As we often say, as New Yorkers we are very lucky to have multiple parks and race series around us - Central Park, Prospect Park, Floyd Bennett Field, Rockleigh, Kissena. For this particular race we were headed to Prospect Park.
This morning was the first race of the Castelli Cup. On the bright side the series offers a new 2/3 field format which is great for our squad. On the not-so bright side the early start meant that for the portion of the team residing in Manhattan we had to wake up at 4:15am (or even earlier for those living further North). Waking up for the early races gets easier throughout the season, but the first couple of races are always tough.
I met the UES crew on 2nd avenue at 4:55 and headed to Manhattan bridge. It was still pitch black out, but there is a charm in riding through the city while some people are just going home from the bars.
Because I’m currently mostly racing mountain bikes, this was my first road race outside of the Grant's Tomb Criterium a few weeks prior. I didn’t know what to expect about the pace and conditioning of the other teams. We started the race at 6am whistle. The pace was not challenging, however there was constantly something happening in the front of the peloton. No break was serious enough to stick though. As TBD, we were very active on the front. We were constantly trying to create breaks or trying to stop them from happening. Ted, Patrick, Matt, Corey all did their share of the workload.
Nine laps in and with three to go a serious break happened and it looked like it was going to stick. There were around 6 riders in the group and luckily we had Ted representing the squad and doing a lot of work. All we had to do was just to react to other teams and hope that they don't bring them back. Unfortunately both Foundation and 5th Floor had missed the move and eventually they put in some hard pulls to bring the back. The gap started to close down slowly and by 1-to-go the pack was all back together.
On the last lap I moved up to the front to help control the pace for the team just after the long downhill. By the old start/finish to my surprise Corey slid up along the right side of the field and pulled me to the bottom of the last hill. He helped us stretch out the field, and right after I surged up the hill to set a fast pace to insure the finish was difficult.
However, at that point Liberty attacked with 3 guys. Because they hadn’t really worked at all during the race, they looked pretty fast, and I had already put in too much work to respond. So all I could hope for was for Torpey or Matt getting on their wheel. As the field surged around me the front of the pack faded into the distance and I couldn't see how things played out for the squad.
When I got to the finish line, I was told that Matt got 2nd place which is a great result given Matt got swarmed going into the last climb and had to work his way forward from 20+ riders back. When I asked Matt how it happened he said that after moving up on the climb one of the lead-out trains went super early, giving two Foundation riders a big gap on the flat run into the finish. He bridged across on the last flat section into the finish but could only get to Joe Ammon's (Foundation) wheel. This left a decent gap to third place but Matt didn't have enough road or matches left to challenge Joe for the win.
On top of Matt’s success in the Cat 2/3 race, Clay got third place in his race, making for a very successful morning in Prospect Park for the squad!
From there the only thing left to do was ride back to Manhattan - reaffirming that the best part of the day is the feeling of getting home with close to sixty miles under your belt while your significant other is still sleeping.
For perhaps the craziest part of the day Matt and Ted then got in the car to drive two hours down to Philly to race the Navy Yard Criterium! More on that portion of the weekend soon.
As we always say, a big thank you to all of the staff and volunteers that help make these races happen. They play such a significant role in the cycling community in New York City - riding here wouldn't be the same without them. And a special thank you to Charlie for bringing the 2/3 field structure to Prospect Park.
Daghan Perker is a creative director, photographer, and an athlete. You can see more of his work on his instagram handle @dperker He is also a founding member of tobedetermined.cc