2018.12.31 – A Year in Review

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The end of December brings to a close my 2018 cycling season, and with it, a bit of reflection on the past season.

At the beginning of 2018 I was still working on my fitness having missed out on much riding and racing for most of 2017 due to my injury. So my focus for 2018 was to get back into shape and back into the swing of competition. I laid out roughly three goals for the season:

  • Try out Track racing. This was supposed to happen in 2017.
  • Race Central Park.
  • Race Floyd Bennett Field.

I started the year off in January with a fun event: the Bill Bauer Memorial Exhibition Roller Races at Brands Cycle. Roughly two weeks before the event, I got on the rollers to relearn how to ride them since it had been about fifteen years since I last been on them. With the help of friends I geard up my track bike to meet the roll out requirements. The evening is a fun event, and despite crashing out and missing the chance of winning the masters category, I had a lot of fun.

Photo Jan 05, 20 43 17 (1)

I ended up battling some sickness in the winter and spring which slowed my training progress down. Nonetheless, by the end of March I had to start racing. Nothing like a good race to shock the system. I signed up for the Introduction to Track racing, and, despite the cold weather, I had a good time at the clinic. It helped me feel more at ease riding a fixed gear single speed track bike with no brakes on the velodrome.

A week later, our team had a strong presence with about seven of us at the 2018 NYC Metro Showdown in Nyack NY. We all raced the Men 4/5 race. Unfortunately our group fell apart in the last lap of the event, and I found myself to be the last guy in the right place to lead out our designated sprinter: Nicos. As the field exploded, I chased down wheels and I tried to gave him the best leadout I could. The effort payed off and he was able to finish eighth, while I, blown from the leadout, finished sixteenth. Not bad for my first road race of the season, and not to mention feeling like crap for the first half of the race.

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I followed this up with two of the Six Days of Kissena series on the track. I raced on day three and day six. Disaster struck on day three. I crashed out in my second event, cracking my helmet. Upon further video review, it was evident I was not geared up properly, and even spinning at 130+ rpm I could not keep up with the field. I borrowed gears from a friend and went back a week later for day six, and performed much better.

Photo Apr 14, 15 25 31

Having completed two Track race days, I signed up for the Lucarelli & Castaldi race in Prospect Park to finish out the month of April. I had two teammates come with me, Nicos and Tom. Nicos was trying to get enough races to get his category 4 upgrade thus he raced in the category 5 field, while Tom and I raced in the category 4 group. My goal was a top twenty finish. Despite the nasty weather, and eating road water all race, I was quite surprised to finish fifteenth.

Photo Apr 29, 07 26 32

To fulfill my first goal, I decided to sign up for the Kissena Twilight Series of races. Running from the end of April through August, the Twilight series are weekly races on Wednesday evenings at the Kissena Velodrome. Signing up for the whole series would force me to commit to them. This would impact my participation in the Team Tuesday Evening Sprint Training practice sessions we were holding. One week I tried to do both, but all it did was trash my legs and a very poor performance on Wednesday at the Track.

In early May, I flew out to Italy for a wedding. In preparation for this trip, I rebuilt my oldest road bike with much cheaper parts and easier gears for the hills. The plan was to bring that bike and leave it at my sister’s house so I would always have a bike to ride when there. I try to make one or two trips a year, so, in the long run, this would be a cheaper alternative than renting or constantly paying to bring a bike with me. To replace the bike going to Italy, I got a used 2008 Specialized Roubaix S-Works frame and fork, and turned that into my winter and training bike.

Photo May 18, 04 45 18

Back from Italy, on the second of June, I finally fulfilled goal number two. Our team showed up at Central Park for the CRCA Dave Jordan Central Park Classic p/b Castelli. Central Park is usually the playground for CRCA. They hold weekley races from February through summer which are only opened to their club members. However, every season they usually host a few open races.

Unfortunately, the Dave Jordan race was plagued by a lack of Tyvek numbers, and so we got issued paper numbers. Due to a wet course, by the end of the race, most of us did not have any numbers left pinned to our jerseys, and coupled with problems with the finishing camera, the results are anyone’s guess. All I know is that I finished at the back end of the main pack.

I was struggling in my early track races to make a dent in the top 5 for the Category 5 field. But, the last race in June things were finally starting to click together, and I was able to win the category 5 Omnium. Besides figuring things out, I also started to listen to advice being laid upon me, and it was finally starting to pay off.

Photo May 22, 16 09 02

To support my team and the few category 5 riders who were still trying to move up to 4, I participated in the June 22nd Kreb Cycle Friday Night Race Series. These are good low pressure grassroots training races, but they were not a major focus for me this year. In this first Friday Night race we had a strong team presence in the B race. I was feeling quite strong, but sadly five laps from the end I crashed out when it was my turn to launch a counter attack. A Mineola rider I had gone with suddenly sat up right as I was getting on his wheel.

