As a former race director Orchard Beach has held a special place in my heart ever since I helped reintroduce the race in 2012. It's a unique, potholed venue that I'm thankful we're still able to race at despite increasingly stringent restrictions from NYC Parks. And I'm certainly happy to see the race renamed in Zach Koop's honor with several thousand dollars raised to help fight cancer in the process.
As special as the race may be at times I can't help wonder whether the event is cursed when it comes to weather. Somehow each of the past three years have featured at least a short bout of extreme weather - usually during the late afternoon fields. This year's race was no different as the Elite Women's race got hit with a mid-race tempest that quite literally blew riders across the course.
While the afternoon weather once again left something to be desired it was still a successful day of racing for the squad as Christopher Burati scored a podium early in the day. For my part however I am beginning to wonder whether the weather curse at Orchard Beach is starting to extend to my personal racing experience at the venue as well...
Zach Koop Memorial Crit Race Report
We kicked things off under grey skies with a neutral lap that was anything but neutral. It was an appropriate send-off for what would be a well paced hour of racing (26.4mph average) with plenty of attacking throughout.
Fortunately we had our resident breakaway specialist, Pat Torpey, in attendance and he was a near constant presence on the front of the race. In instances where Pat was recovering in the pack I generally took up affairs on the front in his stead. Unfortunately we lost Tom to an early race mechanical but with Ted and Dag also putting in strong showings the squad was active from start to finish.
Despite numerous instances where it looked like a group might slip off the front each time the pack came back together. Tomi from Blue Ribbon rolled the dice with a late race move with a few other riders but as the lap counter rolled through single digits it was increasingly apparent that it was going to be a field sprint.
Last year I went into the final corner with great positioning only to be chopped by another team's lead-out man - a fist full of brake completely taking me out of contention for a result. This year I was eager for a clean finish, hoping to finally score that Orchard Beach podium that has alluded me in the four prior editions of the race.
Sadly it was not to be. On the last lap the field hit the opposite straightaway full gas, hitting 35mph and carrying that speed into the second to last corner at 30+mph. I felt confident about my positioning five or so wheels back... right until a rider in front of me rolled his tubular and came to a near-dead stop in the apex of the turn.
Several riders including Gerry from Weather Channel, who ultimately won, were able to dive into the grass but with a rider to my right meant I was boxed in. Thus my race at Orchard Beach ended the same way as last year.... with a fist full of brake. Only this time I also got the added heart stopping adventure of doing a two wheel skid into the grass: