Crit season cometh

Regular readers of this blog (Mum, Dad, crazy stalker man from Poland) will know that I don't often do club races. It's not intentional, it's just that they are often a long way away, and more importantly, they often take place outside the Good Coffee Zone (which, for those not in the know, is a ring around Melbourne bordered by Sassafras, Thornbury and St Kilda, with a separate zone in Geelong). Beyond those borders is a dystopian wilderness dominated by cup-o-chino and Blend 43 (the horror! the horror!). After living in London for 2 years and seeing what lack of good espresso can do to communities, it's all I can do to leave my fancy-pants crema attitude at home and leave the real racing to the professionals.

Luckily, Hawthorn Cycling Club came to the rescue last night with its summer crit series on Kew Boulevard. The races, held at the loop next to the boulevard (known as The-loop-where-I-accidentally-once-picked-up-a-used-studded-leather-g-string-thinking-it-was-a-lost-glove), was a welcome return to club crit racing, with the added bonus of being exceedingly close to my house. For those not familiar with club racing, it involves a diverse community cross-section including young oiled-up whippersnappers talking in breaking voices about how crap their latest school assignment was; weekend warriors ready to unleash the fury they'd really like to take out on their boss/annoying spouse; and darkhorse elite riders flying under the radar to get in some 'secret training' mid-week. Everyone blends in together and just becomes another number on a bike. Curiously, fat old men with $15,000 Bianchis are generally absent from these types of races.

The club reps who organise these races are generally Mother Teresa-like figures who give up their day of racing so others can enjoy theirs. Those who man the registration table and then race themselves are super-human and evidently have found some way of warming up while simultaneously handing out race numbers and providing change. Once I find out their secret, I'm scrapping my regular warmup.

The racing itself is an exercise in racing with unknowns: people you've never raced against before and whose behaviour is unpredictable. Will #36's early break stay away or is this what he does every week? Is #104 going off the front or about to be lapped? Who is that guy spewing his guts out on the side? This is the best bit about club racing - you just never know, so it's all about just putting your head down and going your hardest

Next week... Lisa's Mum dusts off her commentary jacket and looks ahead to season 2010.