One had only to the listen to the sounds of last night's event to get a sense of the drama that ensued.
Oscillating between the wild rage of cowbells and cheers to the grim silence that follows a body slamming into a barrier.
Hey man, I can dig a night of drama. But this was well beyond the limits of fun.
Trimble boasted on the podium, before doling out messenger bags, champagne and tubs of flowers, "I think we found the limit of what fixed gear bikes can do" to which a rowdy heckler responded , "I think you went too far".
I'm glad I'm not the only one who felt like yelling at Trimble by the end of the night.
I know what you're thinking: "It's a fucking unsanctioned race! See rule 5". I get it. It's an event born of cut-throat, alley-cat, fixed gear messenger culture. I respect the culture, and the danger, and the speed.
But the cycling community respects its members. And no race director sets out to plan an event for Carnage. And if they do, they should be held in the same regard as their barbaric historical counter parts, the Romans.
By the third turn of the course any rider morphed from athlete to survivalist. Blind turns and unswept corners were the lions pit towhich Trimble threw his racers.
"Coming in hot" is such a grave understatement for the speed of the first lap. Pressed up against the guardrail, I heard one rider's dad marvel at the speed of the motopace, assuming the riders would be far behind. When we saw how closely Bezdek and his fearless competitors followed, the tension was palpable. The hair on my arms raised.
What rider wouldn't push himself so instantly against the wall of pain. After the gut wrenching anxiety of having the entire event pushed back nearly an hour due to what every spectator had referred to as someone literally having their "face ripped off" in the first qualifier.
Everyone was itching to get their ass in a saddle and get it over with.
The pack came around the final chicane for the straight away on the first lap. One rider down, two riders down, finally four at the same corner. Riders and bikes flying into the air, over the barriers, into the crowd. It was obvious something was wrong. (Watch that crash here:http://m.youtube.com/#/watch?v=po44w_WDpKs)
Quickly the crowd divided into groups of those who would gladly attend a dog fight and those who'd rather not see someone they love break a collar bone.
Holding my vegan ice cream come that was so kindly supplied by one of the many awesome food trucks, I felt instantly sickened. I threw my ice cream come in the trash and went in search of my riders. Luckily Josh Direen of Stanridge Speed Cycles came out relatively unscathed while others hunkered down in piles of mulch to assess the damage to their $200 kits, $3000 bikes and their asses.
It didn't stop there. It was only a handful of laps before other riders went down on what we had already determined was an unrideable course. At one point, riders crashed so hard into the barriers, an audible, collective gasp was emitted and the entire crowd lurched back in fear.
By now, my team was frantic. With one rider possibly still in the race, we held our ground for one more lap. No sign of Travis Freeman of Paradise Garage Racing. We ran up an down the midway, in the dark, wildly searching for what we hoped was a conscious rider.
Where the hell was the medical team at this unsanctioned shit show? The staff comprised of two people, sitting on the ground, flashlights in their teeth, haphazardly applying band aids to downed riders, no visible indication that they were health professionals of any kind. Their shelter a pitiful pop up tent. More than disappointing, it was hazardous. And another injustice to the riders that paid for this race.
Look at any parking lot at a USA cycling race and you will see a lot of privileged white boys and doctors on carbon bike shaped objects, with all the benefit of pro level gear and none of the camaraderie of an event like Redhookcrit.
When i see the photographs of people putting their hands on fallen riders, I see that not everyone came with the same blood lust. I dig the vibe at this kind of event. But I don't think it's a fair playing field for a group of people that worked long and hard to get here. I can't help but feel patronized by Trimble's coaxing, "Keep it clean, keep it safe" with 11 laps to go and few riders left in the field. Maybe it's a little late for that.
This race finished with five riders. And despite the fact that the gentleman favored to win managed to keep his bike tread side down and come across the line first, I'm wary to say there was more than a little bit of luck involved.
I won't downplay what incredible athletes these men are. Standing on black wooden boxes with their shaved quads shining in stage light, I can't help but marvel at the courage and skill required to maneuver this course and live to get kissed by a girl in a red dress.
I want to say that there are two different kinds of riders; those who are driven by some god like force and those who fall in their wake. But in reality, these men were separated by the limits of a course boobie-trapped for failure. And even in a place where danger and street cred rule, fairness should preside alongside.