Racing the Cherry Blossom Double

As a certified master of bad ideas on the bike, racing the CRCA+Cherry Blossom Challenge double is pretty tame compared to past questionable decisions --- be it finishing a race in Prospect Park and then riding 120 miles to the Hamptons (making for a 170 mile day on the bike) or getting lost with no cell-service on a road bike in the California backcountry.

Of course last year's double featured ideal weather rather than the near-freezing temperatures and rain forecasted for the 2016 edition of the Cherry Blossom Challenge. 

With one look at the forecast most of the To Be Determined squad wisely decided to stick to racing the CRCA Club Race in Central Park, predicted to be a chilly but dry affair before afternoon rain moved in. Despite the forecasted rain I was undeterred, or perhaps just stubborn, and stuck to my plan for the doubleheader.

CRCA Points RACING, AKA SPRINTING A LOT

The Club race was the first points of the year but with a break going away early we spent the first three laps chasing three riders up the road - never much fun when Mike Margarite is involved. Eventually the race came back together and the usual routine of Cat's Paw sprints and break attempts got underway. Unfortunately my legs never really started firing and so while I was around the hoop throughout the morning, my race was certainly less aggressive than the last go around in Central Park.

A few laps and one off-leash dog scare later the race concluded with Mike crossing the line solo, though with no results posted it remains unclear whether that was enough for him to take home the win.

Either way, while most of the squad headed off for the obligatory post-race coffee I headed home to pack up for part two of the doubleheader.

NOW FOR THE NEWARK PORTION OF THE RACE DAY

Fast forward a few hours and a few miles away to Newark, New Jersey and Lisa (CityMD Women's Racing) and I lined up for the Elite Men's field at the Cherry Blossom Challenge in Branchbrook Park. Of course just as the pre-race instructions got underway the forecasted rain started to come down.

More of a mist at first, the conditions were unpleasant but not unbearable for the first half of the race.  There were the usual flurry of attacks but with a small field and tough weather a field sprint felt likely early in the race. Since I was solo and had one race in my legs already I forced myself to play things conservatively, following moves and looking for the bunch sprint.

Midway through the race the weather turned gnarly with steady rain and at times a touch of snow. Visibility was negligible as it was tough to distinguish rainfall from the spray coming off the wheel in front of you. At some point the race the promoter either took pity on us or had his hand forced by road closure schedules - either way the lap counter skipped a few numbers on its countdown to the bell lap. Not that I was complaining: the conditions sucked and there seemed to be little reason to delay the increasingly inevitable field sprint.

As usual things got hectic in the final laps. Lupus massed at the front in support of Scott Savory, the clear favorite in the field sprint, while I fought for wheels in their draft. I was well positioned through the final corner, after which the leadout paused ever so slightly. Giving up all hope in the field sprint I attacked solo around the outside of the Lupus train, quickly securing a larger than expected gap.

Unfortunately it's also a long way from that point to the finish line, with a lovely headwind to boot. Feeling every effort from the earlier CRCA race my legs went stiff faster than I would have liked and despite an extra dig I was swallowed up by a fast moving field sprint just ahead of the line. Scott took home the win, well delivered to the line by his teammates, while I retreated to the car and put the heat on blast to recover from a tough day of racing.

Normally racing twice would have been the most exhausting part of the day, especially with the conditions at the Cherry Blossom Challenge. However we had more on the calendar for Saturday - a second birthday party for my nephews. This undoubtedly was the most tiring activity of the day.

EASY LIKE SUNDAY MORNING

When Sunday rolled around I still mustered the energy for a squad hang early the next morning to watch the Hell of the North on Eurosport. After extensively screaming at the television we squeezed in a quick run across the bridge with a few friends where Roger and Mat put the hurt on my tired legs.

Two races, waffles/coffee/cobbles with the squad and getting dropped on a team ride. All things considered not a bad way to spend the weekend.

Matthew Vandivort is a New York City based cyclist and sometimes photographer who was also a founding member of To Be Determined. You can follow him online at @photorhetoric or http://photo-rhetoric.com/