To me, one of the great things about being a biker in New York City was always the track bike racing series that take place in the parks. See, the parks in New York only allow cars to drive in them during rush hour (and even that should be going away soon). So for most of the time, the park drives are great places to get away from cars and trucks and other noisy, polluting, and dangerous vehicles. It’s fantastic, but often a little overcrowded during the day.
But at night, when most of the pedestrians go home and all that’s left are cyclists and skateboarders, we race. Messengers, alleycatters, sanctioned racers of all types, and urban fixed gear riders all race together, usually divided into two or three self-imposed categories. Back in the day, there were night races in Central Park and Prospect Park (Brooklyn’s Central Park), but since no one worthwhile under the age of 40 lives in Manhattan anymore, the races are only in Brooklyn now.
This fall, the weekly race series was called Boogie Nights II. The only race I was able to make was the last race, which for the A Group was a 5 lap Scratch Race of the park’s 3.4 mile loop, with a long easy downhill and one climb. I chose to run a 50×16, being a little scared of the hill, it would be a mistake (turns out, I was running the lowest ratio, with most guys running 10 more gear inches than me).
Remember, this was the last stage in a series. So I came in not having a chance to win, but with a chance to help out Jody, a guy I know from the track. Going into the night, he was tied for first with Giancarlo, a Cat 1 road racer who is excellent on the breakaway, but doesn’t have much of a sprint. Giancarlo brought along one of his friends, also a Cat 1 to help in the inevitable breakaway. Rounding out the dangers of the 11-man field was a few other Cat 1′s and another old friend of mine who used to be a pro a few years ago. My job would be to stick around Jody and not worry about anyone but Giancarlo.
Photo snagged from dolparts
A break developed right from the start, but I had to stay with the pack because Jody didn’t go. Another friend from the track, Al, was supposed to work for Jody, too. But he got in the break and got caught up in the competition and worked in it, eventually making it stick. The rest of us looked at each other and soft pedaled for a whole lap (during which I realized how undergeared I was –I kept drifting back on the downhill), before we decided that the likely winner of that break was within striking distance of winning. So we organized and started working. But it was cat and mouse for a long time, with Giancarlo getting on Jody’s wheel in the paceline and his lieutenant getting in front of me. I really want to give that guy credit. He kept letting gaps develop and generally looking like he was barely holding on until the start of the third lap when he and Giancarlo jetted near the top of the hill. I tried to chase, and so did Jody, but i could not catch their wheels. I think I just didn’t have it, but I also feel like I didn’t react quickly enough with a sense of urgency. I didn’t give them enough credit in their ability to keep the gas on. I had one more chance to catch them –i was closing that gap ever so slowly –but the cops came whizzing by with their lights on. They passed me, pulled next to the other three guys, and hit the sirens. I thought we were getting pulled over and let up a little. But the cops kept moving, and so did the other racers. I tried my best, but I could not catch them. The other two eventually lost Jody, too, but I still could not close the gap to him. I really need to work on my red zone time trialling.
Eventually, I figured that it would be best to ease up a bit and wait for help. I did and worked with some nice fellows for a while, but I felt like we were dogging it a bit. we never did catch Jody. He wound up soloing for three laps, getting 5th in the race, and taking 2nd in the series. I took 7th in the race, which I was pretty happy with. Giancarlo won the series for the A Group, and went home with lots of cash and a sweet wheelset and lots of prizes. Inge, who used to live in Chicago and raced in the Tour Da Chicago, won the series for the ladies, and took home nice shit, too. Really, there were a shit-ton of prizes. Next time those races are run, we should get to New York with a posse.