sprinter’s lane, signal with an elbow, pull up, and the guy behind repeats. It’s steady, it’s safe. In Mexico, you ride at the rail almost all of the time, come down to the sprinter’s lane just to cut off someone who started an attack from the back of the group, you pull uptrack whenever you want to, you backpedal a ton (remind me to use a lockring for the first time in my life next time). It’s chaotic, and not at all controlled, even when no one’s racing, say, two laps into a 60-lap scratch race. Though I have to say, it lends itself to some awfully dynamic races. If I had to pinpoint why there were more crashes in Aguascalientes than in every other track race I’ve done this year combined, I’d probably say it’s the style of racing—rather than guys just being that bad at controlling their bikes—that is number one on the list. A close number two, however, is the fact that a lot of guys don’t know how to control their bikes.

4. Mexican children can yell loud. Thursday night, after my scratch race, lots of schoolchildren funneled into the velodrome, and damn can they yell and whistle! After Bobby did his pursuit, I went up into the stands to watch the women’s team pursuit final, and with all the events in between those two, the children would go wild for just about anything. Victory laps turned into waves of shrieking. A Mexican attacking during a race turned into my ears bleeding. The attention they seemed to pay to the actual racing going on was surprising.

5. Pasta with red sauce CAN get old! We had to avoid beef and pork, as some of the meat down there is pumped full of clenbuterol, which sadly turns up when we have to pee in a cup, and then we get disqualified from racing for two years. So no pork. No beef. Definitely no street tacos. God, how I wanted street tacos. Instead, at literally every lunch and dinner — paid for, and at a conference room in the hotel — I was given the choice of pasta with red sauce, or pasta with red sauce. Hmm, I’ll have the pasta, por favor. Con red sauce!

Just give me a burrito already!

Just give me a burrito already!

It wasn’t until Day 2 that I realized there was a big cylinder of Kraft parmesan cheese with which to liberally saturate my plate.

6. I agree with Emma Pooley, et al. British Cycling recently announced their choice not to send a woman to the Worlds TT, because they stood no chance to medal. This had people like Emma Pooley, former World Time Trial Champion who got her ass kicked years ago the first time she attended the Worlds TT, understandably upset. I still remember my first experience at Elite Track Nationals in 2010, when I got destroyed and didn’t even qualify for a final. But the experience gained there inevitably helped me further down the road. I knew I could have pulled an upset and gotten a medal at Pan-Ams, had things gone exactly right, but realistically I was down there to get international experience, which will pay off huge whenever I return to this level of competition. It all adds up.

7. Take the sign that says CRIT to get to the track. I thought that was funny.

This was the third and final turn to get to the track from the hotel. Easy peasy.

This was the third and final turn to get to the track from the hotel. Easy peasy.

 

8. Anytime you want to complain about the thermostat, whether in your house or office, remember that it’s likely 93 degrees or more inside the Aguascalientes velodrome. Makes even 80 or 82 seem downright Arctic.

I took this shot at 4am on the way to the airport. Mexico lived. Liam didn't, really. Getting sick sucks.

I took this shot at 4am on the way to the airport. Mexico lived. Liam didn’t, really. Getting sick sucks.

 

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