Beautiful weather and tough luck: Lou Maltese Memorial 2019
While I’d like to think that there is some skill involved around bike handling and positioning, the reality is that when it comes to avoiding crashes there is a very large component of luck involved. And for the last five years luck has been on my side as Instagram tells me that my last crash - which split my bike in two - was 260 weeks ago. I didn’t know it as my 3:30AM alarm went off (I had to be in the park early to help open registration) but my luck was about to change at the 2019 Lou Maltese Memorial.
From the perspective of race organizer, things started off swimmingly on Saturday. Despite the record turnout that we wrote about last week, between the popularity of early number pick-up the night before and having 9 folks running rider check-in, registration lines moved quickly and efficiently. Our race directors - Caetano and Alex - were absolutely on top of things, our marshals were mostly on time, and our USAC officials were able to start racing precisely on schedule. Which is no small feat given the complexity of getting all of the various pieces of a bike race to come together at 5:30AM in the middle of Manhattan.
Unfortunately that was the high point for me as, after a few fast laps of racing, I was mid-pack on the south end of the park as two riders came together and hit the deck. Erwin, my lone teammate in the field, was immediately caught up in it. I grabbed a fist full of brake but as I was skidding a rider to my right swung left and in doing so swept my front wheel. In a second I was on the deck. Almost as quickly I was back up - thinking of trying to chase - but as soon as I tried to grab my bars to remount and felt pain I thought better of it. Thankfully, while my five year streak of avoiding crashes was broken, no one was seriously injured in the pile-up and Erwin and I limped back toward the start/finish line. Erwin was determined to carry on for a few additional laps, but with my hand throbbing I accepted my DNF and grabbed my camera to take in the atmosphere at the finish line.
As it turns out, luck also wasn’t on our side in the Men’s 3 race. Alvaro has been feeling strong and was hunting out a few promising breaks. Unfortunately those moves weren’t given much leeway as the pace picked up and he was pulled back into the fold. That setup a field sprint with Clark carrying terrific position in the final minutes of the race but a bit of a swarm in the final meters and a rider coming backwards in the sprint cost him enough momentum to push him back in the final standings:
Our Women’s squad had the most successful outing of the day. With Steph, the current Jim Boyd Cup leader not in attendance, and a big field of 50-odd racers they knew from the outset that racing strategically was their best bet. Eventually a two rider break got up the road and finished with a big time gap but after the team marked various other moves and contributed to the sprint Lisa came home in 8th place to finish in the money and add some additional points to the team’s Team Cup standings.
The Elite Men were the last field to finish at 7:30AM. A big group of six riders stayed away from that field to take the win, but unfortunately luck reared its ugly head again in the field sprint for seventh. Just as the chasing field was speeding up the East side of the park a large box truck disobeyed the race marshals and pulled out in front of the race, sending riders scrambling in every direction, including off the road:
I didn’t see any of the box truck incident from my vantage point at the finish line, but hearing riders retell stories it was clear that it was a terrifying moment - and a reminder of just how much luck comes into play in racing bikes and staying upright.
With the racing done we partook in the usual post race festivities - telling stories from our respective races and catching a few of the podiums. As most of the squad headed across the bridge to grab breakfast at the market and tally up 100 odd miles before 11AM (similar to last week’s Prospect Park festivities) I stayed local to nurse my hand with ice and a coffee with some of our new teammates. He’s hoping a new streak of good luck starts now.
2019 CRCA Hincapie Lou Maltese Memorial Results: https://legacy.usacycling.org/results/?permit=2019-1823