Name: Michael Straw
Race Age: 26
Current team: Team Lucarelli & Castaldi
Day Job: Attorney
How you got into cycling: I was a swimmer (briefly) in college. After graduation, I was mostly looking for a way to keep my weight at bay during the first year of law school that did not involve running. Cycling felt very natural. I took to it quickly and loved how you could get outside and cover a lot of ground. Once I started racing with Lucarelli & Castaldi, I realized I didn’t know anything about cycling and was doing everything wrong. That is a lesson I continue to learn thanks to my teammates and coach.
How you got into racing: When I first started cycling, I thought 7am was “getting out early.” It wasn’t until I had to keep an actual schedule that I started getting in the park at 5 or 6 a.m. and seeing the local teams out for training rides. When I saw a group of guys in matching blue and white kit, rotating in a double paceline, I thought “Hey! Those guys are faster and cooler than I am….” I googled “cycling + racing + NYC” and found the CRCA and Team Lucarelli & Castaldi. A few days later, I met Alex Ostroy for a ride and joined the team. That ride ended up being ~80 miles through Bear Mountain in freezing rain/sleet/apocalyptic hellstorm. None of us could stop shivering for hours and I nearly quit cycling forever. At a Peekskill diner, other customers felt so bad for us that they were literally giving us the clothes off their backs. Still one of the hardest/most fun rides I’ve done to date.
Favorite local course and why: Although it didn’t really play out the way I wanted this year, my favorite local course is the Bear Mountain Spring Classic. Tiorati fools people – they see the manageable gradient and think “oh this isn’t so bad!” After the second time through, I peek over my shoulder and see that at least half of the field is gone. Somehow it ended with a more-than 30 person bunch sprint this year, so that was unfortunate for me. Still, it’s a beautiful course and welcome change of scenery.
Greatest achievement racing: In my storied 1.5-year racing career, my favorite win so far has been one of the CRCA club races earlier this year. I was feeling tired that morning, with very low expectations. My plan was to just sit in and try to help out my teammates. Earlier that week, everyone was giving me tips about going for it in the sprint because “only 15% of the B-races are won in a break” (who is doing that math?). As a mediocre-at-best sprinter, I knew that wasn’t in the cards for me. I bridged up to a promising break, yelled (lovingly) at a bunch of people to get to work, and the break stuck for about a lap. When I saw it getting reeled in, I went off the front and ended up solo-ing 2 more laps for the win. It’s a weird thing going on a solo break in Central Park. You have to keep reminding yourself that you’re in the middle of a race and not your average weekday training ride. For some reason, my adoring fans don’t line up to cheer the CRCA races at 6am on a Saturday.
Worst memory of a race: At the risk of jinxing myself, I haven’t had any truly horrible memories of a race. A couple weeks ago, I flatted during a CRCA Club Race at the furthest possible point away from registration (where my spare tube was). Clip-clopping those two miles was pretty annoying, but could have been worse. White Plains Criterium last year also comes to mind – I was running on about 3 hours of sleep and 4 cups of coffee that morning. My leg cramped up so badly right off the start line that I could barely clip in. I spent the whole race chasing the group with intermittent cramps. That was also my first crit – it was a rude awakening.
Goals/Aspirations: I have a few goals. For this year, I want to bring home the CRCA B-Cup and upgrade to Cat 3 by the end of the season. More importantly, I want to keep having fun on my bike. We all work a lot in this city, and sometimes it can feel like a chore to get your training rides in. As long as I can keep having fun with it (and keep finding the time to ride), I’ll be happy.
What’s the most fun thing you’ve missed out on in order to do a bike race: This one’s easy: sleep. After a long week of work and training, sometimes all I want to do is sleep in on Saturday. Then I realize there’s a race at 5:45 a.m. and I wonder why I do this to myself. Then you finish the race, have a coffee and completely forget how sad you were when you saw your significant other peacefully snoozing not 2 hours earlier.