Penultimate Laps and Embracing the Unknown
At times, New York City bike racing feels like the most absurd of pursuits. When it’s not the brutally cold temperatures of early season racing, it’s the brutally early alarm clocks of mid-summer racing. When it’s not the thousands of dollars of equipment, it’s the excessive use of sponsor social media hashtags for what is, at the local level, an amateur hobby that is ultimately on par with after-work kickball leagues (though I assume amateur cycling has the bonus of more doping than amateur kickball). And it’s the time intensive and expensive pursuit of a niche sport where less than half of the participants come back for a second season.
And yet, in the midst of all of this absurdity - the trade-offs between real life and bike life, the questionable dollars spent and the road rash incurred - racing bikes in New York City remains one of those things that I absolutely love. So much so that I keep taking photos of and writing about the local scene via the Journal. As I wrote last year in one such entry, the biggest component of that love affair is sharing the experience of playing bikes with friends on To Be Determined, especially now that To Be Determined f/b Metropolitan Dental Care has joined in the fun. But more than that, I love the uncertainty that comes with swinging your leg over your bike at dawn in Central Park. Each time you do so there are the unknowns that you think about: whether will score that result you’ve been chasing, whether a truck is going to suddenly appear in the middle of the park where vehicles are theoretically banned, or whether you’ll wind up hitting the deck in a silly mid-race pile-up.
But there are also the unknowns that you don’t think about. Like encountering a repaving operation in Central Park ten minutes before the scheduled race start, as was the case for this past weekend’s race. This past weekend also featured an unaffiliated cyclist in cargo shorts who jumped into the A-Field peloton in the middle of the race. Upon being quite nicely asked to exit stage left, he responded with “Fuck you, I just want to go fast.” Which, questionable conduct and obscenities aside, reminded me entirely of my early days riding in Central Park where my sole goal was to continually lower my PR for 3-laps of the park. A lot has changed in the days since, but a decade later this past weekend showed that I am still finding plenty of fun to be had riding in very fast circles around Central Park.
This past weekend’s race was particularly special as To Be Determined f/b Metropolitan Dental Care was sporting new team kit for the first time since our combination a few months back. We were excited enough about the new kit, but then Steph went and won the race, locking up her victory in both the series individual leader standings and the squad’s victory in the team competition. Which, after some of the usual post-race rituals (a few pictures, and a few casual laps) gave us plenty to celebrate over post-race coffees.