Castelli NY Cycling Series Masters 40+ Cat 1/2/3/4 Report

I was supposed to head out and race two consecutive Track days at the Kissena Velodrome this past weekend. However my home improvement project which is consuming my home life that comes with a deadline, and sketchy weather reports had me changing my mind. The thing with the weekend races at Kissena Velodrome is that it is pretty much a whole day affair. Early week weather predictions had rain in the schedule for Sunday afternoon. Therefore I decided to go race at Prospect Park on Sunday morning.

This week I would be racing the Castelli series. The field I qualify for is the Master 40+ Category 1/2/3/4, which would mean an interesting mix of people. I also felt very deflated after my first race of the season last week 2019.04.07 – Lucarelli & Castaldi Cup Report. I was hoping this race would re-inflate me a bit.

As per usual, the alarm struck at two forty five in the morning. At that point, any sleep I had gotten was just to take the edge off. On the road by three fifty, I was able to get to Prospect Park West by five in the morning. This time I did not find parking on the left side of the street, but a loop back around got me a spot on the right side a block and a half from the 3rd street entrance, where the start finish and registration are located.

By the time I rolled up with my race bike, there were already several people there and registration was open. I am still on a borrowed jersey and I had to wait for my team mate to bring me a jersey. So in the meantime I did a reconnaissance/warmup lap on the course. This allowed me to spot some issues with the course. On the downhill section there was a huge puddle to the right which had been marked off by cones. This knowledge proved to be useful during the race.

Back at the start finish, I meet up with my teammate and got pinned up just in time to be called up to the start line. The Lucarelli & Castaldi Category 3/4 race is nine laps. Once Charlie sent off the Category 2/3 field, he made his announcements and told us we had eleven laps. I guess I should have looked at the registration more carefully, I was mentally set on nine laps. Oh well, in for a penny in for a pound.

I would have several teammates with me in this race, Eloy Anzola, J.P. Partland, John Powell, Chaim Seewald, and Niall Smart. The race got going, and we were quickly up to speed. In the opening laps I did my best to keep my position in the front third of the field. At one point I was right behind J.P. and maybe John, I do not exactly remember, at the front of the race. Pack swell quickly gulped us up before the base of the hill.

On the downhill, I would use the right side and cut right by the water that was marked off by cones to try to gain back places I had lost on the hill climb. It worked on most of the laps as long as I was careful of the field swell which happens close to the bottom. Somewhere around lap three I saw the follow moto pull up next to the field in the Joggers Lane and have a few words with someone. Looking over the results I noticed a ride that was disqualified. I wonder it that was the incident.

About three or four laps into the race, there was another crash at the top portion of the hill. We had to slow a tad and in a split second I picked a safe line through the wreck. Further in the race, I heard another crash happen behind me, I think it was close to the temple. The sound of carbon cracking and sliding on the pavement is very chilling. Only thing to do is to not look back and crack on, least you cause another incident.

I was told there was even a third crash. I now know what burnt brake pads on carbon smells like, and I hope to not have to smell it up close.

Just like the week before, they rang a KOM which would occur on the next to last lap. That meant a fiery two laps to the finish. With each lap, the climb was getting harder and harder. Mid race, I kept ending up on that one particular rough patch on the climb. Riding over that is brutal, it is like dropping an anchor. The last two laps I was able to ride to the left of it and the newfound smoothness made a huge difference.

With three or two laps to go,  on the downhill, two guys in front of me grabbed brakes for no reason. In a split second I was forced to grab my brakes, but I was not stopping fast enough. Sheer luck had it that there was enough space to the right of guys in front of me and the curb. So instinctually I shoved my front wheel into that space and used it as a run off while giving them an earful.

On the last lap a small group got off the front, with the pack stringed out, I finished the race as best as I could with what was left in my legs. Again no sense in becoming dangerous for a mid pack finish. I finished fifty eight out of one hundred and one starters, or looking at it differently, thirteenth in among the category four riders. So all in all a solid mid pack finish.

Going into the race I set some personal goals. I did not want to just hang on back like the previous week. I needed to re-build my pack racing skills, so I practiced staying in the group, practiced moving up, again if you are not moving up you are moving back, and I tried to keep a mid to front of the pack positioning. As the race progressed, I was getting tired, and it was becoming more of a struggle I found that in the late stages I was drifting back further. Part of my plan was to try to be towards the front at the base of the climb and so as I lost ground going uphill, I could gain it back on the downhill after the start finish.

At the top of the hill when the field was strung out and we should encounter a bit of headwind off the fields, I would try to get on wheels of others and attempt to force them to close the gap so I would not have to expend the energy. If I am going to expend the energy, I want it to yield something, if not it is wasted.

I think for the most part I did much better and I think this race gave my confidence a bit of a boost. I still have to work on proper pacing, the ratio of pedaling to no pedaling and to better judge the gaps so to use less brake feathering in an effort to stifle those micro accelerations and burn less energy.

A few more races, and hopefully I will be in a better position to give the team/teammates a hand. However, track racing is also around the corner.

The weather was relatively warm but very humid. We were presented with fog on some sections of the course. I was a tad overdressed. I went with short wool socks (my toes suffer from the cold,) bib shorts, knee warmers, underlayer, summer head cover and long finger gloves. My team mate brought me a long sleeve jersey. By mid race I was sweating big time. I opted for my dark lenses, but in hindsight I should have put the amber lenses in since we never go much sun.

I hope that my teammates involved in the crashes and hurt heal up quickly.

Photo by: Richard Freeman

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