The Virtues of Floyd
When I set out for the first Floyd Bennett Field race of the season in early June, I never imagined I would be the series leader, or even come close.
Before this year, my experiences at Floyd included a handful of times attempting to sit in the Men’s 1/2/3 and 3/4 races before getting spit out the back, and one particularly painful memory of getting dropped before the first corner of the first lap of a searingly hot Dash For Cash.
It turns out, though, when I’m not completely burned out on racing and not racing against men, I friggin’ love Floyd.
I love it because of, rather than in spite of, its complete lack of course features—it is dead flat with wide, sweeping corners that don’t exactly require you to know how to turn a bike well. The relatively regular oceanside wind, and a few potholes, tend to be the only obstacles. Floyd is as close as a road race comes to a long scratch race on the track. Because of this, Floyd is good.
I love track racing. For a lot of boring logistical reasons I don’t do it so much anymore, but the track is where I really learned to race a bike well after many, many years of being a party-at-the-back kind of racer.
Finally, eleven seasons after my first crit, in Floyd’s newly created women’s field, I won my first bike race series. I podiumed off a solo breakaway for the first time. I raced consistently for the first time. And I had more fun racing road bikes than I’ve had in years.
Over the course of ten weeks, my fellow racers and I became like a family. There were 12-15 regulars—a fair plurality of them from the Veselka team—with a few new people each time. This seems on its face pretty boring: a small women’s field, largely the same racers, dominated by one team, on a course with few features. Instead, to me, it was the best.
The first race of the season ended in a sprint. I mis-timed it a bit and got fourth. Over the course of the summer I got better at the timing (never good enough to win, mind you, but good enough).
The thing about Floyd is it’s about 500 meters from the last corner to the finish line, always with a cross wind. It’s a drag race more than it is a “sprint,” with one side of the road more favorable than the other. The race almost always played out as two separate races: first, the race to the sprint. Somewhere just before the last corner, the speed would ramp up. If you weren’t on the fast train to the finish headed through the corner, your race is over. But through the corner there’s a lull, as those looking to sprint feel things out.
Patience is not usually something I have in a bike race, but somehow at Floyd things clicked. When I was on my game, I’d remember to move to the left, on the inside of the group from the direction the wind was coming. Then I’d wait for the first person to go, usually too soon. From there, it was a 30 mph drag race to the line. By being consistently good, but not great, at the drag race netted me enough points every week to maintain my lead in the overall week by week. Regardless of my placing, there’s really nothing like the rush of going 30mph with tunnel vision to the line. This is why Floyd is good.
When the sprint was over, the gathering started. Panting, the women who raced would hash out what just happened. We’d laugh, we’d talk about our weeks. We’d catch up with the friends on the sidelines, then wait for the finishes of the final two men’s races. Then, in a mass, we’d head out to Flatbush Ave., up through Brooklyn, and to whatever the chosen bar was for the evening.
Whatever happened in the specific races, what I will remember most from this summer is the sticky, sweaty late night beers with a dozen friends I had every Tuesday night. This, especially, is why Floyd is the best.