Events: Daniel Harwi Memorial 30th Annual Lower Providence Spring Classic Criterium
(2017) Early season is hard to find rhythm and confidence. This is true in early professional hockey games. Mistakes are made often. Players will lose an edge. Sometimes they’ll even skate up ice without the puck. It’s allowed because it’s early in the season.
I once watched a television special on the United States Navy flight demonstration squadron, the Blue Angels. The show advised air show enthusiasts that the Blue Angels also go through a bit of early season jitters. Since members are only flying for a maximum of two years, the jitter factor is amplified and regularly. That eighteen-inch wingtip to canopy separation might be stretched a little farther in the early months. According to the television special, seeing the Blue Angels late in the year is when the confidence is high and the separation is minimal, so much so, that the aircraft may come back with scratches from contact.
Early season is exactly where the Daniel Harwi Memorial Criterium presented by Rothman Institute p/b Talksoft racing squad lands on the calendar. Like the Blue Angels, the early jitters could be present around the turns of the industrial complex. I started out with a bit of nervousness having been off the bike racing circuit for a year. The fast third turn was played over and over in my head prior to the first lap. With the crit being one of the top three attended races in Pennsylvania, I would be going into the turns with quite a few other early season racers.
To ease the nerves the weather turned out to be beautiful and sunny. Given the advancement of spring, a dry one-mile course meant no concern of slippery pollen buildup. Most turns are shaded by a large tree, particularly turn three. A dry course meant a fast day with a few chances taken. The cool temperatures, though, was a bit tricky. The slight breeze moved cold air around. At the start arm warmers were necessary. By lap four I wanted to ditch them. During the cool-down lap I was glad to have them.
A lap around the industrial complex is a slight uphill into a right turn. The straightaway has a dip in the middle. Turn two is fast but the downhill into turn three, the flowering tree standing sentinel on the inside, is the fastest part of the course. Another slight dip on the next straightaway leads into a slight uphill turn bringing the field back around for a complete lap. It is a power course.
It could be felt each lap as the riders got more and more confident. The distance between riders shrank each turn and each lap. By the halfway point chances were being taken. Also at this juncture attacks were being considered. It felt great being a part of the peloton again. It felt great having thirty thoughts at once for an entire race. Aside from one rider sliding out toward the back of the field, everyone stayed upright, another plus to the day.
The bell lap found me pick an easy line straight to the front where four riders looked right at me. I had to pretend I didn’t know how I got there, but it was certainly too far for a solo attempt. The wind would leave me crossing the line tired and probably last. As the group got nervous the speed picked up and I sprinted my way with the group, feeling no response in leg speed up to the finish line. Early season legs.
The course’s lack of a climb could lend to the reason why organizers restructured the events to promote racers doing two and even three races. I probably could have gone out for one more race, but I would have been useless. I would have planned to sit in and be a spectator.
The event’s charitable causes include Crushing Cancer for Chrissy Arrow Karabin as well as Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Association for Daniel Harwi, for whom the event is named. Rothman Institute provided support for the race. It’s hard to beat the feeling of supporting great causes among the cycling community.
Watching the race tighten up over the laps made me immediately think about the Blue Angels and their confidence building over the course of a season. Perhaps a return event in the fall could display how riders have instilled more comfort in closeness after a season. With the sprint opening up around the last turn, it felt comfortable having riders with minimal separation. Next time I might have to focus on feeling uncomfortable with those riders nearby and try to sprint away. I’ll still be tired at the finish, just hopefully not last.