5/30 Thursday Night Worlds (Rockleigh Criterium)

Cycling

The excitement was in the air – it was as palpable as the humidity which foretold an oncoming storm and lightning showers. My only instructions? Check the Rockleigh Crit’s facebook page at 1:00 to see if the race is still on. 1:00 comes: nothing. 1:30: still no decision. 2:00: “Race CANCELLED for Thursday 5/23. Sorry guys, but there does not look like a long enough break in the weather to get the races in.”

That was May 23rd, what was supposed to be the first night of Rockleigh. It looked like Rockleigh would be having a late start this year.

Thanks to Yehudah for coming out to take pictures, Aliza for her support, Zach and his family, Ivan’s family, Ivan for chasing down numerous attacks, Juan for launching a sick attack, Marcos for the support, motivation and help, Chris for distracting the field with his curious race tactics, Peter for doing his thing, blocking and motivating and just being there for moral support and RBNY for the leadout. You guys earned this podium spot more than I did.

Yitzy and I rode over in ~90* weather – the 10 mile warmup was perfect for me, but may have done Yitzy in prematurely. We got there just as the A Race was taking off which was perfect. We pinned up then went to sit with Skoop’s parents as we watched him masterfully break away with William. We watched Zach take the win by a quarter of a lap while William sprinted for second. Shawn did his job in the field very well, as did Zach’s teammates Brendan, Zack, et al. I felt like I knew more people in the A race than the B race – Mattie, Tomi, Brendan, Zack, Zach, William, Juan, Shawn, Willie…

Then we lined up and got ready to race in the not only the hottest race of the year, but the most grueling and body-melting heat 2013 had yet seen.

Lined up with Peter and Yitzy, we were hoping for some results tonight.

The race was given 2 neutral laps to warm up which was good considering we were racing in 200 degree weather. Celsius.

Marcos, Peter and I keeping the race honest in the warmup as the RBNY team does their best attempt at simulating a leadout in the neutrality of the beginning of the race. Stephen Chang in the background with some funky aerobars.

The race took off and I was feeling sluggish. I rode easy all week, so I’m not really sure why that was…but sluggish nonetheless. My only hope? To not let anyone realize it. I employed my usual tactic: Attack Now, Attack Often. In 18 laps, I attacked 10 times.

The spikes in red - my power curve - above 900, are attacks, as is evident by the accompanying spikes in green, my speed. You can count 12 before the final sprint.

The spikes in red – my power curve – above 900, are attacks, as is evident by the accompanying spikes in green, my speed. You can count 10 before the final sprint.

Nothing stuck. Nothing was sticking. Some attacks I was alone, some I was solo. Some I implemented, some others implemented. Most of them, I initiated, save for the one when Juan attacked. I was mostly alone, except for a few times when the Toga rider joined me, most memorably, amongst others.

This is Ivan. He blocked for me all night. i was unable to deliver until the end, however.

This was one of the breaks, I think. The man in first, Lainel, whom I’ve nicknamed Cool Runnings, used to be a Cat 1 in Jamaica, then he came to America. Now he’s a 4/5. The man behind me, Ernesto, was who’s wheel I got on for the sprint. The 4th man ended up taking 5th.

I’m not quite sure why Chang always looks like he’s hurting, but I miss his pink helmet. The Kissena rider in the lead here has a respectable amount of fitness and handling skills – I felt very comfortable cornering next to him, as opposed to some others.

One of several breaks that were brought back. The Toga rider was strong, and I thought this one would last.

A break.

The beginning of an attack.

I don’t know what to say. This was mid-race.

Attempting to split the field.

The race progressed with a lot of attacking and being brought back rather promptly. Nothing was sticking.

Juan goes. Peter yells, “GO ELI!” Marcos yells, “Up, Eli, UP!” We were caught half a lap later at the chicane on the back side.

At a certain point, I realized that in 90*, I would only be able to attack a certain amount of times before I had nothing left for the sprint – which was rapidly approaching. I got back in the sprint and found Lainel’s wheel. I knew that Cool Running was the race favorite on account of the fact that he won 5 of these races last year and took second in one, placing him in second place in the standings.

Cool Runnings, all the ay on the left, with me trying to make my way over to his wheel. Marcos behind me, yelling supportive things, feeling generally tired and cramp-filled.

As a quick aside, Stephen Chang has a fantastic pain face. I look forward to the day we breakaway together.

With 2 laps to go, Stephen Chang (see above) and his partner had a less-than-healthy lead. Cool Runnings takes off to get on their wheel, and I go with him.

Cool Runnings attacks. I follow.

Chasing glory. I mean Cool Runnings.

We catch Chang et al. and blow their semblance of a break apart. Cool Runnings slows down to recoup for the sprint. We’re within the final lap as I slow down with him. At some point in the beginning laps, I hit the backside now-demolished-speed-bump and popped a spoke. The nipple had been making noise the entire time, rattling around inside the rim, but somehow it only really bothered me in these last few minutes. I became intently attune to our surroundings and noticed that as we came out of turn 2 and entered the chicane, racers were approaching us on our left, then slowing down. Everyone was getting ready for the sprint.

Cool Runnings didn’t want to be the leadout and I didn’t want to be second wheel but I knew I needed to, as Zach Koop once told me, “suck the rubber off his wheel” in those final meters. Suddenly, as we came into turn 3, a train of 3 RBNY riders approached on the left at speed. I slid over and elbowed my way in over some Kissena racer. Cool Runnings was on his own and I saw his head flicking around as we rode past him.

Coming out of the last corner, the RBNY leadout man pulled off. Apparently, it wasn’t a well-practiced train, as the second and third rider pulled left with him. I was antsy. I knew Cool Runnings was behind me somewhere and I didn’t know where. Rather than pull off, I made a decision to wind up and go. I went. My legs coiled and uncoiled, pumping furiously as I sprinted far right while RBNY pulled left. I moved out of the way and immediately got up to speed. As I bumped around on the terrible asphalt, my nipple rattling around noisily in the rim, my chain hopped and hopped and hopped again. (Note to self: take 2 links out of the chain.)

Being set up as far right as I dared too, I was able to glance left and see what the field sprint was doing behind me. I did. I saw a Montecci and Montclair bakery rider coming up, but I was too far ahead. They couldn’t catch me. I looked back. I. Looked. Back. That was my first mistake that cost me the win. As The Hell of the East, Michael Zak, once said “Rule number 1. Never look back in a break. Head down until you’re absorbed.”

It’s true. Once I looked back, I sat down, content with my gap.Which would have been fine, if there actually wasn’t any room on my right. I didn’t see Cool Runnings back there, and it didn’t really concern me, though it should have. Cool Runnings came by on my right as I stood for the second sprint. But it was too late. I went too early, I looked back, and I didn’t have enough of a sprint in my legs to take the Cat 1 phenom Cool Runnings. I’ll get him next week.

Second place will have to do for now.

Second place last night, second place in the general classification.

Cool Runnings, passing on the right.

One more of the final meters. So close.

Cool Runnings, somehow not disqualified for riding across the line with his hands off the bars. He was an overly confident rider, being a Cat 1. He rode and sprinted all over the place and almost caused numerous crashes. The distance between 1 and 2 was a quarter of a bike length.

Joy and Exhaustion. One of us was suited to 90* weather, one wasn’t.

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