On Sunday, Yehudah and I made the trip down to Marlton for this year’s BLP race. The plan for the day changed a few times leading up to Sunday and this is how I ended up:
Ted’s team, Hobbie Corrigan & Bertucio P.C. formerly known as Heart House CadV, was putting on the event. Ted asked if I would be interested in representing them in the 1/2/3 race as a guest rider. Having very little fitness and even less skill, I considered it an honor and obliged, gladly.
Leading up to the race, however, it became more and more apparent that Ted hadn’t gotten the OK from his manager, which meant I may or may not be racing with his team. No big deal.
We arrived, I signed up for the 3 after already pre-reg’ing for the 1/2/3, thinking I was racing for Chimps and Chimps alone. As with any day I double-dip, my plan was to ride for as best a result I could in the 3’s and then as aggressively as possible in the 1/2/3’s, which is to say sitting in and hoping I don’t get shelled in the first 5 minutes.
We got to the line and I saw some familiar faces. Sedlak was there. JLVelo too. The bigger teams seemed to be Pro Pedals and PSRacing. I say bigger because they weren’t exactly “well represented” per sé, but they had a slightly larger presence than the plethora of other teams. John psyches me up. I psyche him up. And we’re off.
Racing for a good result, in this race, meant sitting in and waiting for the perfect move. But 3 laps in, we brought back one of the early-race breaks and the field accordion’ed, engaging a slingshot where I rocketed off the front. Trust me. I looked like one and was going that fast too. A half of a lap later, the field closed in, with a recently-graduated-collegiate Expo rider juuust off the front. As he reached me, I put in another surge and we motored off the front for another half of a lap.
With my legs fired up, I felt good. My fitness was finally returning and I was racing with a clear head in place of the breathlessness that had filled my thoughts these last 2 months. Staying towards the front, I was able to watch the two JLVelo boys (Mills and Perker) swap attacks as they were each brought back. Strong dudes, but nothing was sticking.
Until, it did. Daghan went, and he was gone. Nobody seemed to care. As we rounded the second corner into the wall that was a monstrous headwind, everyone filed left…and I ripped right. Out of my saddle, I went for Daghan. He was probably 20 seconds up the road. After 45 seconds of chasing, I knew that if I bridged up, I would just be spit out as soon as I got there. If I didn’t, I’d be pack fodder. With the internal conflict raging in my head, I didn’t notice the PS rider bridge up to me until he had passed me. Out of the saddle, I fought for his wheel as he brought us up.
The 3 of us made a nice little break. Daghan and I were riding ourselves into the ground as the PS rider rolled through seconds after hitting the front. 3 laps later, we were shut down. 5 to go.
After recovering, I went back to the front, took a pull up the hill and decided to go again.
Attacking from the front at the very top of that “hill”, I got a little separation going, but nothing more than a joke. The clarity in my mind was becoming foggy, so I rotated to the middle and tried to recover, waiting for the final.
Rich Gonzalez came around me with one to go and I got a nice eyeful of his State-champ stripes. I don’t know what he won, but his wheel looked like as good a wheel as any and his legs looked big.
We came around the field and sprinted up the incline, he only slightly faster than I. We made up some ground but didn’t get up enough. Rich took 12th, I took 17th.
No result, but no matter. I felt strong. I felt fit. I felt ready for the second race, only 4 hours later (roughly).
So I went back to the car and got some sweats on. Ate a bagel. Some bananas. Just some general lounging around with Zach and Zak. Then, it came time to warm up. After kitting up, Ted appeared out of nowhere. “Come with me.”
So I did. Expecting to have to turn down his completely legal not-so-secret “secret pills”, as he’s known to tout on all aspiring roadies, once again on account of them not being Kosher, I was relieved to find a spare kit in his truck, along with his dog Mason. “Our GM said he’s excited to have you on board. Try these on, I’ll pin you up.” The kit fit, and I rolled back towards the course wearing orange and blue.
Mike groaned. Audibly. Multiple times. Yehudah laughed. Skoop shook his head. Zach’s mom wouldn’t give me a pre-race sugar fix. I was now the enemy.
The plan was to watch the strong guys. Glen, Ross, Zach. Anyone, really. Make sure breaks didn’t get away unless they had a rider from my team for the day, Hobbie Corrigan & Bertucio P.C. My job was to get to the front and shut down any promising moves…which would have meant blocking, on account of my speed, or lack thereof.
But I promised to do what I could.
We lined up, and took off.
Unceremoniously. It was a little chilly, still, but the embro I had lathered on many hours earlier was keeping me warm. Some big teams were in the A race, notably Metra and Breakaway. And Blue Ribbon, of course. Riding around in those first 2 laps was a very cool feeling for me. There were riders in orange everywhere you looked. It was Hobbie Corrigan & Bertucio P.C.’s race, and they definitely didn’t fail to remind everyone that as often as necessary.
Behind every fast rider was a Hobbie Corrigan & Bertucio P.C. rider in orange just trailing him. Taking the hint, I found Zach. Ted was watching him.
I found Glen. Someone else was on his wheel.
I just rode around in the middle of the field, watching Watchung, until someone said, “Eli. Get up there and stir things up.”
So I did. I went to the front, only to see Zach shoot by me on my right with an orange goon in tow.
“Easy there. We like this. Settle in, wait for the counter,” came a floating voice over my shoulder. The goons were watching the big names. They were watching me. They were watching everything. Then, a flyer. On my left. On my right. Suddenly, we were sprinting. The pace was high, but I saw Ross in all the confusion. I grabbed his wheel, but there was nothing to grab. So small. So invisible to the wind. So aero.
Suddenly, I was completely in the wind. I tried to get lower, but it didn’t work. I was being blown around. Left. Right. Backwards. Further back.
Off the back.
15 minutes was all she wrote.
Better luck next year.
Better luck being #professionallyamateur.
Glenn went off on a solo flyer for a few laps before being joined by a Breakaway rider. They had a minute on the field for 15 laps.
Glenn was outsprinted at the line, but due to profanities from the other rider, Glenn was given the win. Ross and another Metra rider, Frank, established a very-late-race-break where Ross came up with that win. Zach kept trying to get the field to chase, but nobody would.
He won the field sprint for 4th place.