Havin' Eric go up to Prospect with us this morning was a real unexpected treat. It's funny how things change over the course of a coupla seasons. I remember my first Pro Pedals ride back in September of 2003. I'd been riding for about a month and was in some semblance of reasonable condition due to a running background. As I pulled up alongside the shop Eric was gettin' suited up and all I could think of was "this guy looks like he means business". Of course I got dropped quick (some things never change) and it took me the better part of six months to get to where I could actually hang on the back of the "A" ride. And my opinion of Eric never changed; when it comes to bike racin'; he's all business, the ultimate two-wheeled warrior. Now he's goin' to races with us. Cool.
But he's a sucky race reporter! " Joe - 1st, Ryan - 12th. Good racing by all." What the hell kind of a race report is that? I mean, I have an appreciation for brevity, but good lord; where's the details? The juicy tid bits, the pain and suffering, the fist fights? Got your attention, didn't I? We had it all today, so settle in while I show you how a REAL race report should read ( sorry Eric, please don't abuse me too much next time we're on the road).
Prospect Park, my favorite playground. Start early (real early, 6:30 am), get home early (10:30 - 11:00), leaves the rest of the day for work, family, etc. The 3:00 am wake-up call is a minor inconvenience (Dirty swore he's done with that nonsense), other than that it's a great race. Due to time restrictions in the park, everybody is on the road at the same time. The 1/2/3's leave at 6:30, the 4's are two minutes behind, the 5's start last. This race draws huge fields; 100+ 1/2/3's, 80+ Cat 4's, and 50 Cat 5's today. 44 miles for the 1/2/3's, 31 for us, and 17 for the 5's. It's a 3.5 mile loop with one long 3 - 4% climb; immaculate road surface. Throw in a bunch of joggers, rec cyclists, dog walkers, homeless people, and the odd junky and you get some real local flavor.
Ryan and Eric lined up with the 1/2/3's; me, Richie, and Stevie Wu did the 4; and Joey D. decided to take some more lunch money from the Cat 5's ( he's waiting on his Cat 4 upgrade). My usual warm-up consists of doing the first lap in the small ring. Not much time for anything else.
In the Cat 5 Joe notched another win with his relentless attacking style and fast finishing sprint. That's three on the season for him including a great ride in the 4/5 at Marlton three weeks ago and a 4th in the State RR when he couldn't quite get around Big Dan's wheel ( who grabbed a nice 3rd place). He's ready to move up.
I saw the last three laps of the 1/2/3. Talking to the guys, Ryan and Eric were out on several breaks early (when's Eric NOT out on a break?) but Empire (a very strong NYC team) kept things together. With three to go a break of 8 or 9 guys was out by 30 seconds but were losing ground fast. With one to go, the field now whittled down to about 60, was all together. The last lap at Prospect, like any 1/2/3 race is extremely fast. When they come across the line, the pack is usually decimated. Today was no exception. A lead group of around 30 guys came to the line with Ryan taking what appeared to be around 12th place and Eric in the bunch. The remnants of the now shattered field trickled in to finish out the days racing, they did the 44 miles in a little over an hour and a half; that's FAST!!!!!
In Cat 4 action it was me, Richie, and Steve. We were due for nine laps and the pace was very sedate for the first 2 - 3 laps; almost scarily slow. I kept waitin' for things to break loose and on the fourth lap they started hammerin' across the start finish line towards the hill. We blasted up the hill at around 24 mph and it didn't let up as we sped down past the reservoir on our way to the start finish. From that point on, it became a fairly fast competitive race. I don't remember when, but somewhere in there Steve launched off the front and got a nice gap of over 500 meters that he held for about half a lap; but nobody bridged up so he eventually dropped back. The pace was too fast for Richie to get away; he needs a longer slightly slower race to do his thing. And as for myself, you all know my game by now; Sit,Suck, and Wait. Stuff yourself into the middle of the pack, look for opportunity, and pray you don't get killed.
We had one nice crash, it always happens late in the race in the middle of a straight when people get tired and inattentive. This one took out four or five guys and snapped a fork. Gotta love that carbon. I was too far back and had to chase hard to get back on after pickin' my way through. Local bike racin' ain't like that Lance Armstrong - Jan Ulrich sportsmanship bullshit; when these guys hear a crash they attack! Which I whole-heartily agree with, it's racin', not a rec ride. Alls fair.
So we come to the last lap and we're all in good shape. The pack is down to about 40 riders, we're all near the front. I survive the climb in good shape and start to think about the finish. Now at Prospect the finish can get a little hairy; there's a 40 mph downhill about a half mile from the line and the road kinda narrows and everybody wants to win! If you go down here, it'll leave a mark for sure. As we come down the hill I slot myself in the middle of the field. I try and get Steve on my wheel, but he decides to
follow Richie. I love the middle; you get a free ride and there's lots of opportunity. It's like being in the eye of the hurricane. But you can get killed if things start to close down. As we drive to the line with 500m to go it's gettin' real sketchy. Richie and Steve end up gettin' the door shut on the out side and they can't move up. I'm movin' through the middle prayin' for a placing and survival (note to self: increase life insurance policy and make sure health care is paid up). I manage to come in (I'm guessing) 20th - 25th (maybe a little less optimism; 25th - 30th). Nobody gets hurt, always a good thing. The computer shows me a 25.0 mph average. Time to punch the time card and call it a day; race number 22 for the season in the books.
We had some antics after the race as one of the Cat 4's took offense to one of the Kissena riders(who apparently was yelling at him during the race) and ended up cold-cocking the poor guy. Got 'em good too; black eye, cut face. The ensueing rumble was broken up, the authorities were called, and that was the end of it. Between that and admiring the broken fork from the Cat 4 race we had something to do while we waited for Eric and Ryan to finish.
So another solid day; Joey D. brings home the win and Ryan pulls a very respectable 12th out of the 1/2/3 field. To think he was up here racin' Cat 5 six weeks ago. A good time in Wally World.
Next up, the Ronde! Can't wait for this one!
Your "from the saddle" reporter,