The racers themselves looked at home in the parking lot with towels to wrap around themselves while they changed, and flip flops to walk around in. They had stationary trainers to warm up on. The racers looked like seasoned athletes. I had never seen a vein on somebody’s calf until that day. I had driven to the race while wearing the only cycling clothes that I owned and didn’t think to bring a spare set of clothes. Mind you, the only cycling clothes that I owned, I had worn everyday while riding across the country. They were a sun faded solid blue, and baggy around the arms and legs. They seemed so drab and uncool compared to the flashy outfits of those around me. I didn’t own flip flops to bring. I had one or two towels that I needed for showering; I wasn’t going to take one to a bike race. My towels were over used and underwashed, hanging on the back of the bathroom door at the punkhouse where I was living.
“Do you have Gu packets? Gator Aid? A Clif bar?”
Andy and I just looked at each other nervously and didn’t answer Pete’s question. As two guys who just rode around the city all day, were we in over our heads? Could we even finish this race? Should we even start? I mean, these guys were serious if they were willing to pay two dollars for each Gu packet, and use three of them during the race, right? Who were we to show up unprepared at the most basic level? I trembled on the start line, in a sea of fifty or so other riders.
The whistle blew to signify the beginning of my first road race.
As it turns out, messengers ride a ton. They ride a shitload. They probably ride as many miles every year as a decent domestic professional cyclist. Messengers can also handle their bikes as well as most experienced cyclists, or better. We were messengers. It took as little as fifteen minutes for us to realize that not only were we as fit as the other guys in the novice race, but we were also more comfortable on our bikes. Over the course of the race, the lead group whittled down to ten, and we were in it. I looked around after finishing, watching what was left of our group coming across the finish line. It blew my mind that the guys with such nice stuff, that looked so athletic, didn’t beat me
As spring turned to summer, the local criterium series began, and I attended with diligence. Experienced racers volunteered to teach the beginners what we needed to know about racing. Each week had a lesson on racing tactics, training, nutrition, hydration, bike maintenance, and sometimes a lecture on what we had done wrong the previous week. While some of the racers skipped these lectures, or talked amongst themselves in the back of the group, I carefully listened and took mental notes. I treated the weekly event like it was school, and I was trying for an A.
It also turned out that not all of the guys that I was racing against fit the stereotype that I had built up in my mind. In fact, very few of the group were the muscle bound, alpha male jocks that I have tried to avoid all of my life. I wasn’t the only person that rode my bike to the races from my house. I wasn’t the only person with a “Triangle Messenger” branded Timbuk 2 bag. I wasn’t the only one who thought paying two dollars for a Gu was like speeding in an SUV towards a red light. Like the population at large, these road weenies were made up of all types.
The proprietor of the local shop put me in touch with a guy that I had been racing against. That guy had friends, and soon enough we started “working together” during the races to win the local criterium series regularly. Team Kraynick’s was born and we picked up a few more riders over time. We would ride to and from the races, to and from work, and ride together on the weekends. The team wasn’t made up of road weenies. We were commuters, messengers or just “cyclists” in general. We had city bikes with fenders at home, we weren’t afraid to wear rain pants if it was cold and raining. We came from the functional cycling perspective, not what had been fed to so many others by the glossy cycling magazines.
Over the next few years, my days were spent riding my fixed gear around the city with my bag and radio strapped to me. I would come home on weeknights and pass out around 9pm, or race the local criterium, then come home and pass out. Every weekend we would ride the local “fast guy” group ride, or race when we could. A local frame builder built us frames and painted them to match the planned jerseys, which were modeled after the “Moleteni” jerseys of old. They simply said “Kraynick’s,” with the frame builder “Mezzatesta” written below. We were functional, cheap, and a pretty damned good team.