Monday, May 15, 2006

Best Saturday Ever

This Saturday was both Laura's bridal shower and the "Bridge Battle II" race. Friday night Laura and I had seen an assortment of films at the Bicycle Film Forum. There were a lot of short films including a film called "MASH San Francisco" that showed lots of guys bombing down city streets and crashing their track bikes into the pavement. It put the fear into me.

Saturday morning I was really starting to dread the race. I had that awful feeling in my gut and I was kinda sluggish and weak as I rode to the start on 23rd and the FDR. I had hoped that I could have done the race with Josh, but his bike was recently put to final rest after he was doored on Christopher street.

After a lot of poking around the FDR Park and the surrounding area, me and this guy who wanted me to call him Chino found the race organizers and we got our spoke cards. As a rule, Alleycats start about 45 minutes after they're supposed to, in this case it took about an hour and a half. As more people gathered, I got bored and passed the time looking at the course map, reading the New York Times and calling my brother to shoot the shit. This didn't do anything to calm my nerves and I resolved to myself that my only goal was to not get hurt and that I would drop out of the race at the first sign of trouble: a flat, a small tumble over a curb, the second I got lost etc.

The organizers had us move our bikes to three different spots before deciding on a place to lay our bikes down for a short Le Mans start. I was scared as hell that I would get a shot of adrenaline and do something stupid once the race started so I stood at the starting line and concentrated on my breath and heart rate. When it was time to go, everyone ran like crazy and roughly 70 people ran for their bikes and started pouring out onto the FDR and up to the 59th street bridge. There were at least 4 minor crashes that I saw out of the corner of my eye, including one guy from Boston clipping into a GMC Jimmy in the 30's. I was squarely in the middle of the pack and noticed that I was going at roughly commuter speed up 1st avenue. I resolved for the rest of the race to keep my straghtaway speed at at least 20 mph.

The pack thinned out considerably on the Queens side of the 59th street bridge as people went different ways and in different orders. People were further thinned into packs ass groups of people got stuck at lights. I dropped about four people at a light when I muscled my way across four lanes of traffic and hooked up with a group of 5 fast guys and one really fast girl on a road bike.

Here she is at the finish line with 2nd place finisher Ken:
I was able to hook up with different groups of people and drop others in traffic on my home turf in Greenpoint, but that girl on the road bike I just couldn't shake. For a while she had me on Grand Avenue, but then I caught her when a bus cut us off on Lorimer, then I thought I had her licked on Flushing near the Navy Yards until I started to run out of juice and she passed me, shot me a shit eating grin and said something that sounded like "ha haaa" (a la Nelson from The Simpsons).

Near the end I was starting to feel like a whipped dog. I hadn't drank any water since starting the race and I was worried about how in the hell I would get up the Manhattan Bridge and over to the finish line without dropping 10 places behind. I started up the bridge at 15 mph, dropping the pack of people that I had been riding with, including the girl and I drafted up the rest off the way behind this one Japanese messenger who I'd once spoken to a year ago. He was a lot smaller than me, so to successfully draft him I had to crouch really low. I had my manifest out before the checkpoint in the middle of the bridge, and I managed to shoot past him afterwards. As I was going down the brigde, I saw all of these other people from the race going the opposite way. I thought that they were all ahead of me and that when I got to the finish line at the Anthology Film Archive, that the organizers would send me back to the Manhattan bridge to get a second signature. That didn't seem like a lot of fun, but I bombed through Chinatown anyway, screaming unintelligable shit at crowds of people who were walking through my green lights and then finally going the wrong way up 2nd avenue to the finish line.

I gave my manifest to the guy at the table and found out that, no, I didn't have to go back and that I had come in in 16th place. Sixteen baby! For the next 5 minutes I was shell shocked, my body was floppy, I shouted when I meant to talk and I drank water like a camel. The girl came in a few minutes later and I she was the first place girl finisher. I beat the first girl, made me feel like a big man.

I stayed for another couple of hours, drank a lot of free red bull, ate a chocolate bar, read the rest of my NY Times and watched the various track events. At six, I went over to Brooklyn to the end of Laura's bridal shower and had an excellent time.

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