Casablanca 25 years ago Pt. 7

Days 2 through 10 of the never ending junior world trials began the next day… The next 10 days were hell. Each day I headed to the track for a new set of seemingly arbitrary evaluations, (though the first day Jamie didn’t show up.) Standing starts, flying 200’s, motorpaced 200’s, side-by-sides jumps from corner to corner, all head to head with Jamie, all potentially determining a trip to the world championships. Each day brought about another version of the trials. It quickly became clear to me that Jamie was unaware of his “shoe-in” position (if it were real). If Eddy and Craig had already chosen him, they didn’t bother to tell him, so each day we both showed up with something to win, and something to lose.

The worst part is that we often timed each other… For example, in motorcycle-led 200m sprints, Anje would ride the motorcycle and wind it up with one of us following and the other timing. Then after an appropriate rest, we’d switch places on the bike or with the watch – and Anje would write down the times in between.  

I felt good on the bike and felt I performed well, pulling up to the side of the motorcycle after significant accelerations, but my times were mid-tens (10.4, 10.5) – at least according to the watch Jamie was holding. 

When I timed Jamie, he performed well, 10.2, 10.3, so I asked Anje to pick it up in subsequent rounds.

He did so, but still, my times were slower… at least according to Jamie’s stopwatch.

Finally, Craig showed up, and Jamie and I both did a few more  traverses around the track. This time Craig had the watch. Jamie went first with a good time, and then I lined up behind Anje. He winked at me and said in his thick accent, “If you stay me, no matter what watch says, you are fastest.”  He lit it up on the motorbike and we accelerated through corner – tilting completely sideways and continued accelerating hard down the final straight and into the finish.

“10.2 Carney,” Craig said, “9.9 Coyle,” and Anje winked again. Craig also smiled at me after Carney sulked off. It seemed he wasn’t necessarily in Jamie’s corner either and was just following orders.

Finally, a week or so after the trials, the announcement came from Craig: “Coyle, Carney, you both qualify for the junior world championships.” Jamie and I were both immensely relieved and for a period our rivalry was subsumed by our relief.

Still my distrust of the coaches, the process, and the team underpinned the trip I had finally earned… and it showed up in the diary of my 17 year old self...

(On a lark, I decided to search for Jamie on the internet - now 25 years later. Since 1986, we've only met once - summer before last at the Downer's Grove Nationals. Jamie was super fit, but not racing. I had just finished the cat 2. race and come in third. We shook hands. He noted my finish. And then he started, "you know I retired last year, but decided to jump in a stage race up in the pacific Northwest a few weeks back - good money - and I ended up winning the whole thing!" Nothing had changed.

Here's a race from 2006 on the track - a "Keirin" that is led out by a motorcycle until 2 laps to go. If you start a around 3:00 in, you can see the carnage begin. Jamie is in 2nd and backs off the lead rider with 1 lap to go (looking, looking) and then accelerates, riding another up the track and then crashing him...a simple mistake? Then, after the finish Jamie gets cruely taken down for no reason after the finish by another rider... (slow-mo at 6:30)or, if you read the comments...or watch the father of the other rider at 6:51?) No.. nothing has changed.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YGnLDr6jRSI]

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Back to the diary: Casablanca 1986

My repechage was a 4-up, taking only the winner. In it was an Italian, French, and Australian. I started 4th (highest) and since you can’t go slow on the banking, I ended up 4th on the pole. On the back straight I jumped into 2nd behind the Australian. He led at a decent clip until 1 ½ to go when all of a sudden the French rider sailed to the front. If I would have realized he was going for it I would have jumped but I just thought he was going to the front – until I saw the gap he had. Instead I waited – cuz I thought he would sit up and the Australian would get on his wheel.

As it was, he got a gap and by the time I realized he was going for it, the Italian had gone around me.

I then jumped and by the corner was coming around the Aussy. He rode me up – for no reason really, then I passed him. The French and Italian riders were long gone. I caught but didn’t pass the Italian – bridging 50 feet to him on the last lap. The French rider won by 40 feet.

I was out.

I was really disappointed – I thought I was as fast as or faster than most of these riders – I just didn’t do it. The East German beat everyone in the 8th final by 2 bike lengths, finishing 5th overall. I had to settle for about 16th.

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Wednesday:

Today I got up at 12:00pm. I ate lunch then walked down to the beach. There were trillions of people there once again. Today is some funky holiday – the King’s 25th year of reigning or something. His palace, or one of them, is near our hotel. I then ate lunch, then read, then went to the track. The East German who barely beat me won his first ride against a Russian, then lost his second, then won the third. In the third ride, he led it out and the Russian didn’t come nearly as close as I did to winning. I should be in the top 8 at least. The East German is now top 4!

