Presented by Verge Sport, Dr. O’Neal, Flanzig and Flanzig LLP, NYTri & Verrazano Team Racing
As we enter the second year of the pandemic, there is sense of hope that this year there will be a return to racing, but, despite progress with the vaccinations, we are not quite there yet. Alex Koch has come to the rescue and is trying to fill the void with some individual time trial events in the city parks, namely Central Park in Manhattan and Prospect Park in Brooklyn. These type of events are deemed acceptably low risk for Covid, thus safer to pull off.
I was unable to compete in the first race in Central Park due to equipment issues which I was able to repair during the week allowing me to sign up for the Prospect Park race. For the event this week rain would be a distant memory, as opposed to the Central Park race, but on the other hand we would have to contend with a chilly morning.
Because the race was slated to start around six thirty in the morning, this would require an early wakeup: three thirty to be exact. On these early days, I always pack the car the day before with the gear, bike, tools, pump, etc… I also pack my bags and have my kit laid out on the dresser all ready to go.
Getting up that early is never a good feeling but a necessary evil. I spend just under an hour figuring out who I am, making breakfast, and getting suited up. I was out the door a few minutes after my original planned start time of four thirty. My two cats were very confused, thinking I was up to feed them. Driving at that hour has the advantage that few cars are found on the road which simplifies the travel experience.
I arrived at my girlfriend Amy’s house in Brooklyn about five forty five in the morning, and I quickly loaded her bike and bags up into the vehicle. Prospect Park is about a ten or fifteen minute drive form her place, especially at that hour. The one thing I noticed while loading up the car was that it was not just chilly but down right freezing cold.
We arrived at Prospect, at the same time as the Star Track van driven by David Harrison. It took us a few cold minutes to pull the bikes out and set them up, and to also get ourselves dressed. The wind hurt. Upon leaving the van, I had about four layers on. I opted for my winter Cyclocross skin suit with a wind blocker base layer. I added knee warmers, my warmup pants, and winter cycling jacket and on top of that I threw on a sweatshirt. I also had my winter head cover, helmet, neck gator, wool socks, shoe covers, and two layers of gloves. Temperatures where reading twenty eight degrees Fahrenheit, but with the wind it felt more like twenty four. So much for chilly!
At registration we quickly signed the paperwork and picked up our numbers and ankle chip. A quick trip to the bathroom and then Amy and I pinned each other up and added the ankle chip. Due to the freezing temperatures, we wanted to get going as soon as possible. With the chip Alex was allowing people to start whenever as long as there was a fifteen second gap between riders. I was not going to wait around. It was too cold to even care about warming up with a lap around the park.
Amy set off as soon as she pulled off her warmup clothes. I held back a few minutes to get my GoPro started and to disrobe. I rolled to the starting line and after final checks by the Race Director I set off.
I was in for three miserable laps of the park. The start/finish area was just over a quarter of a mile from the base of the hill which takes us up to Grand Army Plaza. Either way the lead up is still a false flat. Being fresh and with a few riders going into their second or third lap, I pulled away with a bit too much zest. Once I hit the hill, it became clear to me that I am still grossly out of shape, and that the eight or so pounds I put on over the winter was hurting me big time. I usually feel better on the hill, but in fairness, I am usually in a pack of forty to one hundred riders, and being in the draft helps significantly.
Once I crested the hill, I was greeted with the left hand downhill sweeper that leads to the usual finish of the mass start races. Following this section, we get another false flat before getting to the fast lightly twisty descent. On the descent I was able to get my speed just north of thirty miles per hour on all three laps.
By now, I could not feel my fingers in both of my hands, at all! I was hoping that I would not need to use my brakes, since I was unsure if I could operate them correctly. After the descent, the course flattens out nicely but we had to contend with some headwind and some false flats here and there until we came back to the start finish. Again when in a large racing pack these sections flow much better.
My second lap was the slowest of the three and I really suffered the second time up the hill. The only redemption was that with the sun rising above the trees and buildings, I was finally able to get a bit of feeling back in my fingers. For my third and final lap, I was able to improve by fifteen seconds over my second lap finishing the race and the third lap with my second fastest lap time.
Since Amy got second in her field we hung around for the awards, but after suffering in the arctic temperatures, it was time to warm up in the car. After sleep driving back home, I had another feeding, shower, and a much needed nap.
What I learned from this event.
- I am completely out of shape. The end of January through March was not kind to me this year. Between all the snow and crazy work hours I put in, I have fallen way behind where I should be with my fitness.
- The extra weight I put on needs to come off. By summer about eight pounds needs to come off.
- I have a hard time getting into a good aero position on the Giant Propel. I find I can hold a better aero position on my Specialized Roubaix.
- I find it hard to get into a power zone at Prospect Park due to the nature of the course with the hill, the undulations and the wind.
- I should have used my 11-28t cassette instead of the 11-25t I used at the Beach Channel Time Trial in the fall, a mostly flat course.
- Lastly with less importance I have not ridden the park in a while, and I don’t ride it a lot anyway, so I am less familiar with where the broken up pavement sections are, and the best lines to be most efficient are located. When I mass start race, you are stuck where ever you are, and just deal with it.
Even if it is not a USAC event, I can say that the first body shocking race is in the bag. Hopefully this will be the catapult to get me going.
Here is a link to the video from my GoPro. I have chapter stops for each lap. As of this writing the 4k version is still processing by YouTube: