I try to keep ‘race reports’ brief to avoid boring teammates, friends, and family members. I also try, by and large, to avoid making them the subject of this blog. I enjoy reading other people’s stories from their races, and I enjoy writing about races I’ve done, but it’s not my intended focus for this blog.
So you’ll have to forgive me for my last post, on last week’s scratch race out at the velodrome. It’s got a fairly high word:distance ratio, considering that the race was under two miles (if you’ve ever wanted just the meat and potatoes, as it were, of a bike race…).
But it was an important race: winning it made me win the evening’s omnium, which clinched my victory in the 2009 Twilight Series. I also won the remaining points I needed to upgrade to Cat 3 on the track.
I was nervous going into the night’s races, knowing that first place could either be won or lost. For the past month I’d raced knowing that winning was within my reach, as long as I didn’t give up too much ground to my nearest competitors. But instead of giving up ground, I looked at the schedule of races, said to my teammate Al, “I need to win this scratch race,” and I won the scratch race. And won the Twilight Series.
Like I said before – no victory salute when I crossed the line, but it feels pretty good.
The Twilight Series is over. Long live the Twilight Series. I love having a night of track racing each week but by the end of the season it gets hard and exhausting. Add some internal pressure – I really wanted to win the scratch race. I really, really wanted to win the last omnium of the regular season. That Big John upgraded to a 3 made it a little easier, but there are some definite powerhouses. Giancarlo Bianchi of WS United is a particular racer to watch and to fear. In the second half of the season he’s done very well and makes the races very fast and very hard with some devastating attacks that usually wind up with him riding away from the field. To wit, the 8/12 feature race.
Some sleek, lean new rider I’d never seen before went off the front immediately, opened a quarter lap gap, and stayed there, and a lap later I was monitoring a concerted chase from three wheels back. When the rider was reeled in there was a bit of cat-and-mousing on the front, some accelerations, but I watched for Giancarlo’s counterattack, and when he stood up on the inside, slightly boxed in but coming out of it, I jumped right after him.
He goes fast. I’m sprinting at 90% after him and he’s holding it, flying. He looks back, sees me, accelerates, I stay on his wheel, barely, he holds up and he accelerates again, keeps trying to snap the whip as it were. The 11-rider pack is a long, thin line. He’s got one more acceleration but I won’t let him go. He’s trying to break me and everyone else but tonight I just don’t want to let him… but I’m so near the end of my rope just holding on to his wheel.
And all of a sudden, there’s one lap to go, Giancarlo’s attack is neutralized, and I’m three wheels back again, with the first breakaway first wheel, the guy who wouldn’t let go of my wheel when I was following Giancarlo, and me. It’s been hard, the pace is slow, and we’re rounding turn 2 going into the headwind on the backstretch and I jump at the 200 meter mark, come around lime green, sprint through the corner in a wide lane, Austin on my hip, and enter that mushy, slow-motion high-speed headspace that I go in a sprint. And I throw my bike and win the race by a half a wheel.
I kind of wanted to put my hands in the air or something but the times I’ve won a race out at Kissena, I’m not elated – I’m just relieved that it’s over and that I didn’t screw something up. Last night I didn’t screw it up – and this morning the elation comes.
Remember during this year’s Tour de France, when Armstrong jumped away from the dwindling group of B-climbers and bridged up to that yellow jersey group? All across the internet I saw a few eyebrows go up, questioning Armstrong’s move as “chasing down his teammates.” This reminded me of a moment at Union Vale, when I launched an attack, bridged up to another rider, and together we worked very hard to bridge up to a two-man break that had been out of sight. One of those to whom we eventually bridged was a teammate. His companion turned to me and said, “Kissena, why’d you chase your own rider down?” I looked behind me. The peloton was out of sight. “That’s a bridge, not a chase.”
Now, I’m careful not to go overboard with comparisons to pros, because we’re not comparable. Our strengths and abilities are so incomparable that the tactics, though similar, are by no means the same. However: bridging is not chasing. Bridging is bringing another motivated rider to a threatening breakaway, and adding motivation to the breakaway.
Bridging is an important tactic that I don’t see enough of in Cat 4 racing. I see attacks and I see chases. Attacks, of course, force the pace, hit the field a bit, and test the attacker’s ability to gain a lead and hold it. The chase says, “No!” A chase is great if there are primes or points on the line, or if you don’t like the composition of the break, or if your sprinter is the shiznitabam. But if you don’t have a reason for it, chasing tows people who aren’t contributing to the making-things-happen part of the race.
And screw those dudes.
Next time, don’t chase. Bridge. Make everybody work. See what can happen. Chances are good that you’re not one of the four guys in the field who could win in a sprint. Why not try to bridge up and be in a breakaway that sticks? Can we all agree that the best chances that most of us have of winning are in breakaways, and we should all try to make them happen? That we have to make the race hard, that we have to go hard, and that it’s more fun like that anyway?