 

After the races I ate dinner, then went out to the rocks then started writing.

Oh, yesterday, Craig took us all out to eat at the Hyatt Regency. It is the nicest hotel I have ever been in. The floors are all highly polished black marble, and everything was lavish and highly decorated. It was like a palace. I had a shrimp/lobster crab salad, a “Copacabana”, and a sirloin steak. For the finale it was a banana split – the only ice cream I’ve had since I’ve been here. It was great.

Thursday:

Today I got up at 11:30. I took a shower and ate lunch. For the appetizer they had 5 fish. Head, fins, eyes, everything but scales. I picked at it for awhile. It tasted OK, but it wasn’t worth the effort to pick the meat off the bones.

Anyways, after this I went with Anje and Craig and Yuri to the bazaar. Anje wanted a leather jacket like mine. We searched 6 leather stores – but not one had one like it – even the place I bought it from. It was the best one – and I got it. Anje bought another one instead – for $50 – cheap. It is nice but not like mine.

I tried to trade my Levis, but even with them the first two shops wanted 600 Durhams and my jeans. So we left. Back at the hotel I got ready for a ride, but discovered that I didn’t have any wheels. I found my front wheel  - it was on Stefans’ bike. My rear was nowhere to be seen.

So I finally borrowed Clark’s wheel. But it really bugged me that they would take my stuff without asking. I rode hard, doing the road course twice, but extending it down the coast – past the city to the other side. I went fast and when I was finally almost finished, I got a flat – a mile from the hotel. Since it wasn’t my wheel, I took off my shoes and carried it back to the hotel. The sidewall had blown out.

It made me mad because my tires would have been just fine. I later found out that Aaron took it. He bugs me – he is always negative. He is almost exactly like Carney – sometimes worse – always bragging about something and telling you how bad he’s going to beat you. Definitely just like Carney.

This girl Lisa the the OTC was telling me that she was in the Sports Med. Building the day after the World Team Trials and that Carney was in there, and that he had just had them test him for an iron deficiency, mono, and a couple things including anemia. He just had to have an excuse for me beating him at trials. She said he didn’t believe it when the tests came back negative and that he wanted to be tested again.

Anyways, the sprint finals were tonight – I was stranded here at the hotel with a flat and no wheel, but I heard about them.

For the 5-8 final there was 2 Russians- including last year’s world champion (I guess the drugs wore off) a Japanese racer, and an East German I rode against. The East German won, Japan 2nd, and the Russians 7th and 8th. I should have been in there! Third and 4th was between a French rider and an East German. The East German won both rides.

For first and second it was the really fast French rider (11.23) and the Russian Kilo World Champion – he was in position to win two world titles in 2 days! In the first race, the Russian led it out, then rode the Frenchman up – but he still came around and won. In the second ride, the Frenchman led it out and the Russian came around him!

They must have been so tense for the final ride. The Russian led on the pole, and the French rider sat back 5 bike lengths, almost taunting him to Kilo him. So he did – with 1 ½ laps to go he took off. It seemed clear that this was his favorite place to go because he could accelerate that long.

The Frenchmen jumped, but he didn’t close. With ½ lap to go, he was gaining quickly now, but still far back. He was three lengths back there, but caught him near the end of the corner. He then came around and passed the Russian by less than 2 inches. I guess it was pretty awesome. The 200m time – even after 1 ½ laps of sprinting – 11.5 – incredible.

Dinner was lame lamb so we decided to hop over to an Italian restaurant the Kirkbrides had discovered. It was awesome. I had lasagna and a stuffed Calzone and chocolate ice cream. Scott, Stef and an I then went out on the rocks but I got soaked walking out. I stepped in a hole while wading with my pants rolled up, and found myself up to my waist. That’s all that happened today. I miss Stacie. I haven’t gotten her a souvenir yet either.

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Next up - final diary entry from the 1986 Junior World Championship in Casablanca , Morocco, and an evaluation of the Moroccan society, income, and classes.

Casablanca - 25 years ago Vol 3: The Perfect Race Pt. 1

Northern Africa - dreams of wind, sand and stars. After the failed junior camp and the alienation I felt from the team and other riders, my thoughts in between began to fill with the idea of Casablanca, Morocco. Like the call of the muezzin I could feel what it might feel like to race my bike in the land of the sun and souk, the Fez, of blue eyed Berbers with engraved faces and crisp white cloth.  Months later, my chance to prove out Ed’s challenge and travel to Africa presented itself: the Junior World Team Trials. Colorado Springs: The sun was white hot in a metallic blue sky and just beginning to angle west, etching a crisp web of the lattice of my spokes onto the shimmering concrete. My hands were shaky on the bars of my red Serotta “Murray” bike and my stomach was a cavern of nausea.

