First and foremost, I’d just like to thank Yehudah for coming to lend his hand as team soigneur and photographer extraordinaire. And also Sruli for sticking around for roughly 6 hours of watching races after his race was done.
And now, I shall report.
What I found interesting about this particular course was that it was in Harlem – smack-dab in the middle of Manhattan. Sure, there are races in Central Park every weekend, but that road was MADE for riding bikes on competitively, just as much as it was made for recreational riding. When the NYPD cordon off 4 corners in downtown Harlem (is that even a thing?), it’s more novel. For me at least.
Sruli raced first. Ivan and I assumed our positions in front of the 9-12 year olds with Thomas Eugene (2 first names) and paced the little dickenses to a 25 mph first lap. There were two laps. The second was slower, but still fast. It was easy to tell which kids belonged to Pros, 1’s and 2’s.
After Sruli’s race, the 5’s went off – Lainel won handily. Big shocker.
Our race began as any criterium does that lacks a neural lap. Blisteringly fast and excitingly dangerous. We barreled down the road out of the starting gate towards the first gate…where we promptly slammed on our brakes as nobody was ready for corner 1. Some of us managed to sail through, others didn’t.
We lasted a few laps before the danger of the race that was Corner 1 had claimed its first victim. An RBNY rider went down, with several others crashing in his wake.
As we came around, we were told to slow down for the first of what would be 5 neutral laps while the ambulance cleared the carnage from the course.
We circled around, tense, snippy, and snappy. We yelled at each other. We were yelled at. We advanced positions. We were told not to advance positions. We called each other names and were called names in return. Josh kept the hungry sharks at bay during this time.
Like I said, this continued for quite some time.
And then, out of nowhere, like a bat out of hell, we’re off! The ‘SLOW’ sign has been taken down and we’re being waved through. We sprint down the finishing straight…only to slam on the brakes once more for Corner 1. And then we sprint some more. Eventually, the speed equalizes.
At some point, I found myself following Malcolm’s wheel towards the front when a Foundation rider attacked.
Not wanting to be the fool who didn’t go with the Foundation rider, I latched onto his wheel and followed. We were about 20 feet up the course – nothing too spectacular – for a lap or so. As soon as we were reeled back in, Brendan Rigby launched a counter-attack which I should have had an answer to, but did not. Instead, I was absorbed by the field and rotated to the back where I stayed for the better part of 5 laps.
It should not have taken me as long as it did to get back into a comfortable rhythm. The race was not at such a blisteringly difficult pace…but it did. I’m going to have to address that.
I find my rhythm eventually, and begin moving up. Just as I do, crash number 2 rears its ugly head. In turn 3, the bike racer just in front of me (why are they always right in front of me?) hits a bump, loses traction mid turn and flips over his bars. As I watch this all unfold, a small puff of white smoke emits from his rear wheel as a deafening CRACK goes down. As the rider and his bike drift towards the right, I lock up my right wheel and open my knee to turn a little more sharply. Ivan chooses the outer corner, directly into the course of the downed rider. Chasing ensues.
My race was practically over at this point. There were 9 laps to go, but after my semblance of an attack and then chasing back onto the field, I was all but a non-contender for the sprint.
Which is why, with 2 to go, I chose the safe route. A rider dropped his Garmin computer. Rather than doing the normal thing and letting a bystander return the computer to the announcer or the neutral support, he slammed on his brakes going into turn 1. I chose the outside path around him…and promptly rode right into the barricades. Coming to a complete halt while sliding along them, somehow managing to keep my tires down, I was cheered back to a standing sprint.
I sprinted to make up the time I lost while introducing my forearm and bicycle to the barricade, but my effort was for naught.
By the time I brought the field back within striking distance, I thought the race was over…when really there was still one last lap. I gave another kick, but it didn’t matter anymore at that point. My race was over.
I came to Harlem to work for Ivan, as this was his most important race of the season. I later learned that his knee was giving him troubles and he was forced to pull out with 5 to go. That made me feel slightly better about not being around for a leadout. Andy Da Silva won, which is awesome, and Rovner took second – which is awesome too.
We stayed around and watched the Pro/1/2 race, where the Germans showed us how crit racing is won.