4/13 Manny Lopez Memorial Rahway River Crit

Sunday was yesterday. I raced the Manny Lopez Rahway Crit for the second year in a row. Following last year’s podium, I was hoping for a strong showing this year.

Thanks to Yehudah for coming out and for the great pictures, as per usual, and to Sruli and Benny for coming out to watch too. With the soigneurs ready to go, we loaded up the car and made the 35 minute drive to the park. Upon our arrival, we were met with a frightening scene – a neutral race and several ambulances and police cars, eventually culminating with a racer being medevaced by way of chopper. I can only hope that they’re alright, but heard no word of their condition.

Getting ready for the race, I saw some familiar faces in familiar kits. (Last year’s winner) Andy was there along with his teammates Konrad and Craig, Kuria would be racing, a couple of Juan’s 2NMR boys, Noonan and his gold specialized and a few of Ted’s HeartHouse teammates, to name a few. Oh, and Lehmann. He was someone to watch. Being in the right mindset, I was able to stay on top of the competition and keep a good headspace. After all, I did well here last year and knew the course.

Your Cat 3 field.

We made our way to the start line unceremoniously and took off, also without much ado. We rode around for a bit, until Lehmann took off quite early, as is his M.O. He was brought back, another group went off who were in turn brought back as well. As the pace lulled a bit and we accordianed, I used the opportunity to slingshot off the front and get some air time for the new jersey.

A half of a lap to stretch the legs and get the fire burning.

The race continued. Further attacks went, with each one being brought back. Dan went frequently.

I was at the front, off the front, in the back, chasing, dying, gasping, drinking, recovering and just rolling around with everyone else. (The new boys at) JLVelo were doing lots of the work chasing back breaks and I did my best to ruminate on the advice Tomi gave me earlier in the week: when a gap opens up in front of you, even the smallest gap, leave it be – do not close it.

But I was racing this for fitness, not for a result. So I closed them. I worked hard, not smart, and my legs threw every curse at me they could think of.

They finally threatened to shut down entirely, so I made my way to the front of the field, worrying it would be one of my last chances with a little zest left in my legs.

We pass the officials’ table. Lap cards are up: 5 to go. Too early. I pull wide and make my way to the back of the field. 4 to go. Still too early. I sit in the middle, doing nothing. Coasting. Drinking. Breathing. Riding easy. 3 to go. I move up.

3rd wheel. Too far up, too early. First wheel (JLVelo) pulls off and I with him. We rotate towards the middle. I hover around 8th wheel, exactly where I like to be. With 2 to go, Konrad takes off with Aleksey of 2NMR and they look dangerous. I watch from 7th wheel patiently waiting for one of the teams to close it down.

And then, they go. JLVelo comes up by on my left. 3 of them.

They’re moving, and I slide in right behind them. I don’t know who these guys are, but I figure we have the same colors so I might as well make the most of it. With 1 to go, they start to ramp things up. Alex Binkley starts the charge and begins sprinting once it becomes obvious that the Kissena/2NMR late-race-break is all but shut down.

Binkley pulls off just as we catch them, and Koster pulls through. He drags us up over the little hill and past the headwind…then pulls off. He leaves Mills out in the wind heading into the final turn, with roughly 600 meters to go out of the turn. Mills in first, me in second. I look around. We’re single file. Mills drills it and holds on tight.

In some corner of my mind, I know this is the moment I need to go. I know I can’t sprint, I know I have insufficient watts and I know if I hold on a second longer, I’m going to get swallowed up. But I hold on. Maybe to see what happens. Maybe I thought I could sprint. Maybe I’d never been second wheel heading into the sprint. Probably some combination of all of these.

With 300 to go, I hear something. Looking right, I see Craig starting up his sprint. I pull around Mills, but he pulls away. I begin moving my legs fast as Lehmann comes by on my left. Then DD. Sedlak. Raul…and Kuria’s teammate who I’d just met.

From 2nd to 11th. That, my friends, is how to determine you’re not a sprinter.

That is how the #professionallyamateur roll.