Christina Peck Does CMWC’s Part 2: The Dramatic Conclusion
Above: Christina, photo by Christopher Dilts
And we're back with the second of Christina's two guest blogs on the CWMC's. Last time, she showed us the photo goods from the pre-ride, this week she tells us about how it went down in the main race. (Spoiler Alert - she wins!!!!!)
Now back to Christina:
We arrived in Melbourne at 5am on Friday, in a chartered bus of 60 couriers after riding for 4 days from Sydney to the small town of Bega, about 400km south. Bikes had been stuffed to capacity in the lower compartment, and then some, to the point where we had to wait for another hour in order for the support car to return and shuttle the remaining wheels that could in no way be Jenga'ed on in. After the 8 hour trip, we stumbled groggily off the bus and started reassembling our bikes, collecting our bike bags, and trying to orient and route to our respective crashpads for some desperately needed sleep.
The 23rd Cycle Messenger World Championships. It's about the race, it's kind of about bragging rights, it's mostly about seeing the amazing community of messengers from all over the world, in one central place at least once a year. I always question whether I will be able to afford it, figure out the time off, and so on, but usually I have to make it a priority because I know it will be an unrivaled good time. This year's CMWC was in Melbourne, but I initially flew to Sydney and rode part of the way south for the pre-event. Rolling hills they told us, so 75% of the participants brought track bikes, myself included. It was tougher than I had thought with around 5600 meters of climbing. Yeah, the conversions got me too, but how ever calculated, it felt like a lot when trying to unfold my cramped joints from the tiny seat. We rolled to our Airbnb apartment in Collingwood where thankfully two buddies had already checked us in. We squeezed a few hours of sleep in, but still wanted to make the most of our Friday and I forced myself out of the very comfortable bed after 4 nights on the ground or upright. We had all forgot it was technically a holiday weekend, Good Friday and Easter, so while a lot of stores were shuttered, luckily the cafe below us was open with hot cross buns and coffee.
Coffee. Ask most people in Australia and even they will tell you it's weird. A short black, a flat white, what? When you utter, "Can't I just get an Americano?" you realize how annoying and US-centric that sounds. But, really, can I just have a little cream and a tiny more hot water? And don't order the $5 iced coffee either or you'll receive a milkshake-like concoction, or at least something with whipped cream on top. One of the most interesting parts of these events (for me) is when I suddenly reckon with cultural norms that I never even thought to question until faced with the dissimilarities while immersed somewhere else. Or moreso, when you realize that you and your norms are outliers to everyone else, all the Canadian and European and Japanese attendees (like you know, the metric system or health care). Alcohol is outrageously expensive in Australia, French Fries are chips, chips are chips, but crackers are biscuits, Vegemite is way too salty, it was Fall in April, and I was introduced to a sport I know affectionately as footy, that I never even knew existed. And in Australia I probably incurred the least culture shock of any other CMWCs I have attended.
But back to Friday: moving slow, we rode out to the Brunswick Velodrome and promptly missed the bike swap and caught the very beginning of the cyclocross race, the cx race I had been planning on racing in, whoops. It was a rad course set up on the in-field of the velodrome with spurts up the banks, and was really fun to watch. Following the cross race and a quick clean up was a handful of track races. Since I had not been able to jump in on cross, I convinced myself to race on an under-geared track bike and cut offs in the first 15 lap scratch. But when I came off with track hack and discouraging results, I proceeded to eat the provided free lunch and spectate the remainder of the races. We gathered for the annual group photo and stuck around for the start of the alleycat. I'm not a huge fan of out of town alleycats - you end up frustrated trying to look up addresses or just following a local, neither of which appealed to me. Instead, Allison, Megan, Dave and I banded together with a big Melbourne map and slowly did the first of two manifests (we only completed one) and set off on what turned out to be a great tour of Melbourne. First to the Melbourne Zoo (no animals spotted), followed by the City Museum, to a weird underpass in CBD and all the way down to the south wharf. We then stopped at the last checkpoint where the workers had already split, the Shrine of Remembrance. It is a beautiful WWI memorial and was pretty spectacular at sunset. We joined on with some locals for a cruise back to the finish where Gold Sprints were going down. We opted for vegan food at Lord of the Fries (really) and an early bedtime, still wiped from the ride and restless bus trip.
