“Know suffering.” – the first noble truth of Buddhism.
I took 12 months of of cycling to focus on OCR and so when I came back I was excited to ride again. I did some early season training and got myself ready for Strong Like Bull, my cycling focused training camp in Spain. I got stronger daily until I could keep up with Continental pro Adam Carr for 10k while he was working kinda hard (let’s be real he could attack and drop me any time). I also crushed a few local climbs in Spain in the final days and felt ready to race again.
It’s been two years since I did road cycling and my first race reminded me that road cycling isn’t for the faint of heart. I jumped into the Prospect Park series: a lovely and reasonably long event at about 40 miles with a good climb every 3.3 miles. I worked hard but was neither a factor at the front or in danger of going off the back. Mostly I got in some good riding with nice efforts and knocked the rust off.
Race 2 and 3 Coxsackie.
Pronounced Cock-sack-e it’s the butt of a lot of jokes. Like “Coxsackie is long and hard.” “When it’s cold out Coxsackie shrinks.” Etc etc etc. but what it really is is a long hard day with brutal cross winds, cold biting weather and a sick hard field and at 50 miles long a legit road race in first week of April. I did the 3/4 race and the 3s that show up to this tend to me the most dedicated types since it’s not near anything but close enough to draw from everywhere in the north east. The first week the field was surprisingly small and I got off the front a few times but only once had anyone else interested in joining me and we didn’t last long. With the small field you didn’t get much time to recover and attacking and getting caught often meant hanging on for dear life when the counter attacks came and your chasing single file totally blown from your own attack! In the end the race finished in a field sprint while I put my hat in the ring for only to totally botch it in a display that was totally pathetic missing the right wheels, right line and being totally shamed by finishing deep down the results table.
The second race was totally different. While the first was 40 degrees and winter, the second was warm and pleasant and the field was big. The wind was still strong and you got the sense that it was just a matter of time until wheels touched and body’s hit the floor. Sadly I was behind the crash when it came 1/2 way into the race and ended up showing off my cyclo-cross skills riding in the dirt but paused too long before riding hard again and got dropped by the field. A group of 5 guys were super motivated so we chased and road insanely hard for the second half. This proved to be a sick workout! 50 miles of hard effort and I went home satisfied.
Race 4: the return to Brooklyn
We went around and around. I tried to get off the front and so did others but it was kinda negative racing and ended in a field sprint after 40 miles of effort. For racing in a park in nyc, it’s shockingly safe feeling. At least I felt like I was making progress and attacking even if it was feeble.
Race 5: Tour of the Battenkill
Everyone there was curious how this would go. It’s not a traditional USA-Cycling style race for the first time this year and had a mass of 700 people. But it was scored like a scratch race, with winners and such all based on who gets to the finish line first. It was a lot like a running race: you had people at the front racing; people in the middle kind of racing themselves and a lot of people testing themselves against the course but taking their time to finish. I loved the old Battenkill and when I found out my buddy/teammate was going, I was in.
The front of the race was like any other race I do. Early attacks, teammates working together to chase, etc etc.
If you don’t know Battenkill it’s brutal. A mix of road and dirt road with insane climbs and a lot of steep stuff and some 17% sections that break the field over its knee. This race played out just like the prior ones did, the first brutal climbs came and it was like a bomb went off in the field and groups of riders were scattered all over the road. I ended up in a group of 5 most of the way in about 20th place over all. We crushed each other with effort and the next 2-3 hours was spent near LT until a pack of 10 more caught us on at mile 70 with 5 miles to go and 1 nice dirt climb left. I attacked the final climb and 9 of us came into the finish together and I ended up 26th but most importantly I had spent 4 hours totally on the rivet and really happy for that level of a workout.
Race: 6 NJ Fair Ground Crit
This is my favorite crit ever and I have done it before. Fast but interesting with a nice climb but only 1 true crit like corner so it feels a lot like a circuit race not an urban crit thank the gods. The 1/2/3 race was fast but very dynamic. The biggest difference between 1/2/3 and 4/5 is the style of racing. It’s smart and aggressive not just 70 guys chasing down everything and everything. Well That and no one whines/complains (dude if you have to whine about others riding 1) upgrade or 2) go to the front. Somehow you got enough air to sit at the back and run your mouth so I suspect you could work harder bro). The race was endless attacking. Literally every 30-90 seconds. As soon as we caught a break another or two we launched. The teams were organized and if a break left a team out that team chased while others blocked or at least sat in. I got into a few breaks and tried to go with almost every one of them until I realized I was cooking myself. One break got a big gap and I was sure they would stay away as they were but with 5k to go the team not represented put in a monster effort and me and a few others helped and with 500m to go we caught them. It was wild. A sprinter from the break took the finale and that felt just and proper.