CRCA Zach Koop Memorial Crit at Orchard Beach
For what is objectively an extraordinarily vanilla race course, CRCA's Orchard Beach Criterium in Pelham Bay Park, Bronx, NY holds a special place in the heart of the local racing community. This feeling is only compounded by the fact that the late Zach Koop's family and team sponsored the race this year and last. The race has also yielded significant results for the squad over the years. The course is a tennis balls throw from the beach, yet despite the May date, always seems to be just a little too cold, wet, or windy for the proposition of a beach day to be tantalizing.
A few insights, in no particular order, as to why Orchard Beach is such a great race:
There is something about being next to the ocean that centers a person and outweighs the cold damp air; and this year, despite the forecast, the weather was actually pleasant;
The fact that the course, essentially a flat velodrome, at all times visible to spectators, lends the Orchard Beach Crit to spectating with friends and teammates;
The much popular kids race brings out kido-s and their parents to temper the sometimes testosterone heavy balance of hormones in domestic amateur bike racing; and
The complimentary pizza supplied by the Century Road Club Association (because besides lobster bars on City Island the surrounding area is a total food desert) makes sure no one is hangry.
Despite the ease of the physical set-up, the Bronx Parks Department has given me and the CRCA a hard time in years of late, throwing up administrative hurdles and shortening the available schedule of racing. After the headache and debacle of the first CRCA Open Race of 2018 at Grant's Tomb (tent and a billion podiums as a function of being the NYS Criterium Championship) I was nervous and wary of Orchard Beach. But to my delight the race went off exactly on time, the NYPD 45th precinct was incredibly helpful, and nobody from the Parks Department was on site. The above shared in the presence of the entire NYC race community, made for an exceptionally pleasant and much needed positive day.
For my own race, I had aspirations of going for a long break, perhaps even lapping the field as has happened in the last several years, and again in the 2018 Women's Elite Race with two Mellow Mushroom riders. While I did not achieve the later goal, I did initiate and stick a break with the help of the team in the bunch shutting down chases to ensure we stayed away. As always seems to happen on days that I race direct a race and sprint, or just in any crit I've done this season, my legs began to go and I was happy to roll across the line for a third place podium without contesting the sprint.
Two excuses for losing the breakaway are 1) my Garmin flew off on a pot-hole about half way into the race just when I was discovering what its like to revisit an undigested SiS gel, which probably was for the best in that I couldn't freak myself out as to how high my heart rate was but I am sad to lose the TSS score; and 2) I made the mistake of putting on my 23m "race wheels" rather than the 27m AL tubulars I've been loving all year without resealing them, and was dangerously close to rolling a tub ice skating around corner 3 & 4 by the end of the race. But it was a lot of fun to suffer with friends and teammates cheering me the whole way, the race ran on time, results were correct, and I nabbed a podium - life is good. As we officially head into peak road season with the NYS RR Champs at Bear Mountain next week, and Killington Stage Race at the end of the month, its important to enjoy the moment and remember that all good things come to an end, and there's another trainer-December right after cross-season.