Here we go. The race this past Sunday was in Prospect Park, Brooklyn, at 6:45 AM. Starting this early is borderline insanity, so I left my house on Saturday night and headed south to stay the night at my teammate Chris DeLuco’s house. On Sunday morning, the alarm clock went off 4:30 AM. Ugh. Chris and I ate a quick breakfast, got dressed, loaded the car, and went to pick up another teammate, Justin Tyberg, at 5:15 AM. He was on a tight schedule, and squeezing the race in before his daughter’s swim meet.
The three of us headed into the city before dawn, we discussed a little race strategy. I was still upset about the way Johnny Cake #1 ended up for me the day prior, and knew I was going to ride angry this morning. We arrived at the park, unloaded the bikes and gear in the frigid air (temps were in the low 30′s) on Flatbush Avenue, and pedaled slowly over to registration. We pinned our race numbers on with shaking hands. As I shivered putting on my jersey, DeLuco pointed out to me that my number was upside down. That’s what happens when you pin numbers on in the dark. Wonderful start to the day. I eventually straightened that out, still shivering, and finally went for about a 5-10 min warm-up.
Just before the race start, we met up with our teammate, Blaine Hurty. When the race promoter began to call the fields to the line, the four of us lined up and we reviewed our race strategy one more time. It was a pretty simple plan: as Blaine Hurty stated, “Let’s make it tough from the start and try to string it out as long as possible.” We were all in agreement.
The whistle blew, and immediately, Hurty, Tyberg, Deluco, and I were on the front pushing the pace. After the first lap I said to myself, “Holy sh*t! Can it stay this intense for 10 laps?!” But my confidence in our efforts grew as we passed the Masters field, which started a few minutes ahead of us, before the end of the first lap. On the third lap, Blaine made a surge on the hill and was soon off the front. Teams were sending attacks to bridge, but Tyberg and DeLuco matched all the efforts, not letting anyone get up the road alone. They seemed to have things under control.
On lap five, the field finally reeled Blaine back to the peloton. He just couldn’t produce enough speed alone on the flat part of the course to stay away. It was then that I thought to myself, this is now going to a sprint finish. So I sat in for half a lap, ate and drank, and started to feel relaxed.
On the next lap, Hurty dragged the field up the hill at a blistering pace, and there was another attack at the top. Racers from Rock Star and Organic Athletes, who were aggressive all day, put in the initial surge. I saw the move and made a quick decision, remembering what Tyberg has been telling me for a while, “trust you legs.” I bridged up to the 5 riders, grabbed a wheel, and composed myself enough to look back to see that we had a gap opening on the field. As I turned my head to look back, I also saw that my Blaine had made the group with me.
The group organized quickly and started to ride away from the field. I was vocal about working together so we could stay away. As we organized, the pace line developed, Hurty of course, was putting down some serious efforts, along with some young kid (who later told me he was 21). The group was working very well together; as we approached the hill, Blaine let me know he was going to set the pace and I just need to stay on his wheel. I was able to hold on to the top of the hill, and as we made the left hand turn I watched Hurty move to his drops. I know what this means, and I said to myself, “Oh boy, here we go.” Hurty cajoled me to stay on his wheel by calling me a few choice words. At this point, I was starting to see the white dots, I was foaming at the mouth, and I couldn’t even see the data on the Garmin screen. We were able to shed one of the guys that was with us, whittling our group down to five. We continued to work together and keep the pace high. I kept saying to myself, “Don’t quit! You can do this! Relax.” I was trying my best to stay positive. The pace remained very high to the bell lap, (which happened to be a woman banging a wooden spoon on a frying pan). At this point I knew the break was going to stick, and I had a top-five result in the bag. But I needed to play my cards right for a victory.
The last time up the hill was at a comparably moderate pace. We worked a little more as we went over the top, and that is when the games started. The big guy from Organic started to say he was cramping, and we all started chatting with each other, trying to ascertain who had something left for the last effort.
As we rounded the bend into the final stretch I decided the best play was to stay on Hurty’s wheel, and push myself to limit across the line. At that point, the racer from the Organic team dropped the hammer and produced a violent attack from the back of the group. He exploded forward with perfect timing. Hurty immediately jumped to chase, I attempted to stay on his wheel, but just couldn’t hold it. I put my head down and continued to dig deep, coming across the line in fourth. Hurty ended up with second on the day.
I was satisfied with the result, but of course I would like to have got the win. I put my body and my mind into a place I have never been before, and now I know what it takes to be in a break and make it succeed. I want to thank Hurty, Tyberg, and DeLuco for the great team work and a great morning of racing.