There are nine of us sharing the apartment including the team Director, six racers, a videographer and me. While technically a 2-bedroom, the flat is just barely larger than 400 square feet. Decorum demands that as the only female on the crew, I’m granted one of the bedrooms. That leaves eight men between two beds, a pull-out couch and a bit of floor space. Four of us arrived on Friday evening and the rest flew in later, landing at midnight and making their way to the flat around 1:30am. The early crew went to  bed well before the late shift touched down, partially because we were tired and partially because we wanted to claim the beds.

Words/Images: Heidi Swift

When I woke up the following morning, bodies of the late arrivers were draped haphazardly around the living room; Zack Allison asleep on the foam from his bike box, Michael Jasinski cocooned in a sleeping bag on the hardwood floor, Michael Jacques tangled in a comforter on the convertible sofa, the bronze and sinewy legs of his 6’ 5” body hanging partially off the end into the hallway. Their Director was asleep in the corridor, blocking the path to the only bathroom. His face little more than a foot away from the front wheel of a bicycle, feet nearly touching someone’s luggage.

There was no coffee in the apartment. There was no food. The light came in bars through the back window. The whole place smelled of men and bicycles. The situation was absurd which made it perfect. Someone cracked a joke and we all laughed. We brushed our teeth (or didn’t) and shuffled down into the dark shaft of the narrow stairway before spilling out onto the street. The sidewalk was under construction; a taped-off section of rubble with a temporary wooden plank laid across to enable safe passage. We meandered north on Avenue du Mont-Royal and discovered Kahwa Café. Salvation. Coffee.

Bike racers have a special sixth sense reserved for quickly identifying good coffee and free wifi. The place had both. We lingered over our cups. Ordered more than one. The owner, Anis, told the team that if they won the race they should come back in the evening and find him – he would open up the place and throw a party. He was warm and engaging, as we found most Montrealers to be. They lived up to the stereotype of Canadian over-politeness, but they did it in French which we found altogether disarming.

I would tell you about the bike race itself, but it doesn’t matter. You don’t fly all the way to Montreal to come back and talk about watts and attacks and counter-attacks and the fact that Kevin Mullervy told me that it was so fucking hard and fast he felt like he was bleeding from his eyes for half the race. I mean, all that stuff definitely counts, but the beauty of being a member a wonderfully-and-fully-sponsored amateur elite criterium racing team like Team Clif Bar is that you get to travel the world (or at least the continent), see incredible new places and meet people you would have otherwise never encountered.

So after the race we made good on that promise. We attended a party hosted by Le Club Espresso Bar, which is essentially the coolest coffee shop you can imagine mixed with the coolest bicycle repair shop you can imagine with a little sprinkling of the most awesome cycling retail space you have ever seen. The interior design is dialed, the pastries and espresso are world class and there’s a gigantic flatscreen hanging on the far wall piping in replays or live images of whatever last-best cycling race has occurred. The perfect launching pad for an evening of celebrating the team’s final official 2017 race together.

We followed the party with pints at the bar across the street from our apartment, where the bartender came to see us on the patio to tell us that it was going to be her birthday at midnight and she hates her fucking birthday but still we are required to come inside and help her celebrate when the clock strikes twelve. Celebrating turned out to be the lot of us standing around the bar with our mouths open and eager as baby birds while she walked atop the counter pouring whiskey down our throats.

From there we entered what-happens-in-Montreal-stays-in-Montreal territory, but I can share with you that sometime after 2am, the team ended up in what must be Montreal’s version of Denny’s – a fairly dodgy 24-hour diner located directly across from an A&W. Trust us to find the worst poutine in all of the Provence of Quebec. We ate it and were happy for it. We asked the server a question about the structure of the Canadian parliament and she raised her eyebrows and motioned for us to scoot over so she could sit down. What followed was a masterful dissection and analysis of both Canadian and U.S. politics (unsurprisingly her monologue on our current state of affairs could be classified as a dressing down). She sat with us for 25 minutes and we hung on every heavily-accented syllable of every last word.

We said goodbye to the Poli-Sci Server and walked through the last of the city’s twinkling nightlife. In the little apartment, a few of us tried to stay awake for two more hours which is when I needed to be awake to catch my flight. An all-nighter seemed appropriate. We discussed the practicality of tactical tomahawks among other normal man stuff.  The Director was asleep on the back patio and we wondered whether he would wake up soaking wet in the middle of a rainstorm, the way he had the night before. Someone offered to drive me to the airport in the morning.

Then we accidentally went to sleep. I left alone 90 minutes later in the dark, stepping carefully over the sleeping bodies as I went – all the brothers of this strange family curled into their previous slumber party positions, quiet as the imminent dawn.

The Director was still outside on the patio and it had not yet rained.