These were NOT the 3/4 state championships. They were the Masters championships, but there was a 3/4 open field. And so, a few of us decided to sign up.
Thanks to Jorge for the ride down (100 miles each way!) and to Juan and William for being good carpool buddies. Thanks to the Rojases for making the trip to support the team – you guys rock.
We had to leave Bergen County at around 5:15 to make the ~2 hour trip and get there in time for our race. William was in the 45+ masters and was taking off at 8:10. Juan, Jorge, Ivan and I? 8:20.
We pulled up at around 7:30 after getting very lost. We felt fine with about an hour’s time to get ready. We got our numbers and prepared our bikes, then rode over to the porta-potty. We got there around 7:45.
There was one potty. One potty for 4 races and a public park where people were playing soccer. As we waited on line and watched the minutes tick by, we cursed ourselves for not having changed before using the restroom.
I got in at 8:05, Juan right behind me. I flew in and out, couldn’t have been more than 90 seconds to handle my business, and then rode like the wind back to the car.
I fumbled with the pins, dropping some, bending others, as I was literally able to see the second of 4 fields lining up. I jammed my helmet on as I finish pinning up and see Juan and Jorge moving frantically too. Our field was lined up and we weren’t near ready.
“ELI! ELI! THEY’RE LEAVING, HURRY UP!!”
Frantically, Ivan’s father was running towards us. My tires probably held around 60 psi. My chamois cream was nowhere near my chamois nor my taint. My sunglasses still slept silently in their case. My garmin? Who knew where that thing was hiding.
I grabbed all the food I could, jammed my feet into my shoes, clipped in and made a break for Juan and Jorge, who were ready only mere seconds before me. With my gloves in my mouth, I screamed, “MAKE WAY, WE’RE LATE.”
We were 45 seconds late for our race. Later, we would find out that someone decided to switch the order, placing us as the 3rd race to go off, not fourth.
There were four of us in total chasing – Juan, Jorge and I representing Team Cosmic – Carve Systems and Aleksey Urusov of Death Row Velo/Driscoll. We worked together as best we could…yet it still took us 5.5 miles, roughly half of the first lap, to catch the field. I managed to close my shoes (velcro straps flapping about in the wind as I pedaled furiously) and throw my gloves on at some point…but I was missing most of my nutrition, my sunglasses, my computer, air in my tires…and the reason why I now have a 10mm saddle sore on the inside of my right thigh.
This was the first road race I was racing with other people for more than 20 minutes. I was on this course last year at the Cat 4 road race championships…but got there 3 minutes late then as well. I was motopaced for the first 20 mile lap, but after that, he gave up on me. Earlier this season, I tried for the second time at Giro de Cielo, but after our break missed a turn, that was it for my race. Which leaves us with the NJ State champs, 2013.
The course was basically flat. Each of the five 13 mile laps contained about 100 feet of climbing, in 2 VERY short, and not really steep inclines. There were 2 sharp right turns in each lap, bringing the field to a criterium-like standstill followed by a sprint coming out of each one.
Colavita showed up in full force with their 3 team, most of the same characters who I raced with on Tuesday night. They launched their duds from the get go in a series of flutters…which were immediately brought back by the anxious field. Sometimes in lap number 2…their tt specialist managed to slip away. And away he was.
While he was gone, Aleksey worked closely with a Cycles 54 rider (Mark Hamilton, I believe) to bridge up numerous times. I attacked once…but was brought back by a Colavita puppet quickly enough.
I remember at one point, the eventual second place winner and Colavita sprinter Dan Lehmann whispered to me, “If you go right now and take someone with you, I’ll open up a gap.” But that opportunity was lost as soon as it presented itself as racers swarmed around us.
I spent a lot of time at the front until Juan attacked. Confused, Jorge moved to the front and we blocked a little, but once he was brought back, Juan sunk like a brick to the back of the field and was almost dropped. Vinnie Cintron rotated up to let me know that Ivan was pushing Juan – Ivan, who was supposed to be doing nothing until the sprint.
I went to the back and made sure he stayed out of the wind and away from the back, as is likely to happen when you’re completely shot. Slowly but surely, we nursed Juanito back to full health and he almost looked as if he was fresh.
As we came through the feed zone beginning lap 4 (of 5), Ivan told me to move over – he’d be attempting to grab the musette from his father. He made an attempt, with me behind him in case he missed. He missed, but dropped the bag too. I tried to scrape my fingers along the ground, but my arm was too short. So much for food….
For 3 laps, 36 miles…we didn’t see the lone Colavita rider. And then, suddenly, he was there, lingering up the road. The police lead vehicle gave it away – personally, I wouldn’t have seen him otherwise. We brought him back as Jorge said to me, “look alive – a counter attack will come from one of the big teams.”
The big teams were: Caffeinated Cyclist, Breakaway, Colavita and us. I looked, and all I saw were feeble attempts, immediately brought back by Colavita or the rest of the field. We were within 20 miles and people were getting antsy. As we came around with 1 to go, Ivan’s father put his bag out again…and Ivan missed.
Luckily, I grabbed a poland spring from my bag in the confusion, and we passed it between Jorge, Ivan and myself. Otherwise, we were out of water and the day was just about 90*. The race plan was rapidly becomming: Keep Ivan fresh for the sprint.
With ~5 miles to go, everyone and his sprinter began vying for position. Ivan was glued to me and everywhere I looked, there were 2 man teams lined up. Coming out of the last corner, there was about 1 mile until the sprint and I knew that Colavita was going to keep the pace as high as they could. This meant Ivan needed to be on my wheel and we needed to be as close to the front as possible.
So we did. Coming out of that corner, Ivan was on my wheel. We weren’t far up enough, so I began to sprint. Just a little. Jorge was right in front of me, and the Caffeinated Cyclist train was moving up on his left. I chose the right and moved up along Jorge’s side. There was a truck parked in the shoulder and I swerved a little to avoid it, cautioning Rojas to do the same. We were moving up, still too far back, when POW!!
A rider went down a few wheels in front of me. I swerved left to avoid it, screaming for Ivan to do the same. I looked back…and all i saw were 2 Caffeinated Cyclist jerseys barreling towards me side by side. There were 400 meters to go and no time to think.
As my right leg began to cramp uncontrollably from the lack of nutrition, I put my head down and went. I was seated as I picked off rider after rider. The slight downhill on the finishing stretch allowed me the comfort of pushing a 53×12 with a cadence near 75-80, where I felt comfortable.
Whether Ivan somehow miraculously reappeared behind me or not, my focus remained the same – deliver Ivan to the top 10, have him sprint from there. Only now that he had pulled out at the crash, I was left alone to take eighth place in the sprint a wheel behind Sammy Moseley.
Jorge took 15th while Ivan and Juan soft-pedaled for 20th and 38th, respectively.
Thank you for the finish line video, Rojases.