For a certain sub-set of New York City bike racers, the end of the Tuesday night series at FBF is one of the sure signs of the end of summer. Certainly, the end of the series means a respite from the exertion required to simply make it out to the races—my own personal Tuesday night sojourn requires a six hour slice carved out of my life’s pie that—in all honesty—would be better spent parenting my kids or listening and understanding the words that come out of the mouths of the people I care about. But sometimes the attraction of sweating and panting with sixty-odd other men as we bounce across a tarmac neither fit for man nor bike is just too alluring.
Odes to man-pack perspiration notwithstanding, the last race at FBF is a turning point of my personal calendar. It means another summer has passed, another season is almost complete and that I am still capable of pedaling in a semi-competitive nature. At my age (if I were firewood, I would be “seasoned”, if I were cheese, I would be “depending upon storage conditions, most probably fatal to consume”), I often fall into the trap of wondering how many seasons I have left in the assembly of bone, blood, gristle and delusion I call “me”. If this season at FBF was any indiction, the answer to that question is “probably some more”. Granted, that evaluation isn’t going to be printed on any t-shirts, but at my age, I’ll take it.
The past few weeks of racing at FBF have seen the rise of the ageless sprint of James J and the concurrent demise of the overall win hopes of Cesar A. Many times, the series at FBF will come down to a contest between a sprinter and a strong rider who can get into breaks and hold his own in sprints, and this year’s race followed that story line. With two races to go, Cesar was battling against James for the overall win. Due to a broken chain in the penultimate race, James didn’t score any points and was holding onto a two point lead over Cesar. The strategy was clear, Cesar would need to drop James to have any hope at wining the series.
If this were the plan adopted by Cesar’s Triangle Cyclists team, then I didn’t see any evidence of it. Cesar’s team usually had about five to six racers in the field, and it would seem that with these numbers, they could dictate tactics to a certain extent, but they didn’t seem interested in controlling the race. Having missed out on many races due to living a life on Tuesdays, I was out of contention; but due to not having much of a life, I was also aware that Cesar’s only hope was to get in a breakaway. And being a conniving bike racer, I hoped to benefit from that fact. But Cesar’s team didn’t seem to be able or interested in creating the circumstances for a break to occur. Granted, this isn’t an easy task, especially as James was steadily gaining form as the series went on—and was getting harder to drop—but why not bike race?
I watched the last race of the series play out like the slow motion footage of a cheetah chasing an antelope in a nature film. Breaks were chased down, no efforts were made to get Cesar away and Cesar himself was at the front of the race with James tenaciously stalking his back tire. Being a bit of an antelope myself, this was hard for me to watch, but with every lap that passed, an antelope feast became more and more inevitable. James the cheetah won the race, with Cesar finishing fourth, and the cheetahs took the series once again.
I ended my Tuesday season by trying to sneak away and catch the fast cats off guard, but I was caught and devoured at the line. But I jumped because I know that I’m an antelope, and trying to blend in with a pack of cheetahs only gets you chewed up faster.