Two Races. Two Cities. One Day.
Double header race days are some of our favorites - be it racing multiple fields at an event like the Grant's Tomb Criterium or an early morning in Central/Prospect Park before heading to New Jersey to race Branchbrook.
However this past weekend we cooked up something a bit more ambitious - starting the morning with a 6AM race in Brooklyn before driving south for the Philadelphia Navy Yard Criterium. One (very long) day at the races, as told by TBD's Chris Burati, Matthew Vandivort and Ted Teyber follows below:
(cover image above via Bicycle Racing Pictures on Facebook)
Chris Burati on the Philly Navy Yard Criterium
I love out of town races. It’s easy to become complacent with racing in New York (don’t get me wrong it’s second to none with the sheer variety and amount of local races), but there are some real gems less than two hours away. The Philadelphia Navy Yard crit is one. While this year’s edition was not technical, it was fast, smooth, and windy. Like Floyd Benefit Field without landmines and blast holes.
As is sometimes the case with these races, it can require a car rental if team ride coordination doesn’t perfectly work out. In New York City going the rental route often means attempting to coordinate the dance of perfectly timing rental pickup (ensuring you get it back within 24 hours), loading your rental while doubled parked with blaring horns (aimed at you), and an early AM departure rush to the Lincoln Tunnel. This is quite a contrast to throwing your stuff in your driveway-parked car and leisurely progressing on your way.
Of course in my haste I put the wrong address into Google Maps, which added an extra 25 mins to my trip (after driving to North Philly and wondering how it could geographically be possible for a Navy Yard to exist in such a landlocked place). This meant a very abbreviated warm up.
It’s usually against my better judgement to double up on crit days. I always make excuses like “I should focus my energy and concentration on one race,” or “I don’t want to burn out by doubling up so much.” However this time I looked forward to it. You don’t drive two hours to race 50 mins unless it’s cyclocross, and these double ups should be viewed as good training.
First up was the M4/5 race. I didn’t have a plan going into the race other than try and get a result. Not having much of a sprint, a break or perfect positioning in the final corners is typically what I aim for. I started out towards the back, and quickly realized it WAS NOT where I wanted to be. It was fairly difficult to move up on the course so on the second lap I needed to put in a big effort to move to the front race.
For the next 45 minutes I moved well around the top 10 wheels opting to spend a fair chunk of time at the front, marking moves, and making moves. I took a solo flyer with about 10 to go and three eventually bridged to me. It quickly became apparent that they did not know how to work in a break (one actually told me after the race that he had no idea what to do), and we were caught a few laps later after I resigned myself to the fact it wasn’t going to stick.
Otherwise there were all of the typical oddities of a 4/5 race: a whole team coming to the front multiple times only to slow the pace while talking about getting ready to “punch it,” lots of braking in EVERY corner, teammates chasing other teammates down, to name a few. Particularly troublesome was the fourth corner, which I found smooth, but the constant crunch of carbon behind me led me to believe that others had a much different experience.
On the last lap I slipped back a bit, and in that fourth corner two guys came together in front of me but stayed upright. This caused a moment of hesitation on my part, and I didn’t make a move to the front. I ultimately missed the sprint and rolled across the line in the front third of the bunch.
In retrospect I should have went for it BEFORE that corner, and if I made it through at a minimum fifth wheel, I would have been in very good position for the sprint. Ultimately it was a good learning opportunity and you just need to go for it.
Despite the efforts in the 4/5, I felt I had a lot left in the tank for the 3/4 , which was scheduled to go off 4 hours later.
Ted Teyber and Matt Vandivort made the drive to Philly from the Castelli M2/3 race in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park. Two races in two different cities makes for a loonngg day - especially with the 3:30 alarm to ride to Prospect Park for the 6AM start from Manhattan - but Matt had secured second step on the podium and as a result the reinforcements squad was in high spirits as they drove into the venue and admired the unique Navy yard architecture, and yes, boats.
Matt’s race was first in the 35+ Masters field. It looked hard, fast and painful with the windy conditions.
Matthew Vandivort on the NYC/Philly DOUBLE
Don't get me wrong, there were definitely moments where I second guessed my sanity. But somehow earlier in the week I agreed to a crazy Saturday of racing with the TBD squad - a day that would start before 4AM in order to kick things off with a circuit race in Brooklyn before driving a few hours south with Ted (who likewise was joining the early morning race in Brooklyn) for an afternoon of crit racing in Philadelphia.
The first half of the day was pretty typical for weekend racing in New York City - an ungodly early alarm, a bit of coffee and a bowl of oatmeal before riding in circles with a huge pack of the other crazies that populate the New York City cycling community. Of course the end result was less than typical as I snagged second place in a field sprint after some great teamwork from the TBD boys. Hooray results.
From there it was time for a quick breakfast from a street cart and a brief shower before Ted was suddenly at my door, ready for the drive down to Philly. This is when my regret set in - I could have been napping on the couch and recovering from my lack of sleep.