Saturday, and already time for the qualifiers. The week had flown by and the race crept up - I definitely was not in the correct head space. We arrived to the Docklands a half hour before they were supposed to begin, but as imagined, the course set up caused the start to be pushed back a couple hours. I was relieved - more time to ride and familiarize myself with the course. I was also swapping in another borrowed front wheel since my mine had been wrecked on the plane ride over and the borrowed wheel I was currently riding belonged to Sarah, who now wanted to ride her own bike and be able to return to Sydney with it (thanks Sarah and Andrew!). I knew that I wanted to be as familiar as possible since I dislike using the course map during the event - I feel like it has to be automatic by the time you race or you just keep second guessing yourself. But perceived extra time also means allowing yourself to wander off, start catching up with friends and all of a sudden, racers are lining up and I miss half of the information session. I wait for the first wave of racers to filter through and for the checkpoint workers to workout any kinks and then finally jumped in. 2 manifests: the first with 5 required runs and 3 optional 10 minute rushes. Both required physical packages to be picked up and delivered. A second manifest of pick up and deliveries to be completed at any time during the 90 minute time slot, solely stamps marking the completed run, racers are only allowed to pick up 2 items at each location. I start on the first manifest, trying to get the required's out of the way, while still filling in with the money runs off the second manifest. I make sure to deliver all my rushes on time, also paying attention to how long I clock traversing the whole course. I complete about 3/4s of the second manifest and clean up about 5 minutes early. I think I have done pretty well until I get off the course and realize riders were allowed to "pick up" and not drop, without a penalty. I definitely would have been a lot less conservative if I had known that, but paying attention to details is key, and I am more frustrated with myself for not fully knowing the rules. Still, I think I did well enough to advance, and in any case, it's done. I drink a cider and unwind while watching friends finish up with a view across the Docklands, which is a beautiful venue to have secured for the event.
On the walk over (it's a treat to excuse yourself from bike shoes and bags sometimes!), we saw the largest bats I never knew existed. Though I had seen one live wallaby the rest of my Australia wildlife exposure was mostly a lot of road kill on the ride down, so I was excited to finally see more. When we arrived to the afterparty, the track stand competition was going on but shortly turned into a dance party and we moved outside to watch the lunar eclipse. The lunar eclipse! Slow but amazing. Everyone seemed to hold back a bit on the partying waiting for the results to be posted, which showed themselves around 11pm and I realized I had placed 10th in the top 60 that qualified, phew! Time to get some sleep.
Main race finals were supposed to be held at 10am but were invariably delayed. Though the morning held gray skies, the rain held off through the weekend in spite of earlier forecasts. We laid out our bikes in the traditional le mans grid and all huddled back by the start tent amid nervous pre-race chatter. At the siren, I made my first mistake, running past my bike's grid position, duh. Similar format as the day prior, but with an added section of 5 minute rushes, available anytime during the 3 hour run, and the 10 minutes only available in specified 15 minute windows. I started on the required, sprinkling in jobs from the second manifest knowing that money priority did not really matter since I would definitely complete at least one of the long stamped manifests. I then made my second huge mistake by missing a rush window and was a little rattled finishing off my first manifest, making my third huge mistake of not dropping all my items to the Bombtrack pick up. The course was quite big, so while it was nice to avoid any bottlenecks, I was not consistently crossing paths with fellow racers which maintains that race aspect and the frenzied energy I thrive on, so I was stoked every time I arrived at a checkpoint full of friends hanging out and heckling. I could make jokes, yell a little, and hype myself back up, especially now since I had to circle back and do an extra lap I could have completely avoided. For the first half of the race, I kept telling myself how much time I had and then suddenly I picked up the 2nd big manifest, and felt like I had to cram. The beginning of the second stamped manifest felt great: I nailed the first run of big money makers, switching up the zones I had set up for myself. Towards the end of the 3 hour race time, I kept overestimating how long it would take me to ride places and ending up with not enough work. I ended about 3 minutes early while I watched so many other racer scurry around the course, a little jealous of their zealousness and confidence to take on those bigger runs. I was also frustrated with my rookie mistakes that I am usually quite good at avoiding. Still only once did I start to feel tired, which was quickly solved with some water and a quick snack, I felt like I had been consistent outside of those mistakes and worked through my last manifest quickly. Tired and unstressed with the race completed, we hung out at the course for a while after. Everyone was comparing stories of how their 3 hours went and what mistakes they might have made over $2 happy hour beers. As the cold set into our sweaty clothes, dreams of riding the ferris wheel were abandoned and we all dispersed in favor of showers and food.
We made a huge, overdue home cooked meal and arrived to the closing party around 10pm. Awards followed not too long after, and as the rest of the event, ran incredibly smoothly. After having helped organize CMWC in 2012, I know the effort and unpaid labor of love that is thrown behind these events. It was great to see another huge organizing body come together and clearly have made it a boon to their local community in the organizing process. They covered all the bases, from top Australians to prizing the track and cyclocross races. Finally the main race prizes and cheering madly for all my friends going on stage. Despite my mistakes, I was called up as first place female along side the men's champ, Austin Horse. While I had hoped to crack the top ten (I ended up 12th) I did not feel that I had ridden my best race, and could only be pleased with those results. It was a solid ending to an excellent week traversing the eastern Australian coast, totally flooding a nearby bar to drink cheap pitchers and discuss how well the event had gone. Despite having a couple more days in Melbourne after the event, there was so much I wish I could have seen in Melbourne and Sydney, hope there is a time in the future I can return!
I was also privileged enough to travel with two incredibly talented photographers who were also writing a story for the local paper, the Age. Here's an article the Chris Dilts and Chris Lee wrote about myself and Lewis leading up to and competing in the event.