With the biggest road race in the New York tri-state area done and in the books, To Be Determined's own Ted Teyber recaps his experience as both a racer and the race director.
This race is hard: for racers it offers one of the longest races with more climbing than any other race in striking distance of NYC; as a race director, coordinating 3 neutral support cars and 20+ moto officials during a day packed with back-to-back-to-back fields is not easy. Top that off with the financial pressure imposed by the expenses of putting on such an event, with the frustrating pre-registration practices of bike racers in the 21st century, and you have the CRCA Bear Mountain Classic in a nutshell.
This year, as in 2016, we were lucky enough to be graced by the rain gods, to ensure that only the truly tough, DETERMINED, and hard nosed racers would persevere.
I do not want to be overly negative and harp on the difficulties of putting on a road race, as opposed to a park circuit or criterium race. But let's just say the operational complexity increases significantly when it comes to a race like the Bear Mountain Classic - and as you may be aware these historic road races are drying up across the U.S.
Matthew Vandivort's Are Bike Races Broken piece discusses the reasons for this much more thoroughly than I can or intend to here. However, note that the title thumbnail image for Matt's 2016 post on the topic is in fact CRCA's Bear Mountain Classic BikeReg page.
Worried about the potential doomsday scenario on the horizon for the future of road and stage races? Some level of concern is probably appropriate - with late rider registration the CRCA Bear Mountain Classic was once again staring down a potentially very significant financial loss just days before the event. However in the end the race was able to overcome the difficult weather conditions and - from the race director side of things - become another successful CRCA Open Race, even reaching breakeven on the cost side.
Yes there was rain and - although I am scrambling for the air conditioner in my apartment while writing this report just a few days later - race day was cold. It made for fairly brutal conditions for a road race - perhaps the most challenging seen at the Bear Mountain Classic since 2011 and a significant contrast from the heat that blasted the 2014 and 2015 editions of the race.
But weather aside the day went off amazingly smoothly. As always these events wouldn't even hit the planning stage without the support of the venue - in this case kudos have to go to the New York State Parks Department who continues to be one of our most supportive partners. This year they not only helped permit the event but also shared their shelter to run registration, marshal check-in and host podiums out of - a huge help given the constant rain.
Yes, some of the fields were smaller than expected due to no-shows. But the racing was no worse for wear. For example the Men's P/1/2 race was handily won by Glenn Ferreira, who solo'd for most of the 80 mile race. All those DETERMINED enough to finish the elite race finished in the money, but it was a race of mental toughness more than physical fitness for those in the main group.
For those who have not raced it, the Bear Mountain Classic course actually does not include the infamous Perkins Memorial Drive that is synonymous with "Bear Mountain" to New York City cyclists.
Rather, the course comprises an approximately 14 mile loop with several climbs, the most punchy of which is the first - Tiorati Brook Road. Tiorati is not a particularly long or steep climb - roughly 2.3 miles for the main chunk at a 4% average gradient - but combined with the rollers spread throughout the rest of the loop it becomes a leg sapping day on the bike (while on the topic of Tiorati: congrats to Samantha Fox for taking the Strava QOM on race day!).
Also of note, is that the first 2 miles of the course are straight downhill, literally, which makes for a lot attempts to scruff speed on wet carbon brake pads going into the first corner of the day. Luckily, in light of the soaking wet weather, racers took the descent cautiously and there were no crashes down this nerve wrecking section of the course. A few racers may have missed the hairpin turn at the bottom, resulting in premature cyclocross practice for May, but nothing that couldn't be laughed off post-race while trying to get warm under the Lake Welch public restroom hand dryers.
Back on the racing side of things: TBD's Patrick Torpey had to race in borrowed helmet, gloves and rain gear after a possibly overly competitive rider seized an opportunity to lock Torpey's keys in his car minutes before the start of the M2 race (that or he just accidentally closed the locked door, dooming Torpey to a poorly equipped race and a 2 hour post-race wait for AAA). Joking aside Torpey hung in for all but the last lap of the M2 race when the cold and wet (and lack of glasses and cycling gloves) got the best of his legs before the finish.
Bear Mountain Classic m3 Race Report
My own race in the M3 was exciting but not at all what I expected. The Category 1/2/3 NYC weekend Park races of late have been notably well matched across teams, such that breaks have been unsuccessful in staying away for much time. With a straight 3 field, I expected some of the stronger category 3 racers from the area to get in a break early. I was wrong.
On account of the miserable conditions (constant rain and temperatures hovering around 50 degrees Fahrenheit) 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 pull around the SRAM neutral support car (an indication of how big the gaps were on the climb) 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.
Thank you to Bicycle Racing Pictures for documenting all the fun - for those not familiar BRP is one of a small collection of photographers documenting the New York City racing scene week in and week out. Head over to their Facebook page and give them a like to say thank you for the effort they put in!
Ted Teyber is a New York City based cyclist and land use attorney who joined To Be Determined for the 2016 cyclo-cross season.