Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Curse of Colt's Neck

Erica's race report from the May 3rd Tour of Colt's Neck: 19 miles (3.8 mile course, five laps).

So every time I do this race, something bizarre happens at the end. This year was no exception...
Actually bizarro world started out early yesterday, with every cross-street in Manhattan reportedly being closed down at 6th Ave for the 5-borough bike ride. We can't even get rolling enclosures for most of our races, and they get to shut down Gotham city? Okay, so 32000 of them vs 32 or so racers, but still...

We were expecting a nice, warm, small race in which we could practice some of our team tactics on unsuspecting New Jerseyites. 17 were pre-registered, minus Dara, so we expected 16 on the line, take or leave a couple, including just a couple of other CRCA regulars (Deb K and Colleen C). But as the start time neared, more and more familiar faces started floating by, Alejandra, AMM, Fabienne, Stacey Jensen, Kristin Lotito, etc....basically any who could and would hope to dominate the field in a sprint finish. So it was a much more packed and stacked field than we had expected, and was destined to come to a sprint at the end. Ann Marie sat at the front most of the race, cementing the field any time anyone had the gall to try to break away (which mostly was just Ashley, myself, Alejandra, and Gabby).

I believe the field was a little sketchy at the back all along, but I did my best not to be back there as I prefer not to deal with riders going backwards around the corners and on the one steep hill each lap, although I have to say that from my perspective there was less swarming and dying there than in the past, might have been my better positioning there than in the past, or might have been that we dropped some of the riders notorious for that early on. In any case, a final moment of sketchiness came as riders jockeyed for wheels just before going up the hill for the 5th (and kind of final) time, as it's all going for the finish after that. Didn't see what happened but all of a sudden the entire field in back of me seemed to fly sideways off the road. I think in reality it was only a few riders, but one of them was Fabienne, who ended up having to get 14 stitches in her leg and hip, speedy recover to Fabienne.

So it was going to be a smaller group heading into the final sprint, but as we came around the final corner, we were thrown into neutral by a downed cat 4 woman who had crashed in their finish on the previous lap. Some riders in our field diligently slowed down, being told we'd still be able to sprint up the final roller after the crash to the finish, others moved up to gain advantage (including, I suspect, some of those who had been caught behind our field's crash a couple of minutes before), and still others gave up the thought of sprinting altogether. At that point it was a bit of chaos as we began to sprint the final 200m or so to the finish. I was on Stacey Jensen's wheel, which was right where I wanted to be, as both her acceleration and her ability to maneuver through a field to the win is, in my mind anyway, legendary. I figured I could at least try to get 2nd to her 1st. But given the line she was taking I was sure she was going to be boxed in by Betty Tyrell, so I hesitated for a split second, only to hear her yell out "Betty, Move!!," and in a flash, without missing a beat, she sprinted forward to take the win, with me, both dumbfounded and impressed, and nowhere near her wheel anymore, rolling in for 8th, with Ashley just behind me for 9th.

So we thought that was it. But the insane and totally unreasonable USAC official, the same one who very unfairly relegated me last year from 4th to 10th, muddled over the rather unfortunate finish to our race, and after about 45 minutes, called us all back to the finish line (at least those who hadn't gone home to their families by then), and declared a do-over. Not a final lap, just a final mile or so. Most of us had cooled down, finished off our water, and on an 85 degree day, were not really in the mood to replay the most hardest and dangerous part of the race. So they agreed to limit it to the top 21 for the replay, and back we went, to restart our finish just in front of where the downed riders from our field were still being treated for injuries. I was still trying to find out from Colleen which hospital Fabienne was going to be taken to in order to communicate it to Colleen's husband David when everyone else lined of course I was no where near Stacey's wheel when we started off again. Anyway, long story short rolled in for 8th once again, with Ashley just behind me for 9th (and yes, Stacey won again...)

Long race report for a short race, but you can't make this stuff up, thought you might all enjoy a peek at the twilight zone that is NJ racing at it's best.