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Gentlemen's Race New Paltz, NY
Unsanctioned and unmarshalled, nobody was quite sure how that would play in the Northeast. Would the local teams, typically known for being a bit more serious (certainly more so than Portland), get behind the idea of the Rapha Gentlemen’s Race?
With the help of Rapha Continental riders Rich Bravo and Piers North, we reached out to a myriad of teams with various levels, focus and regions. Rich and Piers’ faith in the NE paid off in the form of eleven tough teams out of New York, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts. Bicycling Magazine brought up a team of mostly mountain bike ringers. Embrocation Cycling Journal was a powerhouse from Boston. A backyard cross racing team, Fifth Street Cross, was there from PA. The local shop from The Bicycle Depot, Rapha Racing and Rapha Continental, Hup United, Gotham, Adler, and a motley team called the Eastmans were there. Even Empire Racing, a NYC team that wins national Cat 1-2 races, has a team van with vanity plates and was known to be “very serious”, was up for a different sort of challenge.
The Catskills course of 122-miles with three major climbs, and a constant barrage of rollers was chosen because of the challenge it presented to our Rapha Continental NE riders last year. The ‘Gunks’, the seemingly endless climb up Mohonk around mile 90, and the world’s largest garden gnome were something at least a few of us had seen before. Put together in a different way and with some added mileage, the idea of the 6-person team race happening on the quiet roads around New Paltz fit perfectly.
With a staggered start handicapping the fastest teams (expected to be Empire and Embrocation) and not-fastest teams like The Eastmans, it felt like it could be anyone’s race to win. 50-minutes separated the first depart and the faster chasers.
In the end, the hounds almost always catch the fox. Though some of the earlier teams put up more of a fight than their categories expected, the Empire team passed the field and easily took first place of regional pride and Rapha Club Jerseys. Local boys from The Bicycle Depot were second and walked with the beer prize. The Eastmans barely stayed out front of a hard-charging Bicycling Magazine team for third place — just a few more miles and the results might have been different.
But for most of the racers that day, results didn’t really matter. We’ve all probably said “I don’t care how I finish, I just want to have fun” before in our careers and didn’t mean it, but somewhere in the Hudson Valley that Memorial Day Sunday, that sentiment was genuine. For some, fighting to just reach the finish together, never mind the win, was really (as clichéd as it might sound) victory enough.
Continue the story on the chapters to your right.