Tim O and I headed out to New Belgium this weekend for the Cycle-Smart International races in Northampton. Aside from an early season race a few years ago at Blunt Park, this was my first foray into the depth of racing that is the New England scene. Last year, Drumroll, Eric G. and Bryan B. took a trip and all returned with tales of fast deep fields.
After a season spent chasing upgrade points in the NYCROSS series last year, I've taken this year to travel around some and finally had the opportunity to hit up a Verge race. The obvious first: These races are huge, mature, highly organized and well attended. Everything about the Cycle-Smart International was top notch, but the purpose of this post isn't to write about what a great venue Noho was or what a great job they did with the race. I'm sure you can read about that elsewhere or simply take my word for it and check it out yourself next year.
The purpose of this post is to talk about the depth of talent in New England. Apparently I've led a very sheltered life here in CNY. I've always said that the further east you go, the deeper the talent pool goes and this weekend further illustrated the point. We certainly have some very strong racers, but they simply have more of them. Many more.
I didn't feel right about jumping in with the Elite's. I figure a bunch of those guys are racing professionally and I simply didn't want to get in the way. At best I would have been pack fill in that race and at worst I would have been in a pro's way, so Tim and I both opted for the Masters 35+ races. I knew the competition would be strong, but I really had no idea. Ignorance is bliss as they say. 46th on day 1 and 52nd on day 2. On day 1 I crashed pretty hard. On day 2 I rode well and felt much stronger. If someone had told me that I was in 52nd place I would have laughed in their face. I was riding hard, chasing people down and handled my bike much better than I did on day 1. Apparently everyone did.
I must admit that initially I was really bummed about my results. For good or bad I had 4 hours to think and talk about it with Tim O. on the way home. Below are my conclusions (not to be confused with excuses):
In CNY there are some very strong masters racers, but not a lot of them. The masters races locally tend to be raced by racers that are 35+ but with a wide variety of skill sets and talent. In New England the Masters races appear to be a completely different animal. There are 60+ guys, all of whom are strong. Most of them are Cat 1 or Cat 2's and they are only racing Masters because they are just one step off of the Elite pace. Both of my races included two current national champions. Most of them have been racing a long time, have great handling skills and can fly. If you're 35+ and new to the sport you can still race with the Cat 3's or 4's, so the people that choose to race 35+ are strong. Bottom line is these dudes are fast and I highly recommend making a trip to check out their scene if you haven't already.
It bears repeating that these are my conclusions, I could be wrong. Maybe someone that lives in New Belgium would have a different perspective. Maybe I just suck, but I'd like to think that it's the overwhelming depth of talent the area has. It's evident that I still have a lot of room for improvement in the bike handling department, and I still need to get used to starting a race with 60 fast strangers. I know this, I'm not done with New England . . .