The Castelli Series Kicks Off and the NYC Metro Showdown

Ted and Erwin report back on the last Saturday of racing in March, sharing their views of Rockland Lake and Castelli #1 respectively.   

Race Number 1 of the Day: The Castelli Series Opener in Prospect Park

While Clay, Clark and Cullen kicked off their Prospect Park race season at the Lucarelli & Castaldi Cup last week (putting Clay into a bright yellow leaders jersey with a second place finish), the opening race of the 2018 Castelli Series would be the first Prospect Park race for the rest of the team. Despite spending the Monday to Friday before in San Francisco for work – albeit with decent weather and a few gorgeous morning rides – a six-hour flight the day before the race wasn't my ideal prep. Everyone was excited however; the 2/3 category arguably suits the current team well, which showed in the number of teammates that were up for making this Series a success: we had 6 at the start line. We weren't the only ones: NYCC Racing (also 6), Bicycle Habitat Verge Sport (7) and Rockstar Games (8) also brought excitement in numbers. The ingredients were there for an exhilarating kick-off, but unfortunately, that's not why this race will be remembered...

The first 8 of 12 laps of our favorite Prospect Park loop were relatively uneventful. Ted Teyber and Corey Williams were staying near the front, marking early attacks. A few went, but none had sufficient firepower to create a real gap. With Seb Vidal and Matt Vandivort,we had options for a sprint, but our primary goal was for me to get those first points towards the GC. It felt great to have the guys supporting me, and with them racing exactly according to plan and saving me from any efforts, I felt good with a few laps to go. Ted got some 'bonus' KOM points, which eventually went to Alex Lightman (5th Floor). Jesus Martinez (NYCC Racing) took the overall Sprint lead for the Series. The moment after he had bagged full points in the second sprint - three laps to go - was the time I had marked to try and get a feel for the action. There didn't turn out to be much appetite, and with only one other racer jumping along, this effort was very short lived. 

Shortly after, a break formed what I believed could've been "the one", as it had 8-10 guys and good representation of a number of teams. It wasn't a well-oiled machine, but the break worked reasonably well together. When again that group was brought back by the pack, it felt this race was poised for a pack finish and just before one lap to go, I had another go at the top of the hill to create something. Calling it a gap would be an overstatement, but it made the front group stand up and work and I got to the top at the front. That's where the now infamous confusion in the pack started: the pace moto started signaling at me, telling me to slow down. First thoughts: "Is that really what he means?" "Does he just want me to be cautious?"

When we passed the corner at Grand Army Plaza - same status quo - and now a few people alongside me, everyone started talking and asking questions. The remainder of that final lap was partially neutralized, albeit with plenty of confusion by most. I’m glad I decided to stay near the front, as the moto accelerated into the finish (as Sebastien Houillot's GoPro/youtube video shows) Lightman (5th Floor) decided at that point to have a go for a long sprint, followed by Wielgos ('Foundation') and I jumped with them. The three of us stayed away through the finish and were announced as the podium post-race, as Charlie – race director – berated the Masters for their slow pace on the day. It turns out that we had been about to lap the Masters field, leading to our partial neutralization.

As frustrating as the neutralization was, quite frankly, shit happens in bike racing. Hindsight is always 20/20 but the race was ultimately on, unfolded as it did and everyone had their chance at disputing post-race. We left the park on Saturday morning with a 2nd place finish and good standing in the Series GC. It was therefore bittersweet to get an email from Charlie the next day declaring that despite the fact that the results would stand, all GC points would be set aside. Safety always comes first and the M2/3 sprinting into the Masters field would have been a disaster so I would never argue with the initial neutralization. But while the finale was a bit of a mess but no rules were broken and the official results reflected as much. To have those GC results set aside, in a Series the Team was planning on targeting, I’ll admit is disappointing. 

But none of this was on our minds at team-coffees p/b Gather, nor when riding to Rockland (below) via River Road thereafter to see teammates race on a gorgeous sunny day, as the erasure of the series GC points was not announced until Sunday. 

Race Number 2 of the Day: NYC Metro Showdown

My affinity for double header race-days has drawn some criticism from the team of late, and considering they rarely, alright never, amount to much by way of results, perhaps the criticism is justified.  As I jittered through the team post Castelli race coffee stop in Brooklyn, I had no regrets. I had taken the day off work the day before in the name of zombie jesus and the sleep, mental, mechanical and nutritional preparation had done me well.  I had proper snacks prepared for the 1-hour drive to Rockland: baked sweet potatoes and hardboiled eggs with recovery powder drink mix. Clay lent me his Feedback Sports Omnium trainer and I got a proper warm-up in at the 2nd race venue of the day.  I was ready.

