The first thing I noticed about Blaine as he walked over to me was his fluorescent green shoes. These were not his cycling shoes, mind you, but laceless sneaker thingies, and they were bright. I just smiled, because if there’s anyone that can back up the bling, it’s Blaine.
We shook hands and chatted for a few minutes before our teammates, Lorenzo, Greg, and Chris parked alongside us on Riverside Drive. We were all there in NYC for the 2013 Grant’s Tomb crit – a four-corner affair with an attached loop that circles Grant’s Tomb. Hence the name. As Blaine and I walked over to the registration tent, he was describing the 2012 race to me, saying things like, “It was super hard,” and, “my heart rate was pegged the entire race.” Blaine mentioned that three guys took off at the gun last year, and they stayed away until the end. I listened intently, both because I had never raced Grant’s Tomb before, and because, as it happens, we had already talked strategy and had decided to try to get away early. After all, the course is perfect for breakaways. A twenty second gap means you’re out of site on every part of the course.
After registering, we pinned numbers on and geared up. When Blaine was ready, he rode over to the rest us, and the first thing I noticed about him, once again, was his shoes. They were fluorescent green, and this time they WERE his cycling shoes. And they were bright. We all commented on them, to which Blaine simply replied, “Dudes, they match the bike.” (The new Voss team bikes, of course). Indeed.
Warm-up was a bit of a challenge, it being NYC and all (hint: bring a trainer), but the NYPD closed Riverside Drive just north of Grant’s Tomb park, so we were able to get in a little riding and do a few sprints before lining up for the Cat 3 race. We were a tad late to the start, so we all lined up a bit farther back from the front than we would have liked.
The race started out fast. Well, fast for March anyway. Don’t believe me? Just ask one of the dozen or so guys that were dropped and subsequently yanked off the course after the first few laps. While some guys were getting the hook, Blaine was on the front, driving the pace. Figures. Blaine likes to bring the pain. Just look at the picture below (photos courtesy Andy Shen at nyvelocity). It was taken early on, and if you look carefully, you can make out a hint of a smile on Blaine’s face. I’m telling you, the dude enjoys suffering.
In truth, I struggled to make any progress getting to the front to join Blaine. We all did. The pace was fast, the corners were tight, and there were a lot of ebbs and flows in the peloton, which made it tough to maintain position. Before I could get up to the front, Blaine and two others rode away from the field. Some would say that they let the trio go. I would say otherwise. I’ve ridden many a training ride with Blaine where I was simply unable to hold his wheel. I know better. Those guys got away because Blaine was drilling it.
With Blaine off the front, my urgency to move up had increased exponentially. With a few laps under my belt, I finally figured out the course a bit, and was able to maneuver up to about 4th or 5th wheel, where I settled in.
Now this is about the time when bike racing bloggers like to tell you how much work they did up front for their teammate. Whatever. Most of those stories are utter nonsense. Dont’ get me wrong. It was absolutely my intention to help Blaine, and I was indeed hopping from wheel to wheel at a pretty feverish pace up there, but it was more for my own survival than anything else. The pace was still fast, and guys were pushing it, so I did whatever I could to stay on any wheel that might accidentally put a gap on the rest of us. The truth is, there were few coordinated efforts to either chase or make a daring bridge attempt.
Meanwhile, up the road, Blaine began to shed his breakaway companions. The guys from Killington Mountain School and Team Sixcycle made great efforts, but they just couldn’t stay with him.
Back in the field, with about 5 laps to go, another rider from Team Sixcycle, and Cole Archambault (Greenline Velo), got a gap on the rest of us coming out of the right turn after the hill. Whoops. On Twitter, this would most definitely be classified as a #fail on my part, because I let them get away unscathed. Cole would eventually chase down Blaine after he picked off the poor guys that were left in his wake. Unfortunately, Blaine was finally running out of steam at the finish, and Cole was able to steal the victory from him. (You can read Cole’s race report here).
It was a well-deserved win for the Greenline Velo rider – a textbook bridge. But no matter who won the race, there was no doubt who impressed the most. It was Blaine. It was pretty funny reading some of the comments on nyvelocity.com the day after the race. Guys were trying to figure out who the guy was that “drilled it, lap after lap”. It was hard for them to fathom how Blaine could have stayed away from the field for nearly the entire race. One guy gave as good a reason as any, stating simply that, “it’s gotta be the shoes…“.