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Fatmarc and Oliver Yeh
On the 21st of May, C3:Twenty20 Cycling Company Team road out of the Lehigh Valley Velodrome to overcome the 2011 NE Rapha Gentlemen’s Race. We have known about this newly historic race and its format, and while we were familiar with each other’s strengths and weaknesses from seasons of ‘cross and group training rides, the number of unknowns kept us honest in our assessments.
As we left the velodrome our team captain (Bad Andy) and Director (Auer Power) took to the front to set the pace. “Keep her steady, we have a long way to go,” Auer said. It was one of several caveats. Bad Andy, a graduate of local Kutztown University, knew many of the roads along the course and stated before the race, “Hawk Mountain will be a challenge.”
Thirty miles. We passed two teams that started ahead of us. We were feeling good and riding steady. All went as planned. Then, descending a gnarly gravely hill, my teammate Sweet Johnny shredded a tire. We stopped and mended the tire with GU wrappers, black tape, and a dollar bill – very MacGyver. Perhaps more impressive was the fact Sweet J rode Frankenstein-tire for about 20 miles before reaching Kutztown where we found a bike shop to snag two new ones.
We sped on and slid back into our rhythm. Eighty miles. We caught up to Team BikeSnob loaded with fellow ‘crossers and merged into a charging pack of twelve. Over Blue Mountain, after riding with the Bicycling Team for a while, we had to stop and hand over the spare tire to our teammate Meatball thus concluding our lesson in preparedness and forethought.
The last thirty. The last 30 may have been the cruelest. It could’ve been considered the mile 22 of marathons when the invisible wall appears. Our team had predetermined after the last categorized climb, the final 30 miles would be more reasonable. However, this was the Rapha Gentlemen’s Race… reasonable is to be left for base rides. I kept looking at the mileage; the numbers seemed to turn over in slow motion. I was low on fuel, pedaling sore feet, steering sore hands, and propped up on a sore ass. The promise of returning home together to where we started kept me and my compatriots moving forward.
Ten hours forty minutes later, our rubber tires entered the Velodrome. The small crowd of friends and family cheered for us as we rolled onto the track and completed a couple of laps. Smiling could not be prevented. Congratulations were about finishing together: this was a huge combined effort and the experience shared with my teammates would go into the books.
In a way, the word “race” is a misnomer. There are prizes, yes. But, what the event does is celebrate the reason we leave our homes to meet in parking lots and other designated spots. No matter what the aim, it’s about gathering to ride and the small events within that make them memorable, bonding, and fruitful.