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The 2013 Rapha NE Gentlemen's Race
The cool early morning air blankets the grass with clear drops of condensation. The lawn is littered with half-assembled bicycles. Yet there's a heat brewing just beneath the surface. I think of our longtime riding compatriot Ben Lieberson. Even the slightest hint of warm weather sees this gentleman start the day in short sleeves.The Rapha Continental is back together again. Only six of us for this adventure, but it is good to be back where we started, on the East Coast.
When we started doing rides it was mainly out of Boston, with a little bit of New York City too. Back when our lives seemed less hectic, we would spend weekends of each summer exploring roads, 100 plus miles at a time, from these hubs.
All of the rides that happened on the East Coast; like back in Litchfield, Western Massachusetts, or the time up in Maine when we were stranded on the side of the road for four hours; on every one of these trips we would talk fondly about how easy the guys on the West Coast had it. They were all from the same town, they would kit up, meet at their favorite coffee shop of the time — usually Stumptown — and then just ride until they were blue in the face. Because, isn't that the point of all this anyway? Nevertheless, we envied them as we sat in traffic on the George Washington Bridge trying to get to Pennsylvania. We cursed the ease at which they pulled off their rides, the tall redwoods seemingly sprouting up from every one of the turns on their nearly bare cue sheets while we dealt with the heat and frustration of the big old cities before we had even made a single pedal stroke… It was like that every time we rode. We all lived in different cities - Dan in Philly, Rich, Piers, Kansas and Sam in New York City and the rest of us in the Boston area. And because we were always searching for the best spot to ride that was somehow near all of us, it proved extremely difficult if not impossible.
Of course we never thought about New Jersey.
Soon after rolling away from the start line it is apparent that this is not the East Coast that we have come to know, or at least that I have come to know. The NYC folks have made it down here in a little over an hour and the same goes for the people from Philly. Even though there were questions heading into the day, questions like "really? New Jersey?" But, thanks to the route stylings of Mr. Jed Kornbluh even the first five miles of this ride were sublime. These were the kind of miles we dreamed about when we talked of the West Coast: Big trees, perfect sunlight and slight downhills around every turn. But, all good things must come to an end, or a least experience a hiccup: the first flat of the day. Damn gravel – the solution and the problem.
There is often a kind of leapfrog that you play during these Gentlemen's races and, if you play the leapfrog right, you will meet some interesting people and hopefully some old friends in the process.The red kit of the Bicycling Magazine squad became a Beacon to us all. The "B" on their backs signifying just that. They are a beacon of hope because not only have they have been here before and ride together like a team led by their calm and kind captain Selene Yeager, but because even when they are riding through us, they still have time for friendly words. We also see the BSM Cycling Team, but only a couple times before they ride off into the sun in their Star-Wars-style Air Attack Shield helmets.
Same goes for the eventual race winners from Bicycle Therapy. We are seated on the banks of yet another river crossing when they laugh their way through us. It is almost comical with what ease they cross the river and seamlessly roll past us. But, all of this does nothing to our resolve. We just keep on experiencing New Jersey and Pennsylvania (it is hard to know which is which). But by now, late in the day, our focus has changed. One flat has turned into three and has turned this race into nothing more than it really is — a ride. Just one that happens to be a bit longer than the average ones…
It's a Rapha Gentlemen's Race indeed, but it's also a Continental ride, back on the East Coast, and for that we are grateful. Grateful for getting out of the city after sitting in traffic and getting up onto the country roads. There are no tall redwoods, but there are plenty of other trees to go around. As the air starts to get that cool feeling back we crest the last of the hills near the start/ finish and suddenly everything — even if you haven't been here before — rushes back at you in a thankful wave of recognition. We know, in one fell swoop, that we have made it back in one piece and probably learned a bit more about one another, and ourselves.
Dedicated to the memory of James Gandolfini.
1. 9W 7 hours 49 minutes, and first to finish
1. Bicycle Therapy 7:49
3. Ride Studio Cafe 7:51
4. Philadelphia Ciclismo 8:14
5. Bicycling Magazine 8:34
6. Hilltop Bicycles/Allez Endurance 8:35
7. CRCA/Setanta 8:37
8. Velocipede Salon 8:42
9. Foundation 8:48
10. BSM 8:59
10. NYC Velo/ Hastings Velo 8:59
12. CRCA/Arc Racing 9:00
13. Slouch Racing 9:07
14. Team Yacht Club 9:19
15. Signature Cycles 9:21
16. Kutztown Cutters 9:22
17. Sommerville Sports 9:36
18. Rapha Continental 9:54
19. Kapelmuur Independent 10:18
20. Geekhouse 10:26
21. Team Corsa NYC 10:36 and Lanterne Rouge
DNF (did not finish with all six riders or did not complete the course):
Rapha Racing NYC
Strava King of the Mountain
1. Matt DeMartino
2. John Bayley
3. Myles Lund
Strava Queen of the Mountain
1. Lyne Bessette
2. Mariah Valentine
3. Mo Bruno Roy