A Day in Prospect Park with Uncle Sam
by Paul Wojciak • October 01, 2019
NYCROSS hosts two days of cyclocross races at Prospect Park every fall in the shadow of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, New York. Conditions can run the gamut from slick mud, gummy goop, grippy grass, to dusty dirt balls. This year's course and conditions were more of the latter and none of the former. Uncle Sam asks "What have you done for Cyclocross lately?" If you race for Bikeman.com, lets hope the answer is a resounding, "Represent!"
The relatively early 9:45AM start time for my Masters 50+ field suited me just fine. Get a race in with lots of day left for family. Temps for the Saturday, September 28, 2019 race were in the low sixties, sunny, with a nice 10 MPH breeze. As I mentioned, the course was dry and offered plenty of grip and lots of trees relegate the wind to a more friendly role. In addition to the grassy, off-camber, barriers, and punchy hills, there were two paved uphill sections on the 1.6 mile lap. These proved, in the final analysis, advantageous to me.
I was putting my 2019 Super Jake on the line for the third time this season. The tubeless Schwalbe X-One Bite tires were overkill for the conditions but, hey, you got a problem with railing your turns? I had high expectations not to flat on these beauties, unlike last week when I pinch flatted my rear tube and DNFed. Yep, my procrastination not to run the Schwalbes tubeless from the outset cost me. The Super Jake has the SRAM Force 1 disk brakes and they're a dream of modulating control. The Force 1 1x11 drive train helps you lay down the power, a fact you can also prove with data courtesy of the Stages Gen 3 GXP Carbon power crank installed.
The 50 and 60 plus men lined up together and we were to be scored separately. We had about 30 total racers, with 20 in the 50+ field including me. The 40 minute race would likely see us doing five laps given the ideal conditions. The whistle blew and we burst down the straight into a right hander to set us up for a couple smooth turns into the first uphill paved section. I missed my clip in and dropped into about 15th position up the hill. We had a line of about 10 riders serpentining through some off-camber, past the pits, and a gnarly rooty section. Drop down a grassy hill and I'm still holding position. Round through to the second uphill road section. Ok, making a move out of the saddle to gain a couple spots. Into the grass and through two different punchy climbs the first one a carry. No one's charging me and I'm feeling good. Over the barriers, round and back through the start finish line. Solid first lap.
Charging up the backstretch pavement and gaining a couple more spots. Settling in waiting for mistakes and openings. Onto the front stretch pavement and four riders are passed in one clump. Nice. Feeling pretty good. Looking for a chance, yep, over the barriers and passing another guy by mounting faster. Through start finish for lap two in the books and I see the three-to-go sign. Ok, on some good wheels into the backstretch pavement again. Hmmm, too slow, passing em all. Clean air into the off camber by the tennis courts. Grooving now and putting the spurs to it. Wait. What'd that guy on the public address say? Wojciak from Bikeman into third, 30 seconds back? Yes!
Two laps to go and looking to keep doing what I've been doing up till now. Digging hard, being smooth, maintaining position on my chasers. Bell lap. Stay solid now. I know all the lines. Over the barriers for the final time, whoa! Careful on the remount there kiddo. Round the last turn and through the finish line. Third on the day.
Quite unexpected but certainly welcome. One and Two were the class of the field 90 seconds up on me. No regrets from this fella though. Bike, body and mind all delivered today. One of those near perfect race days. Guess that'll keep me coming back.