Cycling is one of those hobbies that is at times an exercise in futility - untold hours of training, significant tallies in registration fees and equipment purchases, not to mention the occasional wreck and resulting road rash. All that just to get in the position to suffer extensively in races in pursuit of what is, for most of us, the rare taste of victory.
In fact by my rough math it's been give or take one hundred races since I last pulled in a win - at Gateway Cup in 2013. That's a lot of miles, a lot of DNF's and pack finishes, without putting one in the W column. Thankfully this week the stars (and perhaps the weather) aligned to break that streak with a solo win at the Rockleigh Crit series opener.
Peer pressure in the best way possible
With a fairly dire forecast in the cards I definitely had my doubts about racing. Thankfully the TBD boys used their persuasive powers to convince me to venture out for a bit of fun in the rain - without them I probably would have been content to phone in another trainer workout. But with them we were a foursome eager for a Thursday night at the races.
The ride out was moist but thankfully by the time we reached the Rockleigh Mile the rain had ceased and the pavement was well on it's way to drying. That said the forecast was apparently sufficient to scare off most racers: it was one of the smallest Rockleigh fields I have experienced. Suddenly as the largest team in the race the pressure was on to deliver a result.
Rolling to the line there was a touching moment with the Koop family pinning Zach's retired #1 to the race tent. We also learned that there are some jerseys coming down the pipeline to raise money for Cycle for Survival - definitely stay tuned for more on that front.
The mood was jovial as the racing kicked off. Absent Ted flatting during the neutral laps the first few trips around the course were mundane. There were some attacks but with such a small field it was hard to get away. With Scudney, Daghan and Ted doing the hardman's work on the front I was fortunate to mostly hang out in the pack.
Eventually some thirty minutes into the race the pack stalled out in the headwind backside of the course so I decided to stretch my legs off the front to see if anyone would join me. Sadly no one was interested in my offer and I spent the next fifteen minutes dangling off the front by my lonesome:
Recognizing the futility of such a long range solo attack I managed the effort with the expectation of getting caught, which happened with ten or so minutes of racing to go. Over the lap the followed I managed to recover as Scuds dutifully counter attacked and the attacked again before Daghan followed this up with a counter-attack of his own.
When that move was pulled back I felt obliged to counter and I once again found myself drifting off the front of the field solo. I took it easy, anticipating that I would once again roll back to the field before the finale. Except as I rolled through the start/finish with a slim six second gap to the field the officials signaled two laps to go.
At that point I figured it was all or nothing so I went full gas for that lap - doubling my gap by the time I came through for the bell. The last lap was fairly uncomfortable as my legs reached their limit after many laps off the front throughout the race but thankfully the effort was sufficient to roll across the line with room to spare, breaking that long streak without a win:
4 riders, 4 bikes, 1 very small car
It was all smiles post race as in addition to my win the team managed to eek out 3rd and 4th. We snagged a few celebratory pics, donated our winnings to Cycle for Survival and then set about solving the jigsaw puzzle of how to fit four riders and four bikes in Ted's very small car (which only has a two bike rack). There was some creativity involved but thankfully we were up to the task and before long we were rolling back to New York City.
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/