Wet and Messy in Central Park: CRCA Lou Maltese Championship
The CRCA Lou Maltese Club Championship in Central Park on Sunday was like many Central Park races of late: wet and messy. With CRCA/Foundation lining up 8 Cat 1s and 2s, they sent 1 up the road immediately upon the whistle. Having seen this page of the Foundation play book before, I quickly skirted around the red wall of Foundation guys sitting on the front and chased on. What ensued I never would have guessed.
A little background, Saturday night was my former teammate and regular riding-partner's wedding at a beautiful farm venue in Orange County NY. While I kept the cocktails to a moderately social level and drove the 1.5 hours home in the rain later in the night, champagne and racks of lamb topped off with a flourless chocolate cake is not my ideal race-prep. In fact, I got home in such a rush to get to sleep that I just double parked the car in front of my apartment, figuring i'd just drive to Central Park in 4-hours for the race and start in dry bibs.
So to resume: not having my ritual ride to the park warmup, I found myself in a 5-man break literally from the whistle of the 8.2 lap/50-mile CRCA A-field Club Championship.
The break was above my pay grade. RBNY's Josh Noggle was the only other Cat 3, and I knew I wasn't having the kind of season that Josh is. We had a 90-second gap on the field after the 1st lap. We dropped a man from the break. I thought I was going to get dropped. I held on. I thought I had a flat. I didn't. 8 laps is a lot of laps to ride with 3-guys with a large group of men chasing you. Its a mind game really. Keep it under control on the hills, guard against attacks, go fast enough but not too fast. Same story with any race, but more intense in the case at hand where there was enough time to cycle through these psychological tricks we play with ourselves several times over.
To fast forward through this loop of psychological lies and physical anguish, with 2-laps to go the break was still intact, I felt relatively ok, and our gap on the field had only grown. I knew Foundation would attack on the final Harlem Hill ascent. Sure enough he did but not well enough.
I twice told myself "this is your last turn on the front, skip it, you'll need it at the end, its not your race to win or lose". Then things got really cagey and I was terrified of getting caught by the group; the Engineer's Gate finish is a long drag strip of a finish and I could just see the sprinters blowing past us in the last 20 yards. I took two more turns on the front, once at Tavern and once leading into Cat's Paw. Foundation attacked from behind me up Cat's Paw, the other two were able to catch back on but I could only pedal squares looking backwards afraid to see the group from there to the finish. It was basically as I had expected it to go, and would certainly take 4th over 20th if we got caught by the sprinters. Though in hindsight the group was no where near us and RBNY's Josh Noggle ended up pulling out the win with an impressive finish to an already very impressive season.
With the race done and dusted (mudded?) there was only one thing left to do, team coffee on Manhattan's UES.