In order to be successful racing bikes, there a time where a rider has to "go"—give the all out effort that will either get you the win or leave you in a pile of exhaustion. For some types of racers, the time to go is relatively straightforward, if you are a sprinter you go for the line at the end of the race. If you are climber, you go when the road tilts upwards. I am neither a climber nor a sprinter, my best hopes for winning come when I get away from the pack—which is often a maddening pursuit.
I didn't always know what kind of racer I was. As a lower category rider, I would try to sprint it out at the end of races—but I would never seriously contend for the win. I could place, but I would always be about ten to 20 meters behind the winners. It was frustrating. I needed help, and that's when I contacted Dave Jordan. Dave was the only coach I've ever had. He had a friendly bluntness to him allowed him to quickly assess riders and their capabilities.
"Why are you sprinting? If you've never won a field sprint, chances are that you never will, you are not a sprinter. You need to find another way to win." This was Dave's blunt (and accurate) assessment of me—and he was right. For some, this sort of plainly put appraisal of their talent may have stung, but for me, it was Dave explaining how I could be successful. He talked of winning races, not surviving them to sprint for a minor placing. He wanted me to race in a way that put me in the running for the win, even if that meant telling me that I was racing like a bonehead.
Dave also taught me about the wind—there are a few environmental factors that affect a race—wind and elevation. Because he had raced in Belgium, Dave was very attentive to wind conditions—the race there would be blown apart by crosswinds, and a rider needed to know the wind to be successful. Dave showed me how to use the wind at FBF to my advantage. If the wind blew, you needed to be in the right place or you would not be in a position to win. It was as simple as that.
Tuesday night's wind was a classic crosswind between turns three and four, if you were to ask Dave what to do in those conditions he'd say, "Gun it in the crosswind.", and that's what I set out to do. Being a breakaway rider is a maddening experience. You try and try to get a gap, and sometimes you do—only to be brought back panting and exhausted. There's a very low rate of success. Tuesday was set to be a frustrating night because Andrew and I stayed away last week and we'd be marked this week. And so the race went, we'd get a small gap, but there'd be too many racers with us or we'd be chased and the race would come back together. This is how the race went for eight laps.
As we came to the bell, the race was strung out, but in order to frustrate the sprinters, we needed a gap. Luckily an effort came at just the right time, Ernie from NYVC put in a big effort near turn four, and that gave me the opportunity I needed—the opportunity to "go". As we took off, Ernie said, "You're welcome." I jumped, knowing that this was it—I was fully committed, I wasn't going to sit in for the sprint. This was the way I could race for the win.
Our group at the front worked to maintain our small gap, I essentially thought of the split as a really long lead out, and if we could hold the ground we gained, the sprinters couldn't catch us. It was a furious last lap—if there was work to be done, we did it, because not working meant not winning. I positioned myself to be in line to go at the last corner. The speed stayed high through turns three and four, and as we hit turn four I was behind Andrew—a spot that gave m the best chance at winning. We rounded the corner and I went around Andrew on the right on the good side of the wind (Dave would approve), Rob B went on the left. We were in a drag race to the line. Rob beat me and we were beat by Lance S. I was pipped at the line by Jacek L, but I was not upset because I had put myself into a position to go for the win, which is all I can really ask of myself.
If I know anything about racing and my own capabilities, I owe it to Dave Jordan for changing my mindset. He inspired me to think about winning, not just racing, and that's been the difference. He taught me when it was the right time to go, but sadly, his time to go has come also, and it won't be the same going without him.
CRCA A race, March 27, 2010
CRCA A Race, August 30, 2009
I've been racing at Harlem since 1995 or thereabouts (I moved to the East Coast in late 1993, and it took a year or so for me to figure out where all the races were by combing through the back page