2018.06.30 – CRCA Mengoni Grand Prix p/b/ Hincapie Category 4 Report

Another early morning. Alarm clock hit like a ton of bricks at two in the morning. I was on the road by three. I found parking at about four in the morning in the same locations as the last time I raced in Central Park: 81st street, between Madison and 5th Avenue.

I was almost all ready to roll off, I just had to pull the bike down, inflate the tires, water bottle, bike computer. Lastly gloves helmet and bike shoes. In five minutes I was off to meet Mike at 73rd and fifth avenue. Nicos showed up a few minutes later. Those guys did awesome in the Category 5 race, a fifth and 10th if I’m not mistaken?

This time we knew how to get to the registration area, and so we rolled off into the park. Registration wasn’t open and they had just started setting up the tents, so, we decided to get a lap in to warm up a bit.

This was going to be my second race in Central Park. Fortunately, this time, the roads were all dry. Riding, even if in the dark, helped me refresh my memory of the course.

We cut the ride a bit short, since we didn’t want to be stuck in registration hell. This time everything was running smoothly. We got pinned up,and to the restrooms, and we still had about fifteen minutes before the start. It was closing in on five thirty, and the temperature were already reading 82 degrees with high humidity. I went from racing track on Wednesday in temperatures of mid sixties to this in just two days.

Our race got off to an unceremonious start with seven laps to go. Nothing much really happened in the first four laps. The usual small surges, the shifting of positions, the squirrelly guys eliciting screams from the rest of us.

On the twisty descent by the swimming pool, I was still playing it safe. Last time, in the wet, that section was a bit scary, especially when the whole field would move in in the turns. Playing it safe, with these guys who would abruptly change their lines, caused me to loose ground on the field coming out, so I’d have to work to get back in. Each time I tried to surf the wheels of the other guys suffering from the same fate.

After the descent, during the first five laps, Harlem Hill road was climbed at a snail’s pace. I tried to find the path of least resistance so I would not have to slow up and then accelerate again on the hill. The rest of the course was again just jockeying for position.

With two laps to go, I’m not sure what happened, but I got gapped on the swimming pool descent. I worked a bit harder than earlier to catch the pack. I grabbed back on right at the start of Harlem Hill, but, this time, instead of tiptoeing up the hill, the pack surged. Or so it appeared to me. I tried to respond when disaster struck.

I was confident I could keep up but my quads and calves suddenly cramped up. In dismay I watched what was left of the field pass by, including the trailing Moto Official. To finish the lap, I tagged along with two other riders, but on Cat Paw Hill to the start finish, my legs were bad that I could not get much power on the hills.

I limped the last lap by myself, but I finished the race.

My takeaway. Even though I was drinking, it probably wasn’t enough for the conditions. It’s been a cool spring/start of summer, so I’m still not acclimatized to the heat and humidity. So, over the next few days I must acclimatize and re-tool my hydration. I still have to get more comfortable in Central Park. A lap is double the distance of a Prospect Park lap, so there is more to remember.

Also, when a big portion of the field is composed of teams of four or more racers, it becomes harder, not impossible, to influence the race. I feel that I’m more at the mercy of these other groups. Again this year it’s the get back into racing year and try to learn as much as possible after a year off and a mediocre year before that. If I keep at it results will follow.

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