Trooper Brinkerhoff 2019: Race Report
April is here and with it the awesome, bike-filled weekends that we have been waiting for all winter long. Vest weather is coming in, and the gloves are coming off. Spring makes New York City come alive – and for those of us on two wheels, it is the most exciting time of the year.
It's time to race again.
Or at least it is for me! I had a great time hanging out at Grant's Tomb, but my Puerto Rican blood is just too warm to race in March. So April is my start, and anyone who races in the Northeast US knows that April means Trooper Brinkerhoff Memorial series.
I had never raced Trooper before, but its reputation led me to make it a target. Back to back Saturday races on a beautiful, rolling course upstate, run by some of the most genuinely warm-hearted and diligent people in our niche sport (and for a great cause).
For me, this sport is as much about learning about bikes as it is learning about myself. I raced both Troopers, and had two entirely different races with opposite outcomes. 2019 Trooper will go down as a foundational learning experience in my racing career. I am memorializing it on our journal to share with you, and to make sure that I don't forget it.
Trooper Brinkerhoff Memorial #1, B Field (4/6/2019) — Result: Pack Finish
This was my second race of the season, but the first one intending to get a result. I was riding solo in the B field, so I knew I had to play it smart. I was also warned about the early breakaway. My friends Andrew Wiegand and Michael Straw, both from Wyld Stallyns racing, made sure I knew to keep an eye on the early move. Stupidly, I was only partially convinced. I decided to stay near the business end, conserve my energy as best I could, and "let's see what happens." If a break went and I was there, great. If not, figure something out. With no teammates, I figured that was my best strategy.
It was not.
An early break got away, and I missed it. I missed it so bad, I didn't even see it go! I was paying little attention to the early attacks, determined to find good wheels to sit on and do the least work possible. They went off, but there were still 40 miles to go, no way that was gonna stick. I wasn't going to chase it down by myself though, so my only option left was to play diplomat. I surfed wheels asking who was in the break, gauging interest in brigning it back. I only got a few details, and no one wanted to chase. One team in particular was so uninterested in chasing that they were sitting on the front. Nope, they didn't have anyone in the break. "It's just way too early," they said. I agreed, at first. But I didn't know NYCC had two guys up there, including my friend John Beardsley. With one lap to go, I realized my race was over. I had gotten so caught up in going with the flow and "seeing what happened", that the actual race happened without me. I finished somewhere midpack.
If it sounds like I was bummed out, I was a bit - but I have learned to not let it get to me. I got to ride my new bike, catch up with friends, and I didn't have to wear leg warmers! PLUS, Colin Keaveney got 9th in the A field! He's a monster, he works hard for it, and I got to see the start of what will sure be an awesome season for him. All in all, a super fun day. Not my day, but that's bike racing and that's OK.
On our Monday call with coach Jacob Fetty, he and I discussed a change in mindset for the second weekend (and a couple diet fixes).
Trooper Brinkerhoff Memorial #2, B Field (4/13/2019) — Result: 3rd
A new Saturday, a new race. I drove up with Ian Auger from KruisCX and Mark Steffen from King Kog, both friends of TBD. I felt good during the week, and was excited for a second go. More importantly, I was familiar with the course and I wasn't going to make the same mistakes. The race wasn't going to happen to me; I was going to be an active player. Full send.
The race started fast. I guess everyone heard about the weekend before. Attacks were frequent, but everything was being shut down. First two laps went by like this, and I made sure to stay in the mix. Somewhere on lap two, four guys went up the road. RBNY and Dave Jordan were in the move, and had guys in the field to block. Danger. I bridged up to them solo, and yelled to get us rotating. It didn't last. Mark Steffen promptly shut it down by himself, and I can't blame him. First effort of the day though, and my legs felt great. After a few solo attacks from other teams that got nowhere, I tried my luck doing the same. No one came with me, so I sat up. I got caught and tried again, and nothing. I tried getting organized with Taylor Graham from Dave Jordan (whom I've gotten used to losing to) and his teammates, but no luck. Nothing was sticking. This was an entirely different race, and I was having a blast.
Then, a late move about 10 miles out. I don't even remember who was in it, but I went with them. We had a small gap, and then didn't. The field caught us, but no one seemed too concerned. I remember thinking that if we kept rotating, we might just yo-yo away. I was revved up already so when 5th Floor launched the counter attack, I hopped on it. 5th Floor, 42x21ATQ, an unattached rider and me. We got a gap with ~7miles to go, and committed to it. Apparently, there was a crash in the field as we were getting away. The definitely helped, as did 5th Floor blocking with Mark Steffen doing us a solid and not chasing me down again.
A late breakaway of 4. Then 3. Then I cracked on the hill. My previous attacking had taken its toll on my legs, but there was no way I was giving up. The two up front got way from me, but I was able to hold off the field for 3rd. That hurt.
So, those were my two race experiences at Trooper. Two super fun days of extremely different kinds of bike racing. I will certainly be back next year, in search of more lessons to learn in this sport (and a well-earned burger at [restaurant]!)