Events: Winter Goldsprints hosted by Doylestown Bike Works
(2016) In the dank walls of a secreted underground dance hall, a legend was birthed setting the standard for an industry. The venue was dark, the atmosphere was dingy, and the entertainment was loud. For the latter part of the seventies, CBGB in New York City hosted some of the most infamous punk bands from the Misfits to the Talking Heads. It became the place to go for the disgruntled population who found comfort in the ebb and flow of mosh pits.
Amongst its black box interior, the only color that could be found were the stickers and graffiti affixed to any space around the hall. Naturally the bands were the focal point, but little could be seen of them as patrons pogoed to catch any glimpse of Greg Antonito of the Bouncing Souls or Debbie Harry from Blondie.
It was hot. It was sweaty. And it was a place people found themselves, surrounded by like- minded individuals. It didn’t matter if dancehall crashers stood on the fringes or mingled in the pit, everyone was accepted.
Of course the music was deafening. Despite the fact that CBGB stood for “Country, Blue Grass, and Blues,” much of the music that poured in buckets from the speakers was punk rock, hardcore, alternative, or new age. The melodies were created by legendary names still recognizable today.
It’s what I was thinking when I followed the roar of a gathering in the underground bar of Doylestown Brewing Company. I pushed past the bar through the meandering hallways that made me feel like I was somewhere under Main Street. There in the back of the farthest room was the gathering of Doylestown’s cycling culture spectating the Winter Goldsprints. About seventy people, cyclists or curious bar-goers, formed a semi-circle around two bikes on rollers with pedal straps and hurled their encouragement - or insults - at the racers. Indoor track racing, once large in New York City, had been revived in Doylestown.
The gamut of riders could be observed. There were full cycling kits. Some wore cycling bibs and regular shirts. Flannel was quite popular. There were jeans, and there were khakis. There were Chuck Taylors, and there were Clark's. There was a turkey costume, and there was a chicken. This was a circle of riders, all whom could be observed on the local roads this upcoming weekend perhaps, huddled together wondering against whom they would race.
The women’s races were in the finishing stretch when I arrived. Jamie, one of the riders from Doylestown Bike Works spin classes won for the women. The men, who were racing next, observed their heats to get an understanding of what to expect. It was a fix-it-as-we-go approach, making it all the more enjoyable. Everyone was there for the same purpose and that was that.
Across all categories there was intensely close racing. At no point was there ever a blowout. Racers covered the 300 meters in as little as thirteen seconds up to a respectable eighteen seconds. Everyone was cooking the rollers.
The men saw several dead heats, including my first pairing. It wasn’t the first dead heat, so I knew what was coming: an instant rematch. With shaking legs I prepared myself for a fifteen-odd second all out effort yet again. But let me explain just what these seconds feel like:
There is a complete misunderstanding about what follows. I could not figure out how to prepare for the effort. I thought, “Fifteen seconds isn’t long.” People shouted out my name; I didn’t want to let them down. The countdown began and rather quickly the cadence maxed out. Fifteen seconds felt like an eternity. I kept thinking, “Almost there! Almost there! Almost there!” but I wasn’t. How much I lusted for the chorus of hecklers to tell me I had finished. Spinning hard was all I could do. Gone was the road-racing poker face. I could only control so many things, my facial expression wasn't one of them. I couldn't understand how fifteen seconds could feel so much longer. Then I stopped unsure as to whether the race was over and whether I won or lost.
The men’s group was extremely diverse. There were dedicated track riders. There were road riders who owned the local Strava boards. There were fixie riders and bike messengers. Entertainingly there was a lot of stammering when the bike was dismounted.
As the pairings dwindled the final came down to a track rider, Jim (of Mad Princes' Brewing) and a road rider, Jason. The climax race showed their ability to torture a bike on rollers by going fourteen seconds and thirteen seconds, respectively. They had both raced four times total that night. They had been the entertainment in the dark room with the thickening air and the loud screaming of Doylestown Brewing Company.
There were awards parted out. The crowd slowly made their way to lower pressure areas. The cords were wound up and the rollers were folded. The ringing of the ears gave a sense of familiarity. It was quite hot, and I felt the urgency to stand outside for a bit. I had felt this way at the conclusion of punk shows. As the event was declared over, racers could still be found crouching in the hallway, sitting in seats, or taking a load off on makeshift seating areas. It was the denouement of the mosh pit. Riders had revealed their hand to the crowd. Reflection of just how close a win was quieted some. Those that raced moved about with strange limps as the legs tightened up.
This is just the beginning of Winter Goldsprints hosted by Doylestown Bike Works. This gathering harkened back to the era of punk rock when those in the know found their way to these events. Those who want to be a part will eventually get wind of just how much fun the Goldsprints truly were. Even the hanging shoulder straps of half removed bib shorts harkened back to punk rock suspenders not in use.
I lost against Mike (yes, that Mike). Maybe at the next Goldsprint I’ll channel CBGB’s raucous mid-set emotion of a Bouncing Souls show to forget about how much it hurts to push the pedals faster at a cadence around 200. Perhaps those moshing ghosts will filter down through the pedals and lift me to a round farther. Even better, perhaps I'll just grab a beer and watch those still vying for glory 300 meters at a time.
An original version of this article mistakenly stated the race was 500 meters. The race was altered to 300 meters to, "...prevent someone from having a heart attack" per Brian Boger. The mistake has been corrected.