Back from my mini cycling vacation/wedding overseas, it was time to get back to road racing. I had skipped Summerville due to jet lag, and opted to ride the week. Thus, I signed up for the Dave Jordan Central Park race, and I was happy to see that several other EECT teammates were also planning on attending.
This was going to be my first Central Park race. I’ve been wanting to get over there and check out the racing for quite some time. I know that CRCA have an internal series that starts around the end of February. So this is a home course for them. They know the park very well, while I was going to have to learn the course on the fly.
Due to the nature of city races this was going to be an early morning. We all met up at the Commack Park and Ride off the Long Island Expressway at about three fifteen in the morning. Luckily traffic was very light and we were able to find parking on 81st halfway between Madison and Fifth.
Ten fifteen minutes later, we attempted to locate the registration, but ended up cutting through the 79th St Transverse, putting us on the west side of the park. With the help of a fellow racer we finally located the registration area. The place was chaos. Registration lines were very long. I’m not sure what happened, but paper numbers were being provided.
Once pinned by teammates, we barely had enough time to get to the restrooms before the start of the race. Had they not opened up the park restrooms, it would have been quite ugly for many of us during the race.
A ten minute start delay allowed me to go get my glasses set on clear. Initially, I thought that being so humid, they would have been useless. Luckily I decided to put them on since the roads were quite wet, and with the humidity, there was no hope for them to dry up. Indeed I did get splashed and sprayed in the face during the race, so I was glad I changed my mind and was able to grab the glasses from my bag at the bag drop.
At the start of the race, Tom got on the front and set a good twenty four mile an hour pace. The first bit is quite flat. A side effect of Tom’s warmup would be to prevent some people from attacking right off the bat and attempt an early break.
I’m assuming I was keeping myself in the top fifty percent of the field. I never looked back so I don’t know for sure. Towards the north side the field comes upon a fast twisty downhill. Things started to get a bit sketchy with such a large group on this section. I had one rider sweep across more lane then he should have while navigating the S turns, almost taking me out in the process. This, with the wet pavement created a bit of anxiety, making me hold back and be more cautious than I normally would have been.
The downside is that at the bottom of this section I had to work harder to get back on the lead group, expending more energy than I would have liked to.
After this section we came upon the infamous Harlem Hill. This hill swings left twice then right before reaching the crest. Average grade is about four percent, and it’s just over a quarter mile in length. It’s a definitely a big ring hill. However, as per my usual placing, I’d end up behind guys who would slow down causing me to have to slow down to then, re-accelerate, again burning more energy to get up the climb then I was hoping for.
At the top of the climb, I’d have to pull myself back up to the lead group. I was told that following the climb there would be the three sisters or something to that nature to deal with, three bumps post Harlem Hill. Honestly I never even noticed them.
From there the course meanders back south with some twist and turns. Being attentive and ready for other races jerky line changes throughout some of the twisty sections was becoming normal, and a bit annoying. An important part of racing is being able to hold your line and keep your bike on a predictable path, especially when you have ninety other bikes around you.
Finally, towards the end of the lap, we head back north and get to climb Cats Paw Hill up to the start/finish. We were to race five laps. Although my fitness has improved significantly, I think I was expending more energy than I wanted to through out the race. Shane, my other teammate was hovering around the front in the first few laps, but he then dropped further back, and I didn’t see him until the end. Tom stayed in the top twenty the entire race. On the last lap, since I didn’t have any teammates nearby, I was trying to evaluate which teams were going to set things up for a good finish. My hope was to get on their wheel and see if I could get safe passage further up the field. I noticed one of the CRCA teams having about six or seven guys in close proximity and was debating if they would have been a good team to shadow.
Sadly, the last time up Cats Paw to the finish I was getting dropped by the lead group. I pushed hard up the hill in order to finish as best as I could. With less than a hundred meters to the finish, I came upon about a dozen guys lying all over the course. Apparently a big crash happened right before the finish. Many riders slowed up, as did I, to get around the bodies, but I tried to pick it back up, again wanting to pick up some more places if I could.
Race over, I was happy to have made it to the end without incident. However, I quite disappointed with my performance. I doubt the results will be accurate. I estimate that a third of the field lost all of their numbers due to them being wet. I wasn’t top nine, so it really doesn’t matter for me in terms of upgrade points.
Covered in horse manure and water, our team regrouped, clean up, and headed home. Tom was lucky to have avoided the big pile up at the finish. Sadly, Nicos in the cat 5 race didn’t have good luck as he was taken out right before the finish. In the women’s race, a friend of mine crashed and re-broke her collarbone.
All in all a mixed day. Now that I have had the experience, hopefully I can work on better placed finish in future races.