This was my first bike trip abroad, and after garnering some info on how to transport the bike, I was kindly loaned a bike box by Alison (if you’re reading this Alison, THANK YOU SO MUCH, I owe you wine/jug of beer in Howling Hops). Wheeling the box home attracted a lot of interest from people, all enquiring whether it was for a musical instrument of some sort. Not quite. Though with a ‘ding-ding-ding’ on the spokes (gently!) from Matt with a spanner, I suppose the bicycle is musical in its own way. Matt worked his magic, teaching/showing/doing for me how to put away each part in the best way possible, and before we knew it, the bike was packed up and ready to go (THANK YOU MATT, owe you alcoholic beverages also).
Friday 13th (oooh spooky).
Off to the airport. More stares and questions for the box that I’m pushing around: “Yes yes, it’s a musical bicycle, off to race in Italy this weekend”
Bike and I arrived fine, got set up in the airbnb and then popped out to the pizzeria below the apartment I was staying in. BELLISSIMA. After I’d filled my stomach, practised my shamefully little Italian with the chef and waiters, and had a couple of snaps with them and the bike, I was off to roam the streets in hope of opening up my legs and to explore a little bit before returning for a good night’s sleep.
Saturday 14th. Race Day.
I awoke two minutes before my alarm (woo), and had some breakfast before setting off to pick up my race number and timing chip from the course. Google Maps took me straight to the first and second corners of the race course so I got a sneak preview, collected my stuff, then went round a couple more times to familiarise myself for later.
Next stop: coffee! Fortunately for me, my roommate back home in the UK is from Milan so I didn’t have to search for long – she gave me the details of *the* place to go: BarBacco, near S. Agostino. One delicious cappucino later and I was off to the next destination that she gave me: Pastamadre. The best handmade pasta fresca in all of the city. With the pasta picked up and a few race essentials from the supermarket, I headed back to eat and prepare for the qualifications. Eeva came over, we secured our numbers to our bikes and headed to the course.
Matt joined and assisted us as we pinned our numbers on, chilled, did last minute nervous poops, and entered parc ferme. Parc ferme is the athlete warm-up area, where your bike gets checked, and you can go on rollers. Believe it or not, this was my first time on rollers. Some tips from Matt and Eeva aided me in staying upright and not make a spectacle of myself before the race had even began.
We were in Heat 2, so we had a little bit more time to ready ourselves. Eeva was looking in the zone all through warm-up and onto the starting grid, here’s the proof:
All ladies in position and the countdown started; 30 seconds to go. 15 seconds. 3, 2, 1, go!
For once I had clipped in without any problems, and started making my way through the sea of competitors. Up ahead I spotted a girl having trouble clipping in, she was shaking her leg and trying to get the pedal the right way up whilst moving. I knew I had to move, I glanced over my left shoulder and made a move up the fence on the left. Big mistake. The girl had given too much effort to her next attempt to clip in, missed the pedal, and came to the floor, her bike sliding out to the left, straight into my path. With no time to react, I had gone over the handlebars and met the surface of the road, my shoulder taking the brunt of the fall. As far as I know, the others were okay though a little shaken up.
No way did I come all the way to Milan to fall at the first hurdle. Ii picked myself up, quickly checked over the bike, plopped myself on and set off to catch up with the pack. Although I didn’t manage to catch the pack, I overtook a few girls and kept going. “MOVE UP, MOVE UP” I could hear Matt shouting from the penultimate corner. The shoulder was burning but the adrenaline was masking the worst of it. 3 laps to go and the reality was setting in.
Photo credit: Matt / @hubandhandlebar
Over the finish line, I sat up on the bike. It was agony. Something was seriously wrong. I high fived a couple of the other girls, then came into the athlete area and waited for Eeva and Matt to join. An Italian man and his kids came over asking for a photo, torn skinsuit and all. I obliged then left my bike with Matt and went off to the medical tent. A kind doctor cleaned me up, gave me a painkiller and advice to not race the finals and get an x-ray in the next 24 hours. He offered for me to go to hospital in the ambulance but we would have to wait for another casaulty. Sure, I can soak up a bit more of the day and get myself checked out later. By the end of the last chance race, there was a healthy queue of minor casualties, and one half-major so off to the hospital I went. Staff were really helpful and kept their cool even when they were understaffed and things were hectic. I watched the womens’ finals live from Instagram (thank you FixedGearCrit for this!) and saw Eeva smash her way into 11th place!! INCREDIBLE! She also got 4th in the superpole, which is a time trial lap of the course and sets your position on the starting grid. Femme brutale.
After the long awaited x-ray, I was told that I’d broken my shoulder (this isn’t correct though) and I was allowed home though I was meant to go back in the morning to see the orthopaedic doctor. Instead I caught my flight home and made it to A&E here where it turned out that I had broken off the end of my collarbone.
That’s my first crit (half)season over, I’ve got 6-8 weeks to recover then I’ll be back for track league!