OK so actually there was a registration required and this was technically a "race" but the usual feelings of anxiety, angst and dare I say fear all of which comprise pre-competition emotions at a typical elite bicycle race were traded for aspirations of adventure, challenge and enjoyment in suffering. This was to be my first ever "gentlemens race" or what I would like to call a "cyclosportif". Rapha Continental brought me on as a ringer to help the team of 6 cover the 120 arduous yet scenic miles at the Rapha New Paltz Event.
So why did I drive 8 hours, pay for my own hotel and skip a very nice regional race hosted in the relatively close by Hartford, CT? Answer: This luxurious Rapha Lightweight Jersey! No, not really but Rapha clothing sure is nice. It felt like that first time I got behind the wheel of a new BMW after spending months driving a GTI. Sure the GTI is a fantastic little car and more than capable of harnessing my relatively modest driving skills, BUT.... Sliding into the seductive crimson leather bucket seats of my BMW M-Coupe of yore, gripping the hand stitched, leather steering wheel, gazing at the dial which displayed MPH numbers deep into the hundreds framed in chrome metal.... yeah.... that's the stuff. So as I slid into my Rapha jersey, I had one of those moments of moving up in the world.
My good pal James with the Embrocation Cycling Team/Gaulzetti Bikes was on hand and man... don't those bikes look nice? Craig Gaulzetti who was instrumental in my comeback to pro racing some 4 years ago designs and has fabricated these aluminum no-nonsense race machines and I must say there are few people more capable at designing a bicycle than Craig.
Even Jeremy with his timeless Richard Sachs machine was curious and it is a little known fact that Sachs has one of these Gaulzettis on order.
The challenge of the day was for each team of 6 to work to get from start to finish as a team. Start as a team, finish as a team. Sure some riders were stronger than others, there were punctures and mechanicals of which no outside support was allowed to remedy. Alliances were formed, alliances were broken, attacks were made in vain. These are the expoloits of a typical bike race but without all the hoopla and pressure that is encountered at even a local elite race. Who needs em!? Don't get me wrong, I will be toting to the (official) line for many years to come but this quaint event up in New Paltz oppened my eyes to the possibilies of what a small group of people can do without a USA Cycling Permit.
Here is the Rapha Contintal Team before we set out. Fine bunch indeed.
Though we set out with two other teams of six, the group shattered soon after the first major climb and we rode together at a modest pace in hopes to cover the course in a decent time and perhaps combine with another strong team to improve our speed and morale on the flats.
To get some training in I rode at my own race pace up the big climbs as I knew the checkpoints would be there waiting for me and we could all re-group and carry on from there. Here I am after the first big climb about 30 miles into the ride. Rapha documents everything as these events are key to their marketing campaign. Even Slate Olson was there helping the crew... that is him assisting me with my water situation. Slate Olson, General Manager of Rapha filling my bottles... what a class act! Slate could have been sipping lattes in Portland but he flew all the way out to New York to help his guys.
After a long descent into the plush valley my race strategy aspirations came true and the Embrocation Team caught us. Mind you these are guys I would hang out with off the bike so having their company (and horsepower) was a real treat for the next 60 miles of pedaling... then they left us in the dust. Thanks guys!
3rd and final check point 100 miles in. "Leisure Time" my ass!
Here is a nice snap of Rapha brand stalwarth and long time friend of mine Jeremy Dunn cruising with yours truly in the shady forests of New York. Not only is Jeremy the founder of Embrocation Cycling Journal, crack reporter for VeloNews, and head of Marketing and Relations at Rapha he is also a very good athlete so watch for him this cross season in the highly competitive Cat 2 field.
We made it. Some 6 plus hours later we cassualy rolled back into the parking lot, our mission complete with those overwhelming feeling of accomplishment setting in and our lips puckering for a nice cold beverage of choice.
What exactly defines a bike race when it is no longer your job? What is the purpose? Why suffer? Why sacrifice? Why commit to weekends away from the comforts of home? These are the question I ask myself as a newly retired PRO and the answer is simple, I love riding my bike. Even more so I love sharing with friends my love of riding and all the exploits that go with a hard day in the saddle. Svelte Cycles will surely continue its weekend rides here in Nashua on non-race days but now perhaps with a narrower focus and a re-discovered enthusiasm for friendly competition and challenging oneself without the need to stand in a registration line. We don't need no registration.
Until Next Time,