We returned to Central Park for the other open race, the CRCA Mengioni Grand Prix. It was a very hot and humid early morning, and I do not think I was taking in enough liquid. With one and a half laps to go I was stricken by a nasty cramp on Harlem Hill . I kept riding and finished way off the back. It was a disappointing day for sure.

On the Fourth of July, I fulfilled my third objective. A few of us on the team set out to race at Floyd Bennett Field: The A Dash For Cash P/B WE STAND UNITED. It was my first category 3/4 race of the year, which was taking place at a notorious venue. Experienced riders know how to take advantage of wind coming off the water. Attacks can be brutal and have the effect of blowing the field up. Coupled with the rough pavement, I was trying to be very attentive of where I was putting my wheels and mindful of the other experienced racers.

At the start we were roasting in over one hundred degrees. Somehow I was able to stay with the field and finish at the back end of the main pack. There was no way I was going to contest any of the primes. For some reason, official results never got posted for this event.

For my second Kreb race I was feeling tired and lethargic, and all I was able to manage was a seventh place finish in the B race. I felt quite useless.

A week later, in mid July, once again our East End Cycling Team had a large presence in the Friday Night B race. Our teammate and Tri specialist Mike got off the front and gained at least a half a lap on our field. Having a teammate up the road frustrated many on our team as they felt that they were now out of the race. The other teams and unattached racers did not seem to want form a chase. On the last lap, Kristian and I setup a fast 30 mph tempo on the back stretch leading up to the final climb to hopefully prevent the others from attacking. The hope that this would this would give Nicos and Tom a shot at the next two podium spots. Alas, the best they managed was third and fourth.

July 21st I returned to Floyd Bennett Field with a bunch of teammates. Same course as the last race. About two laps in, an attack surprised many of us since it started with a tail wind. The wheel that I was on let a gap open. I moved around and worked hard to bridge the widening gap. I had two or three teammates behind me, I pulled a monster effort to close the gap, and my teammates were able to get back on the front group. But, just then, we turned into the big headwind. Not getting a chance to recover, I got blown off the back having made to big of an effort. Instead of pulling out, I timetrialed the rest of the event. I was not going to let the day go to waste.

Photo Jul 21, 14 23 15

At this point in the season, I was feeling that my road racing legs were not holding up as well as I wanted them to. I was also more concentrated on the Wednesday Twilight track series, and enjoying them quite a bit. By the later half of the season, I was starting to see some decent results. However I held off on the upgrade to category 4 since I wanted to keep boosting my confidence and experience in the beginner group.

I finally moved up to category 4 just before the Kissena International Omnium weekend race. On this event, I finished seventh in my first category 4 event.

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Disappointed that the Twilight Series was over, on August twenty fifth, I gave a ride to a few fellow Kissena track racers out to T-Town, the outdoor 333 meter velodrome with 28 degree banked turns and 12 degree banked straights. Riding this track was an amazing experience. So much smoother. So much faster. I had a bit of mixed fortune with the three races. But, despite that, coupled with the company of some great people from the Kissena velodrome, I had a great time.

Photo Aug 25, 14 10 23

The final Track event of the summer was the 54th Annual Kissena Labor Day Track Meet. I would be racing in the Men category 4 field. This time I performed much better, and I ended up finishing fifth overall. That result was good considering I also participating in the Delroy Walters “Merckx” Cup – 5 Mile Final. Again it was a good fun day of racing in good company.

Photo Sep 03, 15 01 36

With my road/track season over, I had another trip to Italy for another wedding. While there, I was able to squeeze in three road days and a Spin class with my sister before heading back home. The riding there is just spectacular. A much needed change of pace from training and racing.

Photo Sep 30, 07 13 46

Three days after returning from Italy, I jumped into my Cyclocross season. Having missed out on the 2017 Cyclocross season, I knew that this year I would be called up at the back of the races. In the category 3/4 races I was at the back of pack. In the category 4/5 races I was called up somewhere around mid pack. Whenever practical, I would race two races a day, as long as they were not back to back, or the weather was so horrible that my bike would be trashed after my first event.

Unfortunately, this season was plagued by lots of mud and rain over the weekends. The first race of the season, and a double race, in New Jersey was a shock to the system. I ended up racing eleven or twelve races from October to December. I was not looking for results per say, I just wanted to beat on the body and get back into shape. Between the travel and the bike maintenance needed after all the mud events, I ended the season on a high in Queens NY, but feeling very burnt out. Traveling to the races with fellow racing buddies made it that much more fun.

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Despite the ups and downs of a racing season, I enjoyed myself. I met a lot of new people, and had a blast racing them, hanging out with them between races, and sharing the long car rides with them.

Photo Oct 20, 11 03 48

In summary, I meet all my stated goals and the unofficial goal of racing at T-Town after my first full year of racing after a year of injury and recovery. During my transition phase before I start ramping training up for 2019 season, I am planning out another full year of racing. I hope to build on this year and have an even better 2019.

Photos from many of my races can be found at the following link:

https://awjohnso.piwigo.com/index?/category/119-2018_my_year_in_bicycle_racing

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