This past Sunday marked my return to Central Park. Not being a member of the Century Road Club ASsociation (CRCA), our team wasn’t invited to the central park races that happen quite often. But the Lou Maltese Memorial was an open race, put on by CRCA (and Matthew Vandivort, most notably) and we were there.
Thank you to Josh Rosenbloom for hosting me this weekend – waking up 1.5 miles from registration makes the morning routine much less frantic.
Thank you to Yehudah for showing up with some awesome pictures – I didn’t realize you were coming.
To the Rojases and Koops for their support.
To my wonderful sponsors.
To Matt V. and CRCA for organizing the race.
There was a P123 and a 3 race, but the 123 was invitation only and I wasn’t invited which left me with just the 3 option. I got there in the dark and pinned up, in the dark. Ivan showed up, then the Bash Brothers. I pinned Skoop, pinned Brendan, then we were off, warming up. I rode about 6 miles before the race, which I thought would be sufficient warmup milage. I may have been wrong.
The day beforehand, I usually spend napping, resting with my legs high above my head, reading, relaxing – basically, off my feet. Being in the city however, my host insisted on the obligatory Central Park visit once lunch was over. Which kept me on my feet, walking, from about 4-7:30. I got to sleep as soon as I could, but I fear it wasn’t soon enough with a 3:45 wakeup.
The good thing about racing at 5:45 am is the lack of heat. Don’t get me wrong, the race heated up quickly enough, but when we began, it couldn’t have been warmer than 75*.
The race began at 79th street and was neutral until 90th street, Engineer’s gate. As soon as 90th street came up, Tomi (Eugene, of AG racing) came up on my right. I slid behind him. This was to be a 40 mile circuit race. To attack now, and attack often, seemed like the proper dose of pain to make a stronger, if not a successful racer in the process.
Tomi slid into the field in front of me as Stephan (Hoffman) moved up. I got on his wheel with the attention to open up a gap. Then came the sweeping downhill, by the pool. Being just at the front, we were able to open up a tiny gap. And then, at Harlem Hill, we were away. There were 5 of us. The teams represented in the break were Asphalt Green, Rockstar, Team Cosmic – Carve Systems, CycleLife (Stephen Chang’s team) and one more I forgot.
We came down the other side of Harlem Hill, lengthening our gap and charging for the rollers ahead known as “The Three Sisters”. Our pace was relentless and my power spikes were way above what I’ve done, even when training with the Bash Brothers. Looking at the numbers, I took 4 pulls in that group, every minute. Each time I pulled off, I had to sprint at 600 watts to get onto the back. That should have been smoother.
But it wasn’t. And so, I was dropped from the break after 8 minutes.
Once dropped, I looked over my shoulder. Nothing. Nobody was there. The break ramped the pace up really high, really quickly, dropping the field and, me. I rode solo for 8 minutes with my power between 200-400 remembering what Gavi told me: never give up in no man’s land, because you never know what may happen.
And it did. A chase group of 3 riders caught me and I latched onto the back. It was salvation. I was given another shot at what I was beginning to understand would be the winning move! But I didn’t learn my lesson, and alas. It was not meant to be. After trying to latch onto the back with 600 watt efforts after two pulls, I was dropped once more. I looked back, hoping my suffering would be short this time, and I saw Matthew Vandivort BARRELING towards me with 2 riders in tow.
This race was getting very interesting, very quickly. He picked up the chase group as I watched him continue the chase down the road to the initial break.
To hear Matthew tell it:
“I attacked solo shortly after the base of Harlem Hill. It took me until Tavern to bridge up to a group of two. Then I dragged those two to a group of three or so. And then it was a long chase to get to the lead group up the road. I was going pretty deep to get to the lead group, so its a bit hazy. To be honest I don’t even remember going by you – I was on a mission to get to the lead group as quickly as possible.
“I actually didn’t think we were going to survive initially – we dropped the Foundation rider and the AG rider pretty quickly, so I was concerned those guys would organize a big chase. And we were down to four riders in the break in no time, so it was an absolute sufferfeast.”
I rode around solo for about 15 minutes – maybe a lap or so – before I was absorbed. During this time, the disappointment began to set in really heavily – I realized that the field was taking so long to catch me. Not because I was so strong – I obviously wasn’t or I wouldn’t be in no man’s land. It was because the break was so far ahead, it would be difficult for them NOT to succeed.
But I was absorbed. By lap 3, I was reunited and the same happened to the majority of the break as it began to splinter.
I didn’t realize that up ahead, the break was beginning to splinter. I was trying to keep Foundation, AG and 6c riders off the front, telling everyone else there was a group of 12 up the road (that was what my frantic mind came up with).
As we came around once, I saw Jorge standing next to an ambulance. Juan had went down in the 4 field and was being bussed off to check for concussions and injuries and such. He absorbed most of the impact with his face and is currently recovering at home.
Once I was fully recovered, I went to the front to attempt to pull them back, or make any future moves, now that my legs were warmer (again, frazzled mind illogical racing tactics). But every time I found myself on the front about to pull off, there was a represented team sucking my wheel, doing their duty.
Being near the front whenever I was fresh (which wasn’t very often – the early break made it super tough to recover after even small efforts), I WAS able to get into a chase that developed with 3 Blue Ribbon riders, as well as a few others. We lasted about 2 minutes. I was allowed 2 minutes of excitement before accepting my fate as falling in as one of the sprinters.
With one to go, I began to focus on my positioning. I knew if I wanted a shot at winning the sprint (what I thought was 13th place), I would need to be top 10 or MAX 15 coming over Harlem Hill, courtesy of Race Tactics 101, by Professor Zachary “Skoop” Koop. I spun up Harlem Hill and was top 10, just as I had planned. On the downhill, Tomi Eugene came up past me with what I assumed was his sprinter in tow.
I like Tomi. I’ve raced with him before and knew his style a little. He’s predictable, so I chose his sprinter’s wheel. I followed it until I saw Juan Orlando Pimentel Jr.’s wheel a little further up. Riders were swarming on all sides, so I sidled in behind one and moved up. I was then on Juan’s wheel. Coming down the straightaway with about 600 meters to go, elbows banging into me, fingers grabbing at my bibs, shoulders upon shoulders knocking me into other racer’s shoulders, I decided it wasn’t worth it.
I lost Juan’s wheel and chose a safer, inside route, while still maintaining speed. Here’s a picture of the sprint finish.
I came in 25th, which is whatever. The day was upsetting, but a rude awakening to the fact that just because I’m now a 3 doesn’t mean I can suddenly compete with the 3’s. Time to get off my computer and back to my bike.