The Best Road Races of 2017
As we approach the final phase of the 2017 cyclocross season our memories of the 2017 road season are increasingly distant. But as the 2018 starts looming in our minds we decided to recap a few of our favorite races from the road season the was, as captured on the To Be Determined Journal.
As always, head over to the Journal Archives for a full recounting of the wide array of race reports posted throughout the year. From Rockleigh to Fort Lee to Intelligentsia Cup it was a pretty incredible season of racing for TBD and we can't wait to get back to the races in just a handful of months.
CRCA Bear Mountain Classic (May 2017)
Ted Teyber (Race Report)
Yes there was rain and it was cold (constant rain and temperatures hovering around 50 degrees Fahrenheit). Perhaps the most challenging conditions at the Bear Mountain Classic since 2011. But 2017 generally proved to be a notably wet and messy year of racing. The racing was no worse for wear. On account of the miserable conditions everyone was physically uncomfortable even before accounting for any pain inflicted on or by the bike. Accordingly, the pace was brisk but civil, with the 50 person field shedding riders lap by lap but saving the real fireworks for the bell lap.
On the first climb of the final lap, there was a fast move that split the field. It wasn't so much that the move itself split the field, but some cagey gel consumption at the front of the group left the appearance of a gap that then had to be closed, and most couldn't close it. I myself thought my race was over seeing that big of a gap to the front, but luckily the pace slowed down after the KOM and I was able to reattach after a relatively easy chase.
The ensuing 8 miles brought about 20 racers to the final climb, and no one was excited for the race to be decided in a fast and wet downhill sprint. To avoid this less than ideal finish, a CRCA/Rockstar move went early but promptly fizzled. As the group came back together CRCA/Maglia Rosa got a man up the road with a few second gap, and no one was able to close it in time. I felt like I was racing on borrowed time having thought I was dropped from the leaders just a few miles before, and so was happy to sprint for 8th place despite ambitions to podium.
The Lime Rock Gran Prix (April 2017)
Overcast with a slight chill in the wind, pretty ideal racing conditions. The track ahead was exceptionally clean, a treat when compared to the usual race course of Central Park.
At the startline I was extraordinarily relaxed, lining up several feet behind the field of riders jockeying for position even before the whistle blew. As the pack rolled onto the track, I took a moment to assess those around me, deciding who was safe to let up the road and who I couldn’t afford to lose sight of. Recognizing a few strong New Yorkers, I immediately knew that a sprint finish would be tough to win. Should I jump early?
The early flyers go up the road as the pack settles into a rhythm. I moved into the front third of the peloton as a strong rider put in an attack up the only hill of the course. It was dangerous, but I could afford to wait. The group didn’t seem interested in chasing as three riders formed a small breakaway up the road, was this the time to chase? With teammates in the group to disrupt any chase effort, I knew we couldn’t afford to let the gap grow.
As we came around for the next lap, I moved to the front and tucked into a time-trial position. It would only take a short Vo2 effort to reel in the break, and it was now or never.
Powering over the only hill on course, I was within touching distance to the breakaway when a counter-attack flew over the top. Luckily, the reinvigorated group chased down the escapees and continued at a steady pace, thwarting other attacks. However it soon became clear that another challenge loomed.
Overhead, dark clouds began rolling in, the distinct smell of rain struck alarm into the field. A half lap later, the first raindrops fell, heavy and slow. Within moments a full downpour engulfed us, riders scrambled to adjust to the rain, seeking comfort in the cold and wet. The fact is, you have to embrace the rain.
On the next lap, riders were taking the one descent with an unnecessary caution, “We’re still racing!” I yelled. With only a handful of laps to go, I would have to weave my way through this pack to contest the finish. Riders were dangerously cautious in the rain, I would have to use my mental advantage and take a few risks. As we came around with 2 laps to go, riders began getting anxious and attacks flew off the front. The group was stretching and thinning, but nothing would stick. I stayed near the front chasing wheels, but never doing the work myself, always ready to respond.
The bell rang out as we flew through the finish line flat out. One more lap to hang on. I was still well positioned, and hiding from the wind. The rain had stopped but wheel spray made sitting in the group messy and reduced visibility as we charged around the track. I wanted the inside line on the final corner, it was a long drag to the finish so any advantage I could gain was in that corner. A few riders jockeyed with me, but I stayed low, hands on the drops, eyes constantly searching. The moments leading up to a sprint are invigorating and stressful, but I find myself calm and confident. Something is going right, the pieces are coming together today. Remember, there are some good sprinters in this bunch, I say to myself.
A nervous rider in front of me keeps losing position, costing me precious wheels from the front. I follow a surge up the left side, leading me to my desired inside line. We tear into the final corner, and as anticipated, the riders on the front open up their sprints. It’s too early to go, they can’t hold it for 500 meters. I follow, follow and follow until 200 to go when I power up the inside and pour everything I have left into the pedals.
Throwing the bike at the line, I look across to my right and see clearly, I have this one! I haven’t felt the satisfaction of victory in a while, and the emotion takes hold in a loud “YEAH” as my frozen mouth struggles to form the word.
Bike racing entails a lot of lows, the training, the suffering, the dedication. But one sweet moment seems to erase all of that, validating months of hard work. Now, as I look back at a season with many lows for me, namely a crash in June, this race brings an incredible joy and fulfilment that is hard to replicate outside of our crazy world of bike racing.