The historically collegiate only Rockland Lake circuit race drew my attention at the beginning of the season. The field structure, 11:45AM start well after sunrsie, and proximity to NYC all appealed to me. But Castelli was a series that the squad really cared about (past tense, per the GC results debacle laid out above), and so was convinced to not miss race #1 of the series in which we were trying to be competitive in a smattering of sprint, KOM and GC competitions.  I had high hopes of picking up some of the early KOM points in the series – so in an attempt to have my pie and eat it too, I pulled the plug on my first race of the day in Prospect Park after the last KOM and Sprint point competitions, letting Matt Vandivort valiantly protect our GC contender Erwin for the final Prospect Park laps in the hopes of saving some matches for Rockland Lake.

Like Castelli, we had a plan for Rockland Lake: me and Sebastian were to lead out Clay for the bunch sprint, who was one victory away from his category upgrade. Maybe it's having a team coach, maybe it's the gratuitous Friday Slacking (a hybrid email chat application), but this year the squad has been great about discussing strategy and making race plans prior to races. I spent the first lap joking with our friends on King Kog in the best kind of way. But around lap two, I found myself covering a move that resulted in a 15ish-person split with all the consequential teams represented. I wasn't trying for a break, which I 99% of the time am.  But I also wasn't trying to disrupt the rotation so as to bring it back for Clay to sprint.  Opting instead to do minimal work and see what happened. At mile 20 of 34, on the biggest climb, a counter attack went, I covered, and 1/2 of the 15-man break was gone.  That was the group for the rest of the day. We shed two more riders and the gap continued to grow.  

With two laps to go, I could feel myself fading. As detailed in last weekend's Weekend Roll, while fit for 40 miles, I do not have the training volume at this point in the season for 60+ miles. And on Saturday I had over 70 (40 + 30) miles of racing. The shouts of encouragement from Matt and Erwin -- who had nobly ridden to the race from Brooklyn's morning race -- became tokens of gratification in the mind game that is bike racing.  I ate all my gels, guzzled all my water, and tried to skip as many pulls as possible. But on the next lap when it started getting spicy my legs were absolute lead, and it was all I could do to finish the last lap solo and try to hold onto the 4" gap that we had over the field. I ended up rolling across the line 5th, disappointed that I couldn't hold on for a shot at the podium, but also happy for my best result to date of the season and the glow that leaving it all on the road emparts.

Lastly I need to share some of my own thoughts/beliefs/facts about the Castelli series GC standings debacle in Erwin's above race report.  I don't want to be negative about how the team focused our efforts on series points that were erased 24 hours after the event, and how I could have spent those matches for a podium shot in Rockland.  I do want to lay out basic principles and guidelines for race promoters that would have avoided this NYVelocity-esque debacle, based upon my 3-years experience as the Century Road Club Associaton's Director of Open Racing.

  • Park racing is not perfect.  We try our best to predict and hedge against wild cards, but there are always going to be incidents.  Saturday's race promoter, Charlie Issendorf, made no mistake in relying upon the historical time splits of the masters field.
  • Race dynamics are a thing.  Blasting the master's race (or often women's race) for not racing fast enough is not productive, fair, or even justified. A bike racer races to win, not to be fast.  If that means letting tactics play out at the expense of setting a new 30-second power record in a race, so be it. In Central Park, we often cut a lap from the Women's field to avoid what happened in Charlie's race on Saturday in Prospect Park.  
  • There is a 15-minute protest window for all results.  While not explicitly stated in the USAC rule book, the 15-minute protest window for results should apply to series GC points, as well as sprint or KOM points.  Complaints from teams who did not play the final lap out correctly should not sway a race promoter to recalculate the results 24-hours after the fact.

As to the details of the Saturday's final lap of Prospect Park, the video says it all.  As Erwin reports, throughout the on and off neutralizations on the final lap, no one ever passed the lead moto.  In the current political climate of alternative facts, it is important to stand by what we know to be true and not be swept up in the Monday morning gossip.  

The Full TBD Weekend Roll