But I needed the bike driving practice in a real crit after a long off-season so off to Philly we went. As is par for the course we cut the timing pretty close, but I still managed to sneak in a quick warm-up spin to stretch my tired legs and check out some of the incredible scenery at the Navy Yard - as a nautical geek it's hard to think of a better venue for a bike race:
As for the actual racing - I double registered for the Master's 35+ and the P/1/2/3 thinking that the former would be a good opportunity to test my tired legs against what I assumed would be a slower field before deciding whether to go for three races in two cities in one day (I tend to bite off more than I can chew when it comes to race registration).
One thing is for certain - my assumption regarding the Master's field pace was dead wrong. It was a smallish field which left nowhere to hide on a windy and attack filled day where we averaged close to 27 miles per hour. There were plenty of riders willing to race aggressively, perhaps none more so than Team Skyline's Ryan DeWald who won the race in 2016. When Ryan went off the front all of the big guns in the field followed and the pace tended to get quite uncomfortable.
Images above via Bicycle Racing Pictures on Facebook
My legs were definitely feeling the effects of racing earlier in the day and there was a brief moment early in the race where I was seriously concerned about getting dropped. But thankfully my legs finally opened up a bit and I was able to race more aggressively - getting off the front with what looked like dangerous moves in the second half of the race. I was definitely redlining and with no familiarity with the other riders in the field there was a bit of guessing when it came to picking moves, but the uncertainty was a nice change from the predictability that comes with the familiar faces of the NYC peloton.
In the end all of that aggressive racing was for naught as the field kept coming back together. As the lap counter crossed five to go the games began and it became increasingly obvious that it was going to be a field sprint. Of course I somehow lost track of the lap count and came to the front for what I thought was going to be the bell only to see we had two laps to go. Math is hard when you're redlined.
I burned some matches and was able to hold position for that lap, but then on the actual bell lap I got swarmed in corner two and wasn't aggressive enough in regaining position. This left me ten riders deep going into the final corner but with a headwind finish and a decent kick I figured I still had road to work with.
Unfortunately similar to what happened to Chris in his opening race, in the final corner two riders made contact ahead of me with one of them coming to a near standstill in my exact line. With a fist full of brake I quickly lost positions rather than gaining them and finished 14th. Though huge props to Ryan for winning for a second consecutive year after very nearly winding up in a curb during the sprint:
Drone footage above via Jeff Watts on YouTube.
It definitely wasn't the result I was hoping for after the long drive to Philly, but with second place earlier in the day I was mostly glad my legs held up as well as they did in a challenging race. And the bike handling practice alone was worth the drive with bigger targets looming this summer - nevermind the good times with the rest of the TBD crew along the way.
TED TEYBER ON RACE NUMBER TWO: MEN'S 3/4
Having been in a breakaway in the morning’s 2/3 race in New York City (one that was caught just before the last lap but I like to think gave Matt the rest he needed to sprint for a result) my legs were certainly feeling what would end up being a 100+ mile day of racing. I warmed up and exchanged offers with Chris to work for one another on account of both of our legs being tired from our respective AM races - Chris in the Philly 4/5 field and me in the Castelli Series.
The 3/4 field was the usual cast of characters from southern NJ and teams from what I have come to recognize and love as Philadelphia’s strong cycling scene. However, most of the strong riders were flying solo, with little to no teammates to work with. As a result there was no rotation at the front and both Chris and I got hung out to dry in the wind on initial attempts to rotate through.
This made staying at the front where you want to be tough, and as our second races of the day neither of us really had the legs to sit in the wind and ride the field off their wheel.
As a result we took a more conservative strategy and sat in - hoping that the field would split and our positioning in the first half of the group would allow us to go with that split. The field got strung out on the last two laps with the help of the wind but the rubber band never fully snapped.
As a result the field sprint was mostly a battle of positioning and we were too far back to go for the win, though fortunately we avoided a nasty looking crash as the field went two wide through the final corner and two riders made contact with one another in the final corner (that contact in the final corner seemed to be a theme of the day). I kind-of-sprinted for 15th with Chris just a few wheels behind me. Despite some sketchy moments during the race, particularly in corner one, we were all smiles after the finish.
Drone footage above via Jeff Watts on YouTube.
Chris burati on the post-race essentials
Matt had registered for the P/1/2/3 but given how painful his day looked and how late that field would run I was glad to see that he had de-kitted during the 3/4 race and was lounging with friends in the finishing straight as we finished.
That left TBD's Tom Hendry to line up solo for the final race of the day, but he was staying with family in Philly so he was fortunate not to have a long post-race drive. We watched the whistle blow and cheered him on through the initial laps, but with a lap count seemingly approaching triple digits and a two hour drive ahead of us we soon had to pull the plug and hit the road.
As is custom when traveling South from New York City for a bike race, we quickly found a nearby Wawa - an inexplicable New Jersey treat for NYers - before embarking on the peaceful drive back into NYC. Results in Philly might have been light, but it was still a great day at the races.