And, for God’s sake, if I have just bridged up to you – in a road race, track race, whatever – do not immediately swing off and expect me to “pull through.” That is just ridiculous. Give a fellah a second to recover, okay?
Andrew “Cupcake” LaCorte defended his stars and stripes in the Men’s 35-39 Sprint.
Christine D’Ercole won gold in the Women’s 35-39 Sprint.
And Alex Farioletti, who’s out in LA receiving intensive training as part of a Gatorade-sponsored reality TV show, took silver in the Men’s 30-35 Sprint; Dan Lim got 5th.
Big congrats to you three!
On Saturday I raced at Trexlertown. Since I’m doing well at Kissena, I figured, maybe I’d do well at Trexlertown. Maybe really well.
Maybe I could have.
If I had the 51t chainring on during the points race… if I had moved up just a little bit earlier in the scratch race… if that junior hadn’t come down on me while I had the sprinter’s lane in the point-a-lap… if I had qualified for the feature…
If, if, if.
Maybe I just didn’t have it that day; maybe it just takes me a bit to adapt to a new kind of racing.
I was disappointed, but I’ll get over it.
I’ve seen bike people do some amazing things. No, I’m not talking about sweet wheelies, I’m talking about helping each other out. Last year, a bunch of friends were injured; people just up and gave money. “You’re in a hard place, your bike is wrecked, here’s a few bucks.” Add it up from a few dozen friends and it gets to be a sum that’s helpful in a rough spot. Maybe it won’t buy a new bike, but it will help – if only in making the small day-to-day stuff easier. With some extra cash you can order food instead of trying to shop for yourself while injured. Later in the summer, one local rider was almost crushed by a truck, severely injured, and in the course of about a week, enough parts were donated to build her a bike. Let me rephrase that: everyone chipped in and gave her a bike. A shop offered an extra frame, and everybody else chimed in, offering an extra this or that, lying unused in the parts bin, and in a few days she went from having a beautiful but crushed bike to having a new one, from friends.
We’re doing it again. In times of trouble, when folks are in need, it’s the community’s responsibility to help shoulder the burden. When many shoulder it, it’s hardly a weight at all.
Hell, we can even do it with a party.
Gabe – an all-around great guy, regular out at the Kissena Velodrome – has been laid up in the trauma ward in a San Francisco hospital since a run-in with a car on Thursday.
Friday night at the Wreck Room, from 7 to 11 PM, there will be bands, DJs, dancing, beer, auctions, raffles, dates, and other sweet things. Money collected from this will be sent to Gabe’s parents and to his girlfriend, to help defray some of the expenses of keeping their vigil at his bedside. Housing, food, some ancillary medical expenses.
Those of you readers who are inclined to donate a few dollars to help out a stranger can do so by clicking here. Yes, it says “Gabe’s Vegan Cupcake Fund.” Don’t be confused.
Maybe we can raise a thousand bucks. Maybe more. It’s just money. But sometimes money can also be dozens or hundreds of people, from three thousand miles away, saying, “We’re thinking about you and we came together because of you.”
We’re all pulling for you, Gabe.
New York City is a great place for bike racing. In the middle of the season it’s pretty easy to race three or four times a week – Tuesday’s Floyd Bennet Series, Wednesday at the Kissena Velodrome, Thursday up in Rockleigh, NJ, and Saturday or Sunday in Prospect Park or Central Park.
However, when we race bikes in New York City, our tires run over the same pavement over and over again. Floyd, the Parks, Grant’s Tomb in the spring, Harlem in the summer. Do the guys who’ve been doing this for years and years get bored?
That’s why it was particularly cool that Kissena’s race director Charlie Issendorf managed to throw two races (1/2/3 and 3/4) on Governor’s Island this summer, in seperate events. The course was a fun 1.4mile crit with two hard corners and a big sweeping bend around the southern side of the island that left people fighting for shelter from the strong winds blowing in from the harbor.
It made me think (and perhaps daydream) about other places to throw races in New York City. Of course there was StatenCX last year, down in Staten Island. I wonder if the Parks Department could be smooth-talked into allowing a whole NYC Cyclocross series – Wolf’s Pond Park, Kissena Park, Alley Pond Park, Van Cortlandt, Randall’s Island (how could you not?)…
What about a crit in downtown Manhattan? What about a major road race that starts on the West Side Highway or the FDR, goes over the George Washington Bridge, and sends racers on a course up the Palisades before returning to the city?
In fact, why stop there? Why not a Pro/Am stage race on the East Coast? Some mountain stages up around Lake Placed, then heading into Vermont and New Hampshire, obviously a hilltop finish on Mount Washington, some long flat stages down through Massachusettes, a time trial or two through Connecticut, and finishing with a boisterous crit in New York City.
Maybe I’m thinking a little bit too big, or too fast. Or maybe I’m a vissionary. Charlie, can you start work organizing that stage race?