On Tuesday, July 22, The Chicago Cuttin’ Crew and Yojimbo’s Track Cats decided to collaborate and invade the Tuesday night track series at the Kenosha, Wisconsin velodrome. We loaded up the Cuttin’ Cruiser with Cuttin’ Crew members; Brean Al, Andrew, and myself. We also brought Yojimbo’s Track Cats racers, mentor Chuck, and a modest cheering section.
The Bob Pfarr Classic is a track race sort of like boxing, with a huge main event, and some undercard races before it. The main event being a 150 lap, 30 mile points race. We left Chicago with a full bus, with myself at the wheel, planning on racing the lower races, and putting Al, Andrew, and maybe Brean into the main event. The trip up to Kenosha was brutal, with all of the construction on I-94. The Cuttin’ Cruiser barely fit into the narrowed lanes, and semi- trucks were passing us almost constantly. It was a two and a half-hour, hair-raising drive up the battered Tollway to get us to Kenosha. I don’t really understand why we pay almost $4.00 in tolls each way for the privilege of driving on this God forsaken, uneven, narrow, grooved, pot-hole ridden stretch of interstate highway. But whatever, we survived and unloaded the bus at the Kenosha Velodrome.
I had a really rough day of messenger work on Tuesday. I had wanted to take it easy, because I was planning on racing that night, but it just wasn’t in the cards. Two of the four drivers at my messenger company called in that day, which meant a lot of zone work, and a lot of freight, both of which wear you out during the day. After riding my bike from Logan Square to Pilsen, up to the Loop, to grab 75 pounds of mail across the loop, then up to the Gold Coast, and then back into the Loop to hold down the fort for a couple hours while the other bikers at my company are 7 miles north and 7 miles south of downtown. They finally made it back into the loop, which meant that it was time for me to go up to Lincoln Park, then to Lakeview, and finally to Humbolt Park to put a 30 pound box on my bars, and clean up back in the Loop. I’m not really complaining, because it’s my job, and it’s part of the game. But it’s hard when you are planning on a big night of racing, and you are trying not to burn any matches during the day, and you go through almost the whole book at work.
The night started out with the master’s 4/5 scratch race. Brean and I were the only people old enough on the Crew to race in this one. I realized right away that I was under geared for this race. I made my way up to the front to try to lead out Brean. He wisely stayed tucked away in the pack, and I sacrificed myself to lead out someone. It sure as hell wasn’t Brean. He fought his way up to fourth place, and I came in DFL.
I didn’t have enough time between the first race and our next race to change my cog. This was the cat 4 scratch race. Once again I stuck close to Brean, floundered around, and came in second to last, while Brean came in fourth. The announcer called him “Brian” for the second time, and we had to straighten him out.
The Track Cats did some of the Juniors races and women’s races. You have to step up your game at Kenosha, and the Track Cats had a tough time. Most of their competition has been racing in the juniors program for years, even though they are just kids. The Kenosha velodrome can also be intimidating if you haven’t ridden on it before. Kenosha is not like Northbrook, which is like racing on a really smooth, mis-shaped pancake, while a bunch of well to do suburbanites, who paid $2 to sit on bleachers watch you. Kenosha is bumpy, it has steep banks, and you have the families of people who used to work for one of the largest auto plants is North America, which closed in the late 1980’s, sitting on a grassy hill, drinking beer, and yelling at you while you try to negotiate the banked turns in a pack at 30+ mph.
I love the Kenosha Velodrome, but it was tough on the Track Cats.
Finally I got the right gear on my bike for the consolation points race. So far I had embarrassed myself In front of my Dad, my uncle, my girlfriend, a couple of her friends, and some of my best friends from my hometown. So it was time to step it up. After a bad crash by one of the riders in the first five laps, the consolation race was restarted. I gave up the first sprint, and figured that I would save myself for later sprints. But a strong breakaway had developed out of the first sprint. It looked like they might be able to make it stick, and I figured that I should try to get into it. So I started working towards a bridge. I made some ground on the front four riders, but they were making half-lap pulls, and nobody had made the move with me, so I was by myself. I tried my best to close the gap for about 10 laps, but then started to run out of gas. I fought like hell to make the gap, but then the front four started to close on the main pack. I know how the points race works, and if they made it back into the main pack, they would be a lap up, and position trumps points. So even if I couldn’t catch them, I just needed to stay ahead of the main pack to secure fifth place. They started to catch me two laps before the end of the 25-lap event, and the officials told me to move up and get out of the way of the pack. I moved up to the stayer’s line and rode as hard as I could for two laps to keep from getting sucked up an losing 5th place. I finished about 50 meters ahead of the pack, and the end of the race, I was also a lap up on the pack, and was proud to hear the announcer explain why I had come in 5th place.
Now it was time for the main event. Brean had broken a cleat in warm-up, so the Cuttin’ Crew would only be represented by Al and Andrew in the Bob Pfarr Classic. They wouldn’t disappoint. Al got himself into the first meaningful break in the race and made a lap on the field of pros, cat 2’s and cat3’s. Andrew got himself some points in a couple of sprints. I made my way into the infield during the race, and overheard the officials talking about Al.
“Who is this Urbanski?” “He’s a four on the road!?” “Look at this guy!”
After about a zillion laps, some more break-aways and a lot of points, both Al and Andrew had finished in a field of category 1,2,and 3 racers. Al secured 8th place in a field dominated by the teams of Hayes Brakes and xXx. Look out next year, because you better believe that we are sending Al up with some more help, and we are taking the Bob Pfarr Classic for the Cuttin’ Crew!