Monday, June 16, 2008
Harlem Race Report
So I was the sole CBRC rider at the Harlem Skyscraper crit, which was rechristened this year "Harlem Rocks" for its title sponsor Rock Racing. So I'll attempt to give my first ever race report.
First, I was thankful that this year the race was a strictly cat 4 race as opposed to the crashtastic 4/5 field of last year, I believe Danny, Barry and I counted five crashes in that race, one of which took me out just before the bell lap, that was frustrating. Anyway I thought that it would be smooth riding with seasoned veterans (of at least ten races), I was wrong, very, very wrong.
It poured just long enough before the start of the cat 4 race to thoroughly soak the four corner, pancake flat .8 mile course. This would turn an otherwise mundane half hour tactic-free cat 4 race into a demolition derby that took out half of the 56 starters. Like last year there was once again a crash on turn one right after the starting whistle, yup, 5 seconds into the race and someone went down. It got worse from there. Nell and my dad were positioned on the inside of turn one and they told me after the race that there was only two laps (of fifteen) that didn't see at least one person crash at that corner alone.
Early on in the race I figured out the strategy of always taking the turn on the absolute inside, this helped me avoid the massive pile up crashes were one person would go down and slide outwards taking down at least ten riders at once. This what I would see almost every lap:
I would also hear lots of screaming and gasping from the spectators as a ball of roadies and bicycles was sliding across the pavement toward them. I quickly reprioritized, I wasn't concerned with something silly like winning, no I would go home a winner simply by crossing the finish line upright (though it turned out you could cross the finish line a winner not upright). But winning went out the window as an option extremely early in the race after two riders broke away and stayed away sometime around lap two. At the time, me and the rest of the pack didn't think too much of a early race attack by two dudes, they would be reeled in, wrong. The constant crashing caused the pack to be in a constant state of "clusterfuck." So while the race was definitely the easiest race I have ever ridden as far as intensity ( I found my self lamenting not having signed up for the 30+ masters field, Ha!) it was a true challenge in bike handling skills.
So after 25 minutes of anxiety, I finally made it around that last corner with the remnants of the main field, which had been whittled down to 15 riders, I was poorly positioned, but I was ready to try to put myself into contention for the race for 3rd place, but when I got out of the saddle and put the power on, I felt my rear wheel fishtailing, I eased up and rode in at the back of the field, content that I was crossing the finish line roadrash free. Success, a 17th place I can be proud of!
Now getting to watch the pro race reminds me just how amateur being a cat 4 is... The speed! The cornering! The calves! The quads! What a sight to behold! I had known in advance that Freddie Rodriguez would be there, but was surprised to see Tyler Hamilton (doper or no, it still me giddy) rolling around the course for warmup. I won't attempt to do a whole race report, I'll just say that it is a really cool sport that I get to race on the same course just a couple hours before pro tour riders.
Check out highlights from the pro race here.