August 3, 2004 – Racing in downtown Manhattan has been one of the highlights of the last two seasons. This race is held at the southern end of the island; the start-finish is at Wall St, the icon of American business. Nearby sits the New York City Stock Exchange in all its old carved stone majesty. In this forest of concrete you feel pretty insignificant.
Offsetting this feeling of awe were the cheering crowds lining the dumbbell-shaped crit course. Even with bad weather (it was raining all morning and for the start of the race before clearing up) the course was packed with spectators. Some of them had come down as part of the Jet Fuel entourage and it is always encouraging to hear them cheering as you’re suffering during the race – we had a nice little gang going.
Because of the wet course, the start of the race was a little more cautious than usual, but still there were several crashes. In almost all the corners there are painted pedestrian crossings, not good in wet conditions. Soon though, the sun was coming out and the course slowly dried up. There was one large puddle that didn’t dry out and actually ended up having a nice cooling effect during the race, as you would get sprayed every lap.
Out on the course the roads are rough, throwing the riders about over sunken manhole covers and a short cobbled section. By the finish of the race all the guys on the team had sore backs and wrists that were feeling overly swollen (they are actually still bothering me this morning as I type this out). Mid-race I hit a ridge in the road which jarred my handlebars downward, making for a bit of an uncomfortable day.
What to say about the race? As always it was fast and tough sprinting up to speed out of each of the corners onto the long straightaway that makes the handle in the dumbbell shape. I decided early on that I would try and be aggressive with two goals in mind: One to make it into a race winning attack; and two, to showcase the Jet Fuel jersey. Several times I made an attempt to instigate attacks but without success. Coming into the final few laps I found myself in the perfect position to cover an attack with three to go. Accelerating out of the last corner I gapped the field and bridged across to first a Cola Vita/Bolla rider and then a bit further along a Jelly Belly guy. We worked together and hung it out in the corners trying to press home our small advantage. Looking back though the Navigators team were on the front chasing and we were caught with a lap to go. My theory is that I want to race for the win and as such like to try my hand at a breakaway, rather than wait for a bunch finish I know I can never win. Buck and Jeff rode a great finish and ended up 17th and 18th. Buck said that in the long drag race out of the last corner everyone had it pegged, no one passing each other as they all rushed across the line holding the same order that they came out of the last corner.
While the racing was great our trip home was a complete disaster; flights were delayed, airports closed and ensuing bus transfers needed. In the end we got home at 6:00 a.m. as the sun was rising – we had just been up almost a full 24 hours. Ouch.
Next week we’re off to the Belle Provence for Montreal-Quebec, a 280K day of racing!