Brakes are Overrated
Slash isn't just a company, it's a little universe, and part of our universe is Kingdom, a bike and lifestyle company started from inside Slash.
Kingdom doesn't just make damn sexy bikes, it racers them as well. Here's Andre - designer at Slash & founder of Kingdom - running you through what it's like to lock your feet to the pedals of a bike with no brakes and hurtle around a track with 80 other people.
My cleats are too tight, I’m gonna lose time on the start. Over-spun during qualifying; should I change gears? The bib-number was making a little noise in the wind, should I re-pin it? Because you know, aero… *Announcer* “Row 8, #44, Andre Abreu”.
Why are my hands shaking? Who cares, I don’t need them to ride anyway. Wait, I’m wearing gloves, it’s too hot for that. I’m taking them back to my backpack. Is this my starting grid spot? Should my pedal be a little higher? I feel like maybe I could put a little more power into it that way… Why did a dude just sneak into my left? I worked hard for this spot, can you please not cheat? Thank you.
I’m thirsty, should I have drank more water? I feel like my right shoe’s too tight. Is the GoPro on? Can’t see with these ridiculously dark sunglasses. Garmin on? Not making that mistake again, ‘cause if it’s not on Strava… didn’t happen. 10… 9… 8… 7… Tighten the left shoe a little bit to make it even! 5, 4, 3, 2, 1… Doesn’t matter now. *Announcer* “Go!”
We traveled west, and thanks to the Dubai - London mission my brain is a couple of hours ahead of local time. Once I got my race socks and slides at Rapha and got fed, falling asleep early was easy.
Breakfast at 7am, didn’t even need an alarm. It seems early but for some reason, the race’s organization is up and I know that because they messaged me on Instagram. Wait, why is the organization messaging me? Apparently, they saw our post last night and thought I was too fast for the group B qualifying based on that… I’m OK with that, it basically means I race the A qualifying and am automatically qualified for the final.
The nerves went down a bit, now the goals went from having to qualify and not getting lapped in the Final to staying safe in the qualification and not getting lapped in the Final. It’s still 7 hours away though.
Suddenly we’re at the race course. Qualifying is in less than an hour. So much for relaxing after the warm-up. Meh, Qualification is only 5 laps long anyway, that should take like 6-7 minutes, plenty of time to chill after that. I think I’m ready… Should I get pinned now or after warming up? You know what, why not just be ready to race now so I don’t have to worry about anything before the start? Good idea. It seems no one knows if we’re using the starting grid for qualifying or not. Honestly I hope not because I’m #44 which means I’d start last… We’re not! Cool, I’m starting first now, watch me. Now I have no reason to be nervous and I’m as fresh as it gets, this is going to be fun.
I know there are no primes (mid-race prizes) but is it just me or are we going pretty slow?… *Taps a button on the Garmin (bicycle computer), looks at screen* “Average speed: 45km/h”. I guess training’s worked. But don’t get excited, this is not the main race, just focus on staying safe. How does one say safe? stay in the top 15-20 guys of the race. Easy, I’ll even take a couple of pulls. Nope, not gonna do that, plenty of full-roster teams out here to do the work and I still have a bunch of races to do, chill. 1, 2, 3, 4. I counted 4, next time though the finish line should be the end of it. I’m gonna move up because what the heck, might as well get a good starting position for the Final. Wow, I was definitely in the Top 5. Wait, why is everyone still going fast? Wasn’t it only 5 laps? *Bell is ringing in the back. That means one lap to go*
I guess we’re doing 6 laps now, oh well. Get back in the group, save energy. Try not to get dropped from the front on the finish straight.
I didn’t expect this but it wasn’t super hard. Feeling good for the final.
Oh my, there’s still 2 hours to go? I’m way too excited to wait! Ladies qualifying starts… B Final goes… Ladies Final starts. 15 laps? Well that’s gonna take a while, I need to warm up though! OBVIOUSLY I didn’t bring a roller (thingie you can ride your bike on top of) on the airplane. They better let us warm up before the race. Am I ready though? I spun out a bunch of times during the Qualifying, assuming the Final is going to be faster, I could use a bigger gear. But then are the corners and hills going to be too hard? Huge decision to make. Let’s ask the people of Instagram what they think. It’s taking too long, I’m chaining gears. The people need the speed!! As soon as the first of these ladies finishes, I’m jumping on the course, I don’t care. I’m on the course. 1 lap, 2 laps, 3 laps… Well, we’re obviously not starting on time… Cool, I’ll keep warming up. 4 laps, 5 laps, 6 laps… are we ever starting this thing? I’m pretty warm now. Red flag. It’s on.
Both feet are in. Sweet! Look down and push! Push! Push! Push! Nice, Top 5 in the start. Now chill in here, you have no reason to do work for these guys, all of them have teammates. A couple of laps in and I find myself at the front. I pull aside. German guy starts yelling at me “10 second pulls!” I don’t like to be rude during races but the hell with that, I’m racing for myself, why the heck would I help you?? Whatever, I’m gonna hide mid-pack. *Riders start passing me* Well this is nice, we’re going 44km/h, it’s half way and I feel good! Wait. This pack is huge, I forgot we were almost 80 guys. How the heck am I going to go back to the front?? Great job you idiot, now you’re neither safe nor in a good place. Well I’m definitely not going to move up being in the middle of the group. *Moves left* hopefully a hole will open here. *A whole lap goes by* Nope.
*Moves right* We’re trying this side now, not much time left so this better work. *Lap is finishing* Everyone is moving left to get away from the wind, this is my window. Out of the saddle. Head down. Push! Push! Push!
Top5 again. 3 laps to go.
That was a big effort but there’s more where that came from. *Attack goes off* I just got here! Can you please chill for a minute?? I guess not. Well I’m not going after those guys, someone else better do the work… Getting pretty mad at these British teams now. They don’t have anyone in the break and aren’t doing any work. The solo Portuguese dude has to go there. Whatever.
Alright, let’s break this down. There are just under 3 laps to go and we’re about to catch the attack that just went off. That means that there’s only the downhill part of the lap to go followed by two more laps. Because a lot of people are under geared, attacks are going off on the downhill. I prepared for this but I just caught the break on an uphill, you SOBs better get in there. Nope, we’re letting a group of about 15 guys go. Great, I hate you all (but not really, it’s all love here). Anyway, next downhill comes around and I’m taking a few guys with me.
10 or so of us have the front group in sight with one lap to go. Alright, I’ll help. Good choice on the bigger gear. It’s downhill and I’m going for it.
There’s a dude on my wheel, there’s one corner left to the finish straight and we’re a couple of meters behind the last guy of the front group. You’re done, next! Oh, my little friend’s going for it! Well, I’m not staying behind either. Two guys down. Why are these idiots giving up before the finish line?? 3 guys down. That’s it, I’m sprinting now, every spot counts. 4 guys down and I stretchhhhhh! Photo finish to for the 11th place. Job done.
Got my 10 points towards the World Championship qualification, exceeded my expectations and we’re off to the Nederlands for Draai V/D Kaai in 2 days. The field’s going to be stronger but now I know what I’m capable of now.
It’s going down.