In eighteen thousand USCF amateur road, crit, and track races, Kevin Phillips had never missed a start. Driving pell-mell up to the start, throwing on kit, socks, shoes, wheels, and water bottle at the last minute, no matter how close, no matter how many miles in between him and the start line with the clock only minutes from launch, he had never missed a start.
Until Tuesday, July 24, 2012, at the start of the points race in the masters national track championships at the 7-11 Velodrome in Colorado Springs.
They arrived at the track in time for Mel’s points race, which started immediately before Kevin’s. The officials weighed Mel’s bike, and that’s when the trouble started, because it was too light.
“No problem, we’ll yank the seat and fill the seat tube with some shit.” Minutes later they had pulled the saddle and dumped a handful of allen wrenches, a large crescent wrench, and part of a cheeseburger down the tube. The seatpost barely went back in. Whizzer Turdley, the official in charge of bike weight, gave it another whirl.
“No can do, man. Yer still over.”
The obvious solution was to put on Mel’s pursuit wheels, but they’d left them at the hotel. What possible reason could there have been to bring pursuit equipment to the mass start events?
The Ironfly team commenced a mad scramble to find a disc wheel. Even with the half-eaten cheeseburger, a pair of fuzzy dice hanging from the handlebars, and a steel implant in her helmet, Mel couldn’t make weight. It’s not often in life that a girl begs to weigh in heavier than she really is, but this was UCI bike regulation no. A-138.23(b)(4), and unless you were prepared to donate a $100,000 doping analyzer to the UCI, this rule bent for no one.
Finally, a grizzled old dude who was already grizzled when the velodrome was built back in the 80’s came up to them. “You guys need sump’n heavy like a disc?”
Kev and Mel nodded madly as the clock ticked. “Here y’ar. This is some vintage shit.” He rolled out an early 90’s Li-Tan Wu solid wheel, so heavy that it left crack marks in the concrete as it rolled. Davy, Mel, KP, and Grizzled all heaved together to get it into the drops as Mel’s carbon frame groaned and creaked under the strain.
With seconds to spare a small crane hauled her bike up the rail, and they were off. She’d made weight with exactly two ounces to spare.
The principle of inertia
Although it took her a few laps to get going, by the time the women’s points race concluded the track officials were already wondering how they would stop Mel’s inertia bike, powered as it was by the inertia of a 400-lb. flywheel. With the aid of an emergency foaming system sprayed onto the track by a fire truck, however, the bike came to a halt.
Next up was KP and Davy’s points race. With only minutes to spare, the crew began working feverishly to change the wheel. Soon the other riders were up on the rail, and Davy had to leave the pit or risk missing the race along with Kevin. However, he had mastered the Japanese parliamentary tactic of the cow walk, and dawdled so long getting to the rail that the officials gave him a delay of game warning, penalized him fifteen yards, and spotted the ball on the kicking team’s 25 yard line.
It was all to no avail. Kevin missed his start, the race left without him, and lacking a team mate in the 72-lap event Davy wound up with fourth, an honorable finish but far from what he might have achieved with KP at his side, though much better than the competitors who dropped out and died due to the 105-degree temperatures that had melted the glue off many of the rims.
Learning from their mistakes
The following day presented the scratch race, and the Ironfly boys and girls arrived at 4:00 AM for their 4:00 PM start in order to make sure they passed all the requisite checks. Kev brought three extra cheeseburgers just to be safe.
The men’s 35-39 10k scratch race went balls out from the gun. A couple of searing, early attacks went early, but the watchful group brought them back. The main players in the scratch race were the Ironfly team, a team from DC that Kevin had raced against last year and who had won the event, and another team from Bumfucksomewhereville. The silver medalist from the points race was in the mix as well.
Suddenly, one of the DC wankers attacked and opened up a gap on the straightaway. The group kept the pace steady without ever reeling him in, and eventually eased off the gas. Davy attacked, which is shorthand for “exploded from the group like a missile,” such that the only people who even considered following were the insane or those seated comfortably in the bleachers.
He put his head down, kept the pace steady, and chased for 6 laps before bridging to DC dude. Once he’d connected, the points race winner from the day before split away and after a short chase joined what was now a 3-man breakaway. Each rider did the obligatory timber check and concluded that this was a winner. Heads went down and full-on flail mode ensued.
The field chased, then sat up, then chased, then sat up, with the riders alternating between “Fuck, I’m bringing them back!” to “Fuck, YOU bring them back!” as is so typical of lazy bike racers who work their asses off the entire year for one race and then when the time comes dilly-dally around like a bunch of park bums.
As the laps ticked down, the fully rested, timely signed in, properly wheeled, correctly weighed, and canny killer Kevin launched from the field of flailing wankers. The boom was sonic, the spray of sweat from his face, legs and armpits was like a tidal wave of oily salt water, and the thought of following his lead was so dispiriting and soul-destroying that three riders immediately swore off sex and liquor and joined the priesthood.
In a few short strokes Kevin caught the break, which in turn had lapped the field. Davy & Co., needing a respite from their long battle in the wind, sat up for a moment. Kevin farted once, blew his nose twice, put his fucking head down and kept the pedal mashed all the goddamned way through the floorboard, rolling through the field like shit through a goose.
There were now only three laps to go, and no one was about to jump over the rails and carjack a moped in order to chase down our dude from the South Bay, so the field waited for the sprint. Davy got nicked at the line but still earned a bronze medal at his first national championship ever. Kevin pulled on the stars and stripes jersey, reveling in the moment even as he was whisked off to doping control where a couple of hairy nurses stood guard and clinically compared his endowment to their former husbands.
His next big race is Friday, where he faces stiff competition in the individual pursuit. Hats off to Kevin for another inspiring win!