It wasn't until 8pm last night that emails started flying around our team list with the realization this morning's CRCA Club race was in fact a points race with sprints every lap at Engineers Gate. Points races are a common affair in Central Park but having the sprints at Engineers Gate was unexpected.
By 5am we had a loose plan of how we wanted to tackle the race, which mostly included having fun since this was sadly Shane's last race before she skips town for a summer in the less humid urban jungle of Los Angeles.
CRCA promised great weather which was welcome after the misery of Bear Mountain and a grey day at Orchard Beach. But in the end we're pretty sure they jinxed it - after several warm and sunny days Saturday was definitely chilly but refreshing at the start - and got worse from there. But more on that later.
Things rolled off the line business as usual, slow to get going but then the initial attacks helped wake the field up. Most of the first lap including the sprint was blurry as I waited for my caffeine gummies to kick in: We weren't super organized. Shane got a little overexcited. But she and I managed to kick it to the line for 2nd and 3rd, squarely in the points. Only too late did I realize there was a bit of a cross headwind and that I had sprinted in exactly the wrong line for both wind direction and for hitting every sewer grate along the way. Whoops.
On the next several loops there were a series of attacks, some well represented from the larger teams, but nothing stuck so each of the subsequent laps came down to a sprint. On the third lap we were greeted by a surprisingly localized downpour contained to the Southwest quadrant of the park - perfect for soaking our bodies and moistening all the grit at the bottom of the park, lovingly called Horseshit Alley. I tried to remember to close my mouth.
We worked together to set up the middle sprints perfectly with Renee and Liz getting to the front to pull us to the straightaway and I managed to win sprints 2-4, with Shane coming in second in the penultimate. I learned from my previous mistake and knew I wanted us riding on the left side of the road with the lead out pulling off to the right so we got the best coverage down the chute. We were in good standing going into the final lap....but as with points races that meant spending the better part of that last lap trying to figure out who else had scored and attempting remedial math in our heads while barreling through the park, watching for obstacles and covering attacks.
One such attack from Erica on Radical launched at Tavern. We went to the front to chase but by this time we were mostly certain that both Shane and I were vying for top 3 in the points. Since Erica didn't have points on us, we saved all our legs for that final sprint with the goal of edging out Jaime, also on Radical, and Sara from Rockstar, both of whom had racked up points.
Coming over Cat's Paw the field slowed as everyone started vying for early spots in the leadout and both Shane and I got ourselves boxed in. Luckily our girls came to the rescue - Renee to pick up the pace as Liz dragged Shane up front which also opened a gap for me to move up the field.
I launched early in the straightaway and looked over to see Shane with Jaime right on her tail. From my perspective it appeared close so I put my head down to muscle to the line aiming to take points away from Jaime as best I could, but making sure Shane could stay in the lead in the field sprint to grab max points available. I may have waited a bit too long to ease off the gas but Shane and I crossed that line in perfect succession for 1st and 2nd, respectively, in the field sprint (Erica stuck her solo move to the finish line).
For a pretty cobbled together race plan we sure did a stellar job working together and after extended calculations back in the Rambles Parking Lot the final tally had me winning with Shane finishing second overall - the perfect sendoff for miss Shane!
A Field Points Race Report by Matthew Vandivort
Similar to our friends at CityMD, it was a late realization that Saturday's Club Race was in fact a points race. There are two types of points races in Central Park: hard races and races where the break goes and you have a teammate up the road and can spend the rest of the morning on a group ride. With mediocre legs in the past two weeks I was hoping for the latter. As chance would have it we wound up with the former.
The pace was high throughout the morning - a hair under 27 miles per hour despite some miserable trips through the South end of the park after that oddly localized downpour. Thankfully the finish line and the descent around Lasker Rink mostly remained dry.
Rockstar and Foundation both brought out full squads - the former rolling ten riders deep. This meant both teams had plenty of horsepower in the leadouts. I attempted to freelance for the first two sprints, earning a pair of fourth or fifth place finishes and a grand total of 0 points since they only go three deep. With another off day for my legs I decided to go with plan B - launching Scudney over the top of Harlem Hill after the second sprint. A big dig got him off the front of the field with a group of riders but it all came back together before the next sprint.
The next few laps were a blur: I sat out one of the sprints so I could recover and curse the weather gods but otherwise continued to find myself just a touch too far back to land in the top three. At one point a big group of riders got up the road and Ted, JB and I went to the front to lead the chase. But as luck would have it that break wound up neutralized by a field finishing ahead of them, once again bringing the pack back together. At one point we even passed a moto-less C field and the lead riders in the C field started to meld into our field. Much yelling ensued.
Finally on the last lap after a morning of futility I decided to roll the dice on a solo move - hey it worked once before. This time however the field wasn't about to let a break take the final sprint and I was caught at the top of Harlem Hill. A series of attacks followed with gaps opening the field but I was able to stay at the front, even managing to dodge a "Race in Progress" sign that had been placed in the CENTER of the roadway on the West Side.
The final sprint was messy as leadouts kicked off and then fizzled. I picked a good wheel and hung on it as the field moved left and then right but ultimately managed to roll across the line with another fifth place finish in the sprint. But at least on the final lap points go five deep, giving me one solitary point for the morning's effort. All ended well because as soon as the race finished we headed across the bridge to tack on another forty or fifty miles while grabbing breakfast.
Lisa is manager and co-founder of the CityMD Women's Racing Team, a NYC based road and cyclocross racer, former board member of the CRCA and always planning her next travel adventure.