July 10th, my Italian teammates and I met again at Malpensa Airport in Milan. This time we were bound for California. Eighteen hours later we landed, and were greeted by the Crit Queen of Los Angeles, Kelli Samuelson. There are so many cars in LA. It took a little over an hour to get to the city. Car parked, bikes assembled, and we were finally riding with the warm L.A. air in our lungs.
The next day, the team was completed when Alfred hit the City of Angels. Finally Team Cinelli Chrome was at full force and the partying could begin. There’s no better cured for tight legs and nervous minds than an afternoon of team training followed but a few beers. The good people at Wolfpack put on a party for all the crit riders. As usual the party was stocked with the same kind of anti-hate, pro-rad people we’ve come to expect from the fixed crit community. They’re just genuinely good people. We met up with old friends, made some new ones, and chilled hard like native Californians.
The day of the race, we set up the Cinelli Chrome basecamp in front of the Civic Center in downtown L.A. along with all the other teams and their crews. I love these pop-up tent towns and all the beautiful comings and goings of friends, fans, and the curious. It was hot, not Puerto Rico hot, but hot. The track was compact. Really compact, like one block by half a block with two hairpins, and an incline at the finish.
Qualification time came, and as always, Kelli was the first to get on the track. She does not disappoint and finished in the front row ready to pedal hard for the race. Then it was the guys’ turn. We worked as a team to win the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 18th place on the grid. Post-hot lap, there was just a moment of chilling to recuperate, but as soon as the light faded, the battle began.
On the starting line, the adrenaline kicked in and didn’t stop until we started pedaling. It was fast right from the start. There were so many collisions in the hairpins, which meant riders were continuously falling or escaping in every turn. Alessandro and I won three of the five milestones of the race, but of course Team Cinelli Chrome wouldn’t be satisfied with this. The last three laps were crazy. Legs were beginning to show fatigue, and a fall took out the two riders at the head of the group. Our man Alfred touched my rear wheel and we ended up on the ground. Luckily only a big bang and some scrapes. The last mile flew by and suddenly we were at the finish line with 7th, 11th, 12th, and 17th places. There were plenty of sweaty hugs and grins.
At the podium there were dollars, champagne, and of course, dog tags. Kelli took home 3rd place in the women’s fixed. Jesus also made an appearance and gave Team Cinelli Chrome his blessing. LA is weird. We like it. After the last high-five was given, each team tore down the pop-up basecamp, returned to their bikes, and rode home through the hot streets of L.A.
Final Standings and sprints: http://wolfpackhustle.com/.
Contributed by Paolo Bravini