Sunday came and went. People raced their bikes in a few different places. With Yehudah overseas and MIA, I decided to stay local and try my hand in Central Park.
Central Park has always been an interesting location to me. Not being a racing member of CRCA, my experience has really consisted of a handful of Spring Series races in 2012 and the odd Lou Maltese sprinkled in like paprika in an already tasty chicken dish. I liked the park.
And so, with my alarm set for 4:30 the following morning, I went to sleep, my head filled with dreams of grandiose solo-flyers and the like.
When I arrived, I was still unsure whether I would be registering for the 1/2/3 or the 3/4. I knew that I needed the training the 1/2/3 would give me, but my only friend there was Big Willie, where the 3/4 field had my teammate Andrej and Noah, who had hinted (in plain terms) at wanting my help.
3/4 it was.
The race took off fast. Really fast. By the time we crested Harlem Hill that first lap, the beginning of my doubts were already creeping in. Looking down at my Garmin, it read an average speed of 26 mph. That didn’t sound right, and it felt even more wrong.
I’ve noticed that as I started racing with the 4’s last year, the 5’s felt comparatively slow, dangerous and overall jumpy. As in, every move was the winning break, and everyone needed to be in it. When I moved to the 3’s at the end of last year, I made similar observations about the 4’s. Now, having raced with the 1/2/3’s a little, I can say that the 3/4’s were akin to my sentiments towards the 5’s.
Attacks went, and the field chased. Over. And over. And over. With fire in my legs, it was all I could do to stay towards the top 25% of the field. I had very little fitness, and even less of a desire to survive the race, just to be crashed out at the end, as I’m told these park races often finish.
Suddenly, up the road, we see a field. The C race, I assume, being neutralized as we pass them. I glance to my right. Weather Channel. Mengoni. Rapha. “I didn’t know Mengoni had a Cat 5,” I remarked to my fellow competitors. Someone responded, “they don’t. That’s the A field.” Sure enough, a look down at my Garmin confirmed that we were still averaging 26 mph, 2 laps in, despite the various parcours and undulations in the road.
Audibly, I quoted Tim Krabbé, in what I thought was a particularly well-worded bit of writing on his part.
“‘These guys probably think bicycle racing is about going fast.’ Why don’t we slow down a bit, y’all?” Which was met with a fresh attack, by someone else with fresh legs. Head down, I chased, getting really tired of this nonsense.
As we reached the base of Harlem Hill that second lap, a Foundation rider went on the right side. I remembered the reason I was in that race – to unearth the mystery of Foundation’s continued success in the 3/4 field – and grasped the opportunity. Feeling OK, I made to occupy the pocket in the field just in front of me. If I could get there, there were only 2 rows of racers, which by my estimations, would open up slightly as the climb began…allowing me to slide right through. “Thread the needle,” as my good friend Michael Zak would say.
My head wasn’t in the right place though, and neither was my fitness. As I stood on the pedals, a BH rider slightly to my left-and-in-front of me decided to slide right. The bump was an issue for me. I’ve been bumped before plenty of times and have done my own fair share of bumping, but for some reason, this one caught me completely off guard. Being forced to sit back down and reconsider my move, I suddenly found myself overgeared as the field swarmed around me.
It was all I could do to hold onto the back of the field. By the first of the three sisters, I was done. I rolled in unceremoniously to watch Stephan win the A race with class, and chat with some of the other wannabe racers. Noah ended up taking 8th in our race, while Andrej did his best to avoid the inevitable pileup.
Spring is for training, Spring is for getting strong.
Spring is for the #professionallyamateur.