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Gentlemen's Race Litchfield, CT
The trick to enjoying a great Gentlemen's Race does not lie within the prize list. You will not be able to find it in the team car or over the official race radio, no matter how hard you are listening. The trick to having a good Gentlemen's Race lies with the company you keep.
For this task, we can only provide the framework, you know, lead by example. But this is mainly because we like to ride with our friends. We can only say "ride with your friends, stay with your friends, finish with your friends" so many times before it becomes an asinine recitation that falls on dead ears. At the same time we also try our best to practice what we preach, which I think is exactly what was happening, when within the final miles of the race the Rapha Continental grouped up to "assist" their fearless leader up the final climb (he initially started cramping around mile 30 of the 120 mile course.)
Countless examples of this camaraderie came up throughout the day as the Rapha Gentlemen's Race East took to the hills and gravel connectors of Litchfield, Connecticut. The light blue jerseys of the Fifth Street CX team, upon rounding a corner, was a sight that kept everyone in good spirits throughout the day. From the onset it was apparent that these people enjoy riding their bikes together. Sure, beer drinking at checkpoints, smiling when addressed, and a lot of laughing coming from their group was also a sign that this team had signed up for a day on the bike - with each other. And the very best part about them was their overall attitude, which could be described loosely as "awesome."
In fact, this was the case for the majority of the teams. HUP United, after getting a little banged up on their last few entries into the race, brought their "A" game to an entirely new "HUPtastic" level. Trust me, when you have a group that you love to ride with, and love to be with the riding becomes the easy part. Unless of course there is something like a five-mile dirt climb thrown into the middle of it.
Racing is a curious thing. I imagine that for the majority of the traditional racers out that day the objective to win was high and staying with their team was low. They are used to coming at races from a purely racing standpoint. One where winning is the only priority, which simply means, beating everyone else to the finish line. In general racing, there can only be one winner and the sacrifice of a teammate or two, or however many it takes to get you across the line first, is commonplace.
But what if winning meant something else entirely? What if winning meant being able to look your compatriots in the eye and know that a) you did the best you could do and b) they did the same? What if winning meant knowing that you stuck together for 120 of the toughest miles you have done together on bicycles.
That is the only real rule of Rapha Gentlemen's Racing: Each team of six people must finish together for their result to be counted.
The key then to this equation is choosing your riding partners. Almost every scenario has been explored with these Gentlemen's Races - especially now with the inclusion of a team full of tandems. Full on race teams have entered, single speed lunatics with baskets on the front, and then just groups of friends have joined up to take part. But the ones that we have seen do the best are the ones that are enjoying themselves the most. And the ones that enjoy their day on the bicycle, well, they never lose.
Upon recently reading from the book Father To Son - Thoughts To Live By by Gordon Clark Schloming there is one section that offers some insight into the matter of choosing a team. Certainly it is being taken a bit out of context here, but I think that the lesson is not only one and the same, but important. Or at the very least a good base for founding your own Gentlemen's Race Team.
Chapter 5 outlines what it takes. The chapter is titled "How to Judge Another and When You Should Not." But let us think of it this way, what if the title was "How to Judge a Gentlemen's Race Teammate and When You Should Not." Sure, it's a bit longer, but the desired effect is there. And it is important to consider just who you will be taking with you for 120 miles in the saddle.
There are eight keys to judging another but remember to keep in mind the idea that we are applying this to riding bicycles, and choosing the partners to do it with.
1. He will look you in the eye.
2. He will have a sense of humor. I take this to be a particularly important measure of any man who holds public office, since the affairs of the nation will quickly confound or possess a man who cannot laugh, especially at his own mistakes.
3. He conducts every relationship in a spirit of reciprocity, asking not more than he is himself willing to give. Such an attitude is essential if a man with many successes is to cultivate his character, for only thus will he acquire a sense of stewardship in proportion to his accomplishments.
4. He will have an essential humility. By this I mean the capacity to accept persons quite unlike himself and value their company for the very qualities he himself lacks.
5. He will possess a largeness of soul that recognizes that some things will always escape his powers of reason, and some things should always escape his control.
6. He is not afraid to say "I don't know."
7. He knows himself, or if he becomes momentarily confused, he will not trample over you in his search for himself.
8. Somewhere, sometime, he has learned to love someone profoundly.
If you can look one another in the eye from start to finish and take these mere suggestions into account, you, along with your team should be in a good spot to withstand the company of each other for however long it takes you to complete the next one. If you so choose, you may print out these rules and take them with you in your daily life. Continually on the search for the right set of people to ride with.
1: The Eastmans 7hrs 43min
2: Embrocation Racing 6:40
3: Bicycle Therapy 7:25
4: HUP UNITED 8:15
5: Rapha Racing NYC 8:00
6: Rapha Continental 8:17
7: Geekhouse Bikes 9:23
8: Seven Cycles 9:38
9: Fifth Street Cross 9:45
10: Independent Fabrication 10:10
11: Bilenky Cycle Works 10:55 (all tandems)
12: Adler *Finished a man down 7:15
13: Pedro's *Finished a man down 7:30
14: BH/Garneu *Finished a man down 7:34
"God, what an achingly beautiful course it was. And hard, just as you promised it would be. We really pushed it today and were absolutely thrilled to have come into the ski area before anyone else, even though at times we had two guys pushing another guy up a couple of climbs near the end of the race."
- John Trotter (Eastmans)
"I thought I had done a fair amount of riding in the Litchfield area, but this course introduced me to many eye-popping (along with lung burning and leg bursting!) new roads. Thanks!"
- John Bayley (Pedro's)
"If the race was based on most beer and smiles consumed on the ride…I think we might have won!"
- Beth Strickland (5th Street Cross)