To Be Determined Journal

To Be Determined is a journal of cycling, adventure and photography, curated by a NYC-based cycling team known as TBD Racing or Team TBD. From criteriums to cyclocross to product reviews and travel diaries, it is all part of the TBD Journal.

#Slowboiz Race Report: Central Park & Prospect Park Double Header

As the last remaining Category 4 racers on the To Be Determined, Clay, Clark and I (aka the #slowboiz) have been hunting upgrade points since the season kicked off just under one month ago. Having scored two top tens and a brush with disaster at that opening CRCA race, Grant’s Tomb, and Branchbrook, respectively, we had a bit of extra motivation behind us coming into the first double header weekend with CRCA on Saturday and Prospect Park on Sunday. Our experience during a busy weekend racing bicycles in New York City:

Saturday in Central Park - Clark Fredricksen

Cullen MacDonald and I arrived at the line to see a swarm of well-represented local teams – Good Guys, RBNY, New York Cycling Club, and some others. As relative newcomers to CRCA races Cullen asked “Good Guy” and friend of TBD, John D’Agnostino, how often breakaways made it in the CRCA club series, if ever. John replied, “Oh all the time, especially this early in the season.”  As it turned out, John called it.

Unfortunately for me, I was determined to sit in for the first half of the race and not chase any moves – having spent the previous day not feeling well. As a result, I missed the winning move in the second lap after – wait for it – riders from Good Guys, NYCC, and RBNY all jumped off the front on Harlem Hill. Those teams executed their blocking in the peloton well, and the remaining teams didn’t have the numbers to bring it back.

In the end I took 3rd place in the field sprint and was thankful to not get caught up in the day’s two big crashes. Speaking of crashes. There’s some terrific footage of both incidents, and I’d like to offer a hot take on a commonplace occurrence in the cat 4 peloton: “Hold your line.”

Every category four and five rider has heard someone else yell “hold your line” across the bunch at some point in just about every race. The funny thing about this is that most crashes aren't as simple as line-holding. For one thing, we’re in a  bike race and people are always moving forward, backward, left or right. For another, crashes are not exclusively caused by some swervy novice. So it’s just never seemed like the right mantra to me. Instead, the real reason seems to be about contact with other riders and a subsequent bout of utter-fucking-panic that causes an overcorrection and a crash. 

SUNDAY IN Prospect Park - The #SlowBoiz perspective

At the Prospect Park season opener, we brought all three #slowboiz to the line. Having avoided the crashes of the previous day, we were feeling ready (if a little fatigued) for the day. Having sat out the CRCA race for a last-minute ski day away, Clay was our best choice for the inevitable hilltop sprint.

Our plan for the day was to do as little work as possible and race well when it counted. Breaks never really stand a chance in Prospect Park, particularly for the shorter Category 4 races. (Yes, commenters, we know that they have gotten away in the past. It’s possible but super infrequent.) 

So we sat in and worked on bunch skills with games like, “make it across the peloton safely to your buddy without doing pedaling,” and “follow wheels like they do in the real world” – while a few freelancers were game to tow the pack around. We elected to sit out the intermediate sprint competition, since those don’t gain us anything with regard to the upgrade goal. All of us more or less raced on our own in the past, so it felt good to have a plan, and to follow it. We all averaged low tempo heart rates for the race, which we’ll call success.

As the lap counter ticked lower, Clay and Clark made some well timed, low-effort moves towards the front while Cullen hung out a little too long in The Hot Tub*. With one lap to go, Clark and Clay were still up in the top 12 wheels, allowing them to avoid the random moves on the left or the right. Cullen tried his best to encourage those around him to move up but the swarms left him farther back than he wanted to be. Remember folks, you don’t get boxed in, you box yourself in. 

When the pack hit the hill, Good Guys Racing kicked up a faster pace than usual, preventing any attacks. Clay and Clark were right on the wheels of the Goodest Boyes as the pack crested the hill while Cullen was left a little cracked trying to make up spots during the climb. Clark started the sprint early, forcing a few folks to jump with him. This only helped Clay as he wound up his sprint at the same time as the eventual winner Emmett “Negligence” Gross** sending him flying across the line in 2nd place. Clark’s early sprint wasn’t for naught as he rolled across the line in 8th place (that's un point, pals). 

* The Hot Tub: Near the back of the pack, getting maximum draft. At first you think, "this is nice." But don't stay in the Hot Tub too long...

** This is not Emmett's nickname, it's just a joke. He's fast and not negligent at all.

Photo by Marco Quezada

Our obvious Takeaways from a double header weekend of racing

  • Team tactics can work! 

  • Don't put in effort until it's time to put in effort. After the race, ask yourself "where did I do my best power? What did it do to help me or my team?" Usually our answer is, "Nothing" ...but not this time!

  • Play some of these "see how little work you can do" games. You might amaze yourself how easy it is to move up just by timing it right and not using your brakes.

  • Don't scream out "hold your line!" It's not helpful. Instead, try just calmly saying "I'm right here."

We are still way early in the season, so relax a little and have fun. See all you other Slowboiz on April 7th.