Grass Track: Living Dangerously

Who knew there were things to do in an unassuming grass field other than die of boredom watching 6 year-olds play soccer?

Tuesday’s “off the grid” grass track race was not on MCA schedule, which made it feel a little naughty and dangerous – like bootlegging, or maybe tearing the tag off your new mattress. I got my first taste of grass track racing at Kids of Mud, of all places, when kids and parents alike were treated to a series of short races on an oval track in a grass field. It was grass-tastic.

After a last minute trip to the bike shop to get some nubby cross tyres (Eurotrash for tires), I put on my FGBC race kit (which also makes me feel a little naughty) and pedalled over to the top secret track location, which was being carefully marked by the Dark Lord and the Grass Track Czar. I think a certain globetrotting librarian may have also been involved.

My race preparation included a few practice laps of the track, followed by letting half the air out of my tires – I mean tyres. On my road bike I keep my air pressure high, between 90 and 100 psi – high enough to decrease rolling resistance on hard pavement and explode dramatically when punctured. I thought I was living on the edge when I inflated my tyres to a paltry 55psi, a full 5 psi LESS than the range stamped on the sidewall.

I was mortified to learn that other racers were riding as low as 30 psi! Who ARE these people??? It was too late to turn back, so I timidly released most of the air from my tires and climbed back on my bike, fully expecting to roll right off the rubber onto the rims. Incredibly, the meagre amount of air supported the weight of me and my bike, and I sailed smoothly around the track on my mashed potato tires.

That odd look on my face is something between fear and scepticism.

The night’s festivities began with an individual time trial of the roughly 250 meter track. Once we were seeded according to our times, the real racing began. Grass track races aren’t like crits, they are more like fun and painful party games but without the playing cards and tequila. There are a series of short, intense races –  like 4 man team pursuits, and “Miss and Out”, the track race equivalent of musical chairs. There is a method to the madness. But there is also an equal amount of madness to the method.

And you thought cyclocrossers were anarchists.

Grass track racing is gritty and hard, just the way I like it, but certainly not the smash- up derby I expected. And anything goes in terms of bikes – cross, mountain, track, commuter, whatever. And there didn’t seem to be a dress code either, in fact I got my ass kicked by a guy in baggy shorts and a cotton shirt with buttons. Somebody (I’m not naming names J.P.) even stripped down and raced in their gitch. Yes sir, this is outlaw racing at its finest.

Word on the street is there is some grass track action coming soon to Portage la Prairie, spearheaded by none other than John Palmer, who was kicking your ass on a grass track before you were even born. If you are interested give this a read and talk to John. He’s The Man.

And check out our intrepid photographer Stefan’s photos here. They are much better than mine. Thanks Stefan, for sharing your great images, and for your continued valiant efforts to make us look way cooler than we really are.

Next race is August 30. Read all about it here. Mark it down.