While its not the biggest race on the New York City racing calendar, the Orchard Beach Crit is undoubtedly one of Team Sixcycle's favorite events for its incredibly spectator friendly venue, thoroughly enjoyable kids races and of course the famous Big Wheels Championship (transferred over from the CRCA FBF Classic). And this is to say nothing of the racing, which is fast and furious. With this in mind for the 2013 running of the Orchard Beach Crit on May 5th Team Sixcycle-RK&O brought a full squad of racers as well as lots of Zico Pure Coconut Water for fellow competitors and spectators, courtesy of the team's 2013 hydration sponsor.
Incredibly after 55 minutes of aggressive racing on a windy day in Pelham Bay Park Team Sixcycle-RK&O walked away with both first and second place finish behind Corey Morenz and Roger Parmelee. This is Corey's report from all of the action up to and including his late race solo move to take the victory.
Orchard Beach Crit Race Report from Team Sixcycle-RK&O's Corey Morenz
If you told me before the Orchard Beach Criterium that our team would finish 1-2 in the men’s category 3 race, I would have been excited – but not exactly surprised. Our team has had significant early season success, including first place finishes in Central Park and Bethel as well as any number of podiums (although we had yet to put two riders on the same podium).
If you told me I’d be part of that 1-2 punch, I’d be a little more shocked – 2nd place in an open cat 3 race would be a great accomplishment. If you told me I’d be taking the top spot… let’s just say that I’ve taken every other placing in the top ten but had never won a bike race before - and as I upgraded categories it would only get harder to win so wasn’t sure if it was ever something that would happen.
Here are my reflections on how my first win played out.
I spent most of the early season races honing my fitness and working for teammates – so my name was probably wayyy down the list on the Road Results predictions page (I didn’t look) and nowhere to be seen on the CRCA’s race predictions (nor were any of my teammates, for that matter). My only “peak” race so far this year had been Battenkill, but due to some tactical errors and a disjointed race (see race report) I finished a few seconds back from the lead group.
Two weeks ago at the Bethel spring series finale, a late race move snuck off the front despite the efforts of several well represented teams to keep it together. With two laps to go I bridged through a brutal headwind to get to the break, but Dan Caridi from Aetna Cycling was the only rider to have any legs left. We kicked again and stayed away through most of the bell lap only to be consumed by the peloton 500m from the line. Based on this effort it seemed late race moves had potential.
The weather for Sunday was forecast to be perfect skinsuit weather. I even managed a full night’s sleep despite grabbing margaritas the night before for an early Cinco de Mayo celebration (a sure way to cure pre-race jitters). Orchard Beach is an excellent spectator venue with the entire race course in view so I knew there would be a lot of Sixcycle groupies cheering us on. All this had me pumped to race.
I warmed up with the team while talking about potential strategy. Our goal was to be aggressive and try for breaks, but if it came down to a bunch sprint we’d line it up for Johnny B. I made an offhand comment to Rog that with our team so well represented there might be an opportunity for a last ditch attack at the end of the race. I said this somewhat in jest, but it’s something I had been eager to try after coming so close in Bethel a couple weeks ago.
We lined up at the start and we were off around the three corner course. It was fast from the gun. The team rode aggressively as promised, attacking and counterattacking, always establishing ourselves in any promising breaks.
Midway through the race a perfect situation unfolded - Ashley was solo off the front and Michael Nelson was in the chase group, chomping at the bit for a chance to counter attack. I figured something from those moves was sure to stick, but the race came back together with about 15 laps to go.
The pace had ramped up to the point where we were ticking off laps in under a minute. With our teammates just reeled in it was time for some moves. I launched an attack to try to make something happen, the field got strung out but I didn’t get separation.
So I went again.
A couple guys came with me but no one was willing to put in a hard second effort to establish the break so again the field comes back together. With less than ten minutes of racing left I make sure not to fade too far back but stay in good position. My legs were feeling good and I wanted another shot – whether it was in the field sprint, lead out or something else entirely...
I was fourth wheel going down the front stretch with two laps to go – teammates Matthew Vandivort and Michael Nelson were on the front. Matt pulls off and Nelson takes over before turn 1. I figure this is my shot, I’m in good position, everyone is gearing up for a field sprint and my legs feel good.
After screaming around turn 2 I jump with everything I have, sprinting hard in the drops, veering towards the left of the course and straight into the wind to discourage any fellow masochists from grabbing my wheel. Halfway down the stretch I give a quick look under my arm.
There is a big gap.
No one is with me.
I’m torn between being thrilled that this might actually work and apprehension that it’s me against the wind if I wanted results. No excuses on being in bad position, getting boxed out or following the wrong wheel could help me now.
I approach turn 3, pedaling hard through the entirety of the sweeping curve, something I knew the pack would have trouble doing. On the front straight I get a bit of a tailwind and meet the raucous cheers of teammates, fellow racers and coach Matt Richards who all came out to watch the event. I pass the line and hear the bell for the final lap.
Turns 1 and 2 come up quickly – I make the decision to take them conservatively even though this would likely cost me some of my precious gap. Last year, I crashed while off the front of the field by rolling a tubular on turn 2 and had no desire of a repeat, not this time.
The headwind tears into me as soon as I come around the turn. For the first time I think that this might not work. I’m panting, my lungs burn and my quads feel like they are about to be torn apart. I take another look – just a quick peek under my arm - and see my gap has dwindled. It would be so easy to throw in the towel, everyone would still rave about how gutsy the move was, how close I came...
Head down, legs pumping, lungs screaming. Turn 3 approaches. I know if I make it to that sweeper I’ll stay away. No more looking back. Lean the bike through the turn, not too much, keep cranking. Clear the turn onto the final straightway.
The line approaches and then all of a sudden I’m over it.
My tunnel vision recedes and I hear primal screams from a rider behind me bearing down fast. Come to think of it, this is the first thing I remember hearing between now and the final lap. Rog pulls up alongside me. “We did it! 1-2!” Then it hits me. I start yelling. He screams some more. The rest of the team joins up for some on the bike antics of victory salutes, fist pumps and handshakes.
Words can’t describe how it felt, after years of training, over past race regrets of how I could have sprinted harder or gone earlier, to finally get this monkey off my back. It couldn't have happened without the support of the team – from the cheering to the tactics to the training - even winning in a solo move is never truly done alone.
Crazy, stupid tactics. Sometimes, they just work.
The Saturday before the race I had also found out my grandmother, Jean Gagne, had passed away. I can’t help but think her spirit propelled me down the back stretch on that final lap.