My coach wheeled me to the line first – high up on the apron of the track. Jamie rolled up beside me, but instead of parking 10 or even 5 feet away on the 20 foot wide track, his handler pushed him so close that our forearms were touching. He leaned in, jostling with each word, “Whatcha got Coyle? “Whatcha got?” He laughed. “You’re going down – down – down.”

I ignored him and waited for the starter. “Toreador, “Attencione, “Go!” We were off. Vibrating with energy, we tuned the strings of our fast twitch muscles and eased off the line, looking at each other, twitching.

The “match sprint” event on the track is a 2 man showdown. Time matters for nothing and there are few rules – contact is permissible and the first man across the line wins. Three laps and one kilometer long, the dynamics of the race and the qualities of aerodynamics find equilibrium at a magic set point at around 200 meters to go. Should a racer start a sprint much prior to 200 meters (about 10 seconds at 40mph) then the competing racer can use the cover of the “draft” or reduced wind resistance in the wake of the lead rider to slingshot around prior to the finish line. Should the lead rider wait to start a sprint too far past the 200 meter mark, then the first man to “jump” or accelerate has the advantage – and the following rider has the advantage due to lack of visibility of his actions. A human on a bike can accelerate for 7 or 8 seconds before faltering – the first rider to jump with even a minor advantage after the 200 meter mark is able to accelerate through the stall point that might otherwise enable a chasing rider to accelerate past.

These subtle elements of position, timing and advantage filter backward into the first 800 meters of the race, and the “cat and mouse” game often starts right from the start line. “Track stands” – moments (or even minutes) where both racers come to a complete stop and balance without moving to avoid being the in the slightly disadvantaged forward position are common.

The starter shot the gun, blue smoke fading into the metallic sky and Jamie and I slinked forward. I was face forward, all muscles relaxed yet on full alert. Jamie rode below me with his head cockily angled at 90 degrees to our progress, taunting. 10 feet, 20 feet, 50 feet, we progressed at 5 mph.

Without warning he leapt up from the saddle – and I matched instantly – but without forward progression – a fake. Just as suddenly he sat down, and even as I matched, he steered upward, and rammed my front wheel at 6mph.

On the slippery embankment, both tires lost contact, and we both slid out and skittered to the bottom of the rack, bikes entangled. “That’s it Coyle? That’s all you got?” He continued to barb as we loosened our straps and exited our bikes.

I quietly returned to the line and mounted my bike. Seconds later he materialized, lining up even closer so that this time his elbow could touch my abdomen and our handlebars were touching. “Welcome to my track Coyle – MY Track! You are going down again, and again and again…”

The starter raised his pistol…

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Back to the Journal:

Friday:

Couldn’t sleep last night – did much today. Got up at 9:30 and ate a light breakfast – hard boiled egg, croissant, French bread.  After breakfast I was about to go for a ride when Scott and I decided to go to the bazaar. We went to the bank first where I exchanged $80 into 720.80 durhams – their money is similar to Canadian except the bills are a trifle shorter and wider. Each bill has the picture of the president. Exchange is $1 = 9.1 durhams.

We then saw the bus right outside, so we ran and caught it. It took us north into downtown past the main street I rode down, to the market. At first it was very similar to Tijuana where haggling is concerned.  It is just trillions of small shops selling everything – food, spices, clothing shoes, appliances, utilities – everything. It had a distinctly foreign smell of mingled food, leather, sweat and refuse.

We walked down the crowded cobblestone streets about 10 feet wide. At first we couldn’t find anything but women’s clothing (I should have shopped for a Caskan but I didn’t). We walked for about 30 minutes through shops full of brightly colored women’s clothing until we finally turned around and went through and alley and back the way we came. The alley was behind the shops and we discovered that there actually people living in these horribly run-down buildings – all of which would have been condemned in America.

We finally found the men’s stores. Curious I walked into a leather store – just to look – but the storeowner wanted me to do more than that – he had me trying on jackets like a tornado. All of the jackets were very nice and of the finest quality. One in particular caught my eye – it was the finest in the shop to me, and the owner quickly affirmed that opinion – though he might have said that about any one of them I’m sure.

Anyway, this one was not a motorcycle type jacket – although black, it was very dressy, “Straight from Paris,” said the owner. It looked really cool as he tried it on me, zipping it up and doing the belt as well. I then took it off and asked Scott if he liked it. He said he did, but then I started looking around. The shopkeeper would grab anything I looked at and try to put it on me. I had Scott put a stop to this nonsense – every time I looked at something I would tell Scott and then he would explain that I didn’t like it.

The Arab protested loudly in French and broken English, but at least he stopped putting them on me. The one jacket I had admired was the only like it in the store – it was the best one and th shopkeeper knew it. We found out when we priced the two I had narrowed it down to. The one I really liked? “1700 durhams, but I give it to you for 1200”.

That was too much, so Scott haggled with him for a while on the other one, - very much like my friend Bill’s jacket. In a short while we had it down to 450 durhams from 900 so I knew I could the other one cheap. I wanted the other one so Scott went at it.

He started yelling “500” in French while the Arab yelled “1100!”. This continued and the volume escalated. Scott anchored at 500 and the Arab moved to 1000, then 900, 850, and then 800. We got stuck at 800 – he wouldn’t go any lower – so we headed out.

He literally yanked me back in, put the jacket back on me, zipped it up, and then put a mirror in front of me. “For you, 750 durham…” but Scott refused, saying “impossible” and jabbering away even louder in French. He was literally shouting “550! 550!” and the shopkeeper was shaking his head shouting even louder “700!” even as he was wrapping it up. Once again we started to leave.

The owner relented.. “650!” he yelled. Unimpressed, Scott yelled, “600!” (this was all in French). Finally after another 10 minutes of haggling we got him to 630 durhams. At this point with a nudge from Scott I opened my wallet and handed him 620 durhams – he counted and then demanded the other 10. He almost gave it all back rather than sell so low, but he gave in and handed me the jacket – 620 durhams - $68.80 – for the finest leather worth well over 200. It was odd, but everyone seemed pleased that it was a hard fought battle. Me - for the jacket, Scott for his mastery of French and haggling, and the shopkeeper for… a real foe?

I also bought another jacket – gray Denim – for 160 durhams – we could have gotten it cheaper, but we had to get back – we had spent 60 minutes in the leather store. I had to borrow 60 durhams from Scott to do this. It was so much fun shopping there – I’m going to buy some nice shoes next time I’m there. We finally left because Scott had a team time trial practice as 2pm. We found a man who spoke English on the way out and he found us a taxi and haggled it down to 15 durhams for a 5 mile trip for 2 – that’s $1.50 – cheap. The bus was only 2 durhams – 22 cents, but they were so crowded with assuredly smelly people we decided to take the taxi.

Everyone like my jacket and they all want to go there. When I go back I may buy some leather pants for the heck of it.

After returning, I went for a ride. I rode to the track – to make sure I knew how to find it – then I decided to take the scenic route back to the coast. I headed back toward the poor section (slums) to see what they were like – BIG MISTAKE!  The homes were made out of sheet metal (corrugated) or rocks – they were terrible. I was following a pretty big road and there were black fires burning everywhere and it was getting harder and harder to see any distance in front of me.

When I turned a corner, the road dead ended into a huge garbage dump maybe 4 stories high. It smelled awful, but what was the worst were the adults and children scrambling over the top “fresh” layer looking for food – it was pitiful and it made me sick. I knew I shouldn’t be there in all my cleanliness and expensive bike and so I turned around and cruised out of there because people were starting to yell and it didn’t sound nice. I trucked out of there and turned towards the coast. (Mistake #2 – I should have turned and gone back the way I came)

It was more slums with more dead ends. I was getting pretty scared because I didn’t see one kind face and I was turning around and around at every other street because they kept dead ending and the roads kept getting dirtier, narrower and rougher as did the people. Finally I saw an alley that served as a tunnel to the main street by the coast so I sprinted down it as shouts rang all around and behind me. I think some men were following me and had cut me off – there were 7 or 8 men in their late teens sitting outside their slum that I swear I had seen before. Fortunately I was almost past them before they saw me – who knows where I would be now if they had – but as it was, when I was 100 feet past them, a brick thrown at high velocity struck the ground next to me and the shattered pieces skittered forward under my tires and bounced, tinking, off my frame.

After that I time-trialed like crazy for the next mile on the bigger road because still the people didn’t like to see a beach boy like me invading their slum. But I had made it to the coast, only to be cheered by the more satisfied people of this huge crazy city. (Jamie was also attacked and a big dent in his camera showed what saved him from a brick…)

I made it back just in time to leave for the opening ceremonies which were held at the velodrome. I will explain these later – goodnight!