Fort Lee Criterium Race Recap

It's hard to believe that it's here. The end of the CRCA Open Racing calendar. Fresh off an insane week of racing at Intelligentsia Cup in Chicago the squad came back together for the final CRCA Open Race of the year: the Fort Lee Criterium.

And so a series that started on a frigid day at the Grant's Tomb Criterium has come to an end, though not before one last terrific day at the races that raised money for a variety of good causes. A full recap of the Fort Lee Criterium and a few thank yous for a terrific season of racing follows below.

Racing Bikes in Fort Lee is Back

The Fort Lee Criterium is the latest iteration of what was once known as the Tour of Fort Lee. Situated just south of the George Washington Bridge the Fort Lee Criterium is one of just a handful of criteriums in the area that are reachable from the city via bike. That alone makes the Fort Lee Criterium special though the fact that the event receives terrific community support AND raises thousands of dollars for great causes (the Fort Lee Education Foundation and the Century Road Club Development Foundation) is what is makes the Fort Lee Criterium truly memorable.

So a huge thank you goes to CRCA - including our own Ted Teyber, CRCA Director of Open Racing - for helping bring this event back to the calendar by partnering with various Fort Lee organizations, Strictly Bicycles and the Fort Lee Education Foundation. So much work goes on behind the scenes to help bring together an event of this nature - from the Fort Lee Police Department assisting with road closures to the entire Century Road Club Development Foundation team serving as marshals throughout the day - that we as racers feel fortunate just to be able to ride our bikes in circles for a few hours. 

As for the actual racing the Fort Lee Criterium utilizes a challenging course that reminds us somewhat of the Tour of Millersburg - particularly the hill between corners three and four that contributed to succesful breaks in nearly every field at the Fort Lee Criterium. Temperatures on race day were warm but thankfully a touch below what we experienced last week in Chicago, making for a challenging day of racing and a great afternoon of spectating and shooting pictures of the action. 

Century Road Club Development Foundation works behind the scenes and in the races

The Fort Lee Criterium is a particularly important race for the Century Road Development Foundation, the Junior and U23 charitable foundation that is supported by the CRCA. In addition to raising funds for the Foundation and being the team's priority race, the squad also took on significant responsibility for planning and executing the event including staffing the majority of the marshal positions during race day. As a Foundation we're hopeful that this introduction to race promotion will help find the next generation of CRCA Board Members and race directions. 

In between volunteer shifts the CRCDF team also managed to sneak in a whole lot of racing across multiple fields. On a hard day of racing the standout performance came from CRCDF team captain Andrew Petti who attacked early in the M3/4 field, found a companion willing to partake in his aggressive strategy and held the move all the way to the finish where he won the two up sprint to take the win!

Lisa Vandivort and CityMD Women's Racing team find success in the Women's Elite Field

Coming off of a tough but successful week at Intelligentsia Cup I was looking forward to Fort Lee Criterium though I was surprised when I rolled to the line and saw Marlies Mejias Garcia racing for UCI team Weber Shimano who was fresh off winning the Intelligentsia omnium against some of the strongest racers in the entire country. It was awesome - if slightly intimidating - having some of the most elite competition ever seen at a CRCA race in attendance for the Fort Lee Criterium. 

Recognizing Marlies, I made sure Aimee knew just how strong she was and to look out for a move from her. The race started off fast and we knew that positioning was going to be important on this course - no hot tubing this one. For the initial few laps Marlies and Cheryl Clark (EPS) kept the pace fast and then around five laps in that pair along with Emily Spence put in a dig on the hill that Aimee marked precisely while I sat second wheel monitoring the chase. 

Aimee’s group quickly established a gap but initially stayed close enough that they were within reach. At this stage there was some organization in the chase with Radical and Rockster taking turns while I stayed steady in the peloton and worked to break up their advances. At one point Lucia Deng (Rockstar) took a big pull and for a short period it looked like it was all going to come back together on the hill but as it turns out that was when the rubber band was snapping - the time gaps started going out and kept growing. 

As the break rode out of sight it soon became apparent that we were going to get lapped. I was hopeful that the break would stay with the peloton as they came back around but since Aimee was the only break rider with teammates in the chase, the break just kept riding through as I said goodbye to my hopes of a teammate leadout. 

As the lap counter wound down the break sprinted for the line with Marlies easily taking the win and Aimee sprinting for a very nice third place finish. 

Behind them I focused on positioning coming off the downhill into turn three and up the hill through corner four, attacking coming out of the corner. I got an initial gap but was worried that it was too long until the finish so I sat back down for a few hard pedal strokes before second guessing and deciding to just roll the dice and go for it. I kicked again and clicked through one gear and then another as I felt someone approaching me over my shoulder. 

With one last push I crossed the line first out of the field, good enough for third and fifth for the team on the day - a great result for the team in the last CRCA Open Race of the year. 

A Big Round of Thank You's To End the Season

With the CRCA Open Racing season coming to an end we have to give thanks to the many volunteer and staff responsible for putting on eighteen races with thousands of participants in the most densely packed city in America. Speaking from personal experience it's an absolutely massive undertaking and one that cannot be lauded strongly enough, particularly given the vast majority of CRCA leadership roles are purely voluntary in nature.

So as the season winds down a short list of thank yous (we're certainly forgetting some):

  • The entire CRCA Board including our own Ted Teyber for volunteering your time to do the heavy lifting in keeping CRCA alive and functioning in NYC
  • Alex and Jimmy who staff the CRCA Open Races from the frigid days at Grant’s Tomb to brutally early mornings in Central Park and now at the Fort Lee Criterium
  • All of the officials and motos who work CRCA's events - there is a shortage of officials in New York City and our races couldn't happen without you, so thank you!
  • All of the sponsors who have contributed funds and merchandise to help make the race calendar possible. The economics of bike races can be exceedingly difficult so thank you for easing that burden.

The Fort Lee Criterium as Captured by TBD's Matthew Vandivort