Every season on the bike seems to involve a fair number of questionable decisions and this year was no different. But one 24 hour stretch stands out as particularly insane but equally rewarding: the Prospect Park and Philly Naval Yard double header. One day and two races in two different cities.
The original plan started out simple enough: race an early morning Prospect Park race as part of the Castelli Series just like any number of other race weekends. However because the field structure didn’t lend itself to getting the entire squad in action Chris was planning on making the drive South the Philadelphia for the Navy Yard crit. With a minimal amount of peer pressure soon Ted and I were onboard to double up.
The plan was straightforward: race at the crack of dawn, find a quick meal and then jump in the car for the two hour drive. As it turns out the first half of the day would be the most memorable as the team raced aggressively in the Castelli Series and when it all came back together for a sprint finale I managed to freelance my way to a second place finish.
The Philly portion of this race day was certainly less memorable in terms of results - my tired legs and a stacked Baby Masters field made for a tough day of racing - but the shared experience of making questionable decisions, shooting the shit on the drive back and forth from New York and of course stuffing our faces post race at Wawa added up to my favorite race day of the season.
Millersburg Stage Race (August 2017)
Barb Blakley (TBD Race Report)
Millersburg has got to be one of the most well run races on the east coast. With what seems like a thousand volunteers, pro rolling enclosures in the road race, and the community opening their houses to racers for the weekend, it's a real experience. I went into the weekend hoping to have fun and finish knowing it was a fairly stacked 1/2/3 field and I am a proud cat 3 for life. However, after somehow landing myself in 6th place in the TT full dinosaur style I decided along with Lisa that I may as well try for a reasonable result.
After a fairly lame crit wherein I blew my positioning, I hoped a good dinner, held by our amazing host Midge and her family, would propel me to make the selection in the road race if such a thing occurred. I marked one of the two girls leading the GC and when she rode away from the field on the second climb of the road race I went with her. We got decent separation and then two of the other girls who were in the top 5 came with. I settled into a rhythm with them knowing at this point if we stayed away I could get 4th in the road race which would be a really terrific result for me. I knew Lisa would be in the field keeping things weird for everyone else which is one of her many talents. One of the girls flatted and it was down to three - I felt terrible for her! It became even more vital for me to hang on even though these ladies pulled like tractors. I somehow made it and essentially led them out because I was perfectly happy with third place in the road race.
Riding across the finish line and seeing Rod, who had been riding around the course cheering, as well as our Millersburg family, was so sweet. I felt like a celebrity and I was incredibly proud of this result. I'll always remember the weekend in the middle of Pennsylvania, racing bikes, slowing life down, and achieving something I didn't know I could.
CRCA Hincapie Classic in Memory of Lou Maltese (June 2017)
Meghan Schloat (TBD Race Report)
After having a baby boy in February, I wasn't able to race much this spring and summer. My goal was to ride the trainer as much as possible to get back into shape and support my teammates in the local Central Park races by mid-season. My favorite memory of this year was making a return to racing for the Lou Maltese Road Race in the end of June. It had been just over a year since I had raced with my team, and the weather conditions were truly epic. The torrential rain and wind began just minutes before we rode up to the start line, and by mid race it was coming down in unrelenting sheets. Normally, race conditions like these would be dangerous, given the slippery roads and limited visibility. This time though, the near-blinding rain made for an overly cautious, extremely safe peloton, and a perfect return to racing for me!
CRCA Zach Koop Memorial Crit (May 2017)
Liz Marcello (TBD Race Report)
My favorite race of 2017 was definitely that one crit in which I finished dead last. Maybe only a loser brags about a DFL, but since crashing epically in a crit in 2015 and needing an emergency spinal fusion, I’ve been pretty spooked by crits. Actually, bike racing in general is still sometimes scary. Although I’ve tackled a few crits since coming back to racing last year, I’m still not totally sold on the idea of criteriums, even though I swear that they are the most amazing and spectacular form of bike racing (sorrynotsorry cx zealots. you know it’s true).
Orchard Beach seemed like an obvious crit to do - local, tons of teammates racing, and many fields to choose from. Above all, it seemed like racing it would be a good step forward in overcoming some fear. But, I was scared and overwhelmed by the idea that I might crash. The pavement at Orchard Beach is rough, cornering is scary, and more than anything, I can’t control what other people in the field might do.
After wavering (and whining) about it for weeks, I pulled the trigger and reg’d with only a few hours to spare. Race day came, and I was totally nervous all morning. I think my entire body was quivering with fear when I finally made my way to the start line after half-assing my way through a warm-up. Pretty sure I also made a pal on TBD check my bike to “make sure it won’t implode.” But, I had lots of teammates and even more friends in the field, tons of friends on the sidelines, and even friends behind the judges’ stand. I had the feeling everyone was rooting for my success.
I had a rough start to the race and got really freaked when someone made a dangerous move, bumping me and my handlebars going into a turn. I managed to stay upright!! I was ready to DNF out of fear until a teammate rolled up next to me and said “you’re okay...you’re okay.” And you know what? She was right! And I was okay! The raced ended up being a blast, and although I spent more time on the front than any smart bike racer would ever want to, I managed to put in a few attacks to keep the field moving. With one and a half to go, I attacked and totally burned all my matches, bringing the speed up just enough so my team could set up the perfect lead out so a teammate could take the win. I rolled across the line gasping for air and totally dead. Not only did my teammate win, but I raced another crit and finished upright, despite the sketchiness of other riders. I guess I was also a little bit victorious.