Events: Bucks County Classic Amateur 2/3 Race
All photos are courtesy of Mike Maney Photography. Be sure to check out his work; he is a fellow cyclist in the Bucks County cycling community with multiple KOMs to his name.
(2017) Earlier this year I went to the Indy 500 to get a thrill. It is arguably the biggest race in the western hemisphere attracting perhaps half of a million spectators. The race is broadcast all over the world. Strange the allure for a scant thirty-three drivers looking to win after 500 miles.
I had beliefs that the world stage created perfect scenarios. Imagine my surprise to watch the start of The 500 and see a couple cars lose the group in the first turn. Lap two and they were farther back. Lap three…well you get the point. After returning home and watching the race on DVR, the broadcasters mentioned at least one car was contacted by race control to go faster or risk being yanked off the track. For some reason I thought the Indy 500, ‘The Greatest Spectacle in Racing’ furnished thirty-three equal cars.
Not on the same platform as the Indy 500 but certainly a pinnacle race of the year for criterium racers, the Bucks County Classic featured an amateur race on the morning of September 10. I was eligible to race, and I was excited. Those wickedly fast corners on the descent would be an amazing feel. The uphill back into town would certainly be a concern. The course is difficult. Blend in the two facts of the large stage and racers chiseled from a year of racing and the pace was expected to be hellacious.
Before the race I rested on several laurels. I was able to stay with the pack in a previous 2/3/4 race before crashing. I knew the course from living in Doylestown years ago, literally 100 yards from the starting line, to give me a leg up on the visiting racers. I felt that the inclines were within the possible range for my suit. I was just there to race as long as I could; winning was certainly not going to happen.
Fifty-five entrants, some as young as sixteen and one as old as sixty, stood at the start in the breezy morning air beside the Doylestown Courthouse. I wanted to make sure I made it through lap one of those risky downhill turns. Maybe I thought too far ahead. Rolling off the line was an embarrassment for myself as I spent the length between the starting line and the first turn trying to clip in. It was going to be that kind of race I thought. Immediately the group plunged down Pine Street and the brake smells were palpable. Everyone made it through the turn unscathed. On the gas and the next two turns was the biggest anticipation of my riding career. A wide-open left-hander opened up in the famous obtuse downhill onto Ashland. It is beautifully wide. According to my Strava I hit a measly 38 miles-per-hour. The pros would come through later that day at nearly ten miles-per-hour faster. The continued descent to Lafyette Street saw the group crunch together at its end. It was a strange thing to see everyone so compact for so brief a moment.
Here is where the course gets hard. Up Lafayette the hill continues up Oakland, Clinton, and the finish stretch on Court Street. Through this area are beautiful old houses and large old trees. Through this section, too, were swirling winds that were difficult to hide from. I was unable to find shelter and a gap formed. I was red lining on just the first lap. Starting lap two, I caught back on the downhill carrying even bigger speed through the turns with the hopes of integrating into the pack. A quick glance up the field as it meandered back down Ashland and I thought, “Man the front of the field is far away.” I whipped myself through the last few riders on Lafayette and struggled to stay on again up the hills. I kept plying at the gap only to see it get bigger. I finally crossed the line with the moto behind me. I knew what was going to happen next. If this were Indy, race radio would say they were black flagging me. On the third descent the moto finally passed me and I watched it zoom off after the new tail end of the field. That was it after three laps. Not the way I wanted the season to end.
I learned several lessons in the Bucks County Classic amateur race but none so hard as a hometown crit having lots of places for people to cheer me on. I heard my name often. This encouraged me to dig deeper. The downside is when I pulled the plug, I wanted to exit the course somewhere and hide. Having supporters all around made it a solemn ride back after I pulled myself off the course. I had to stick around for the rest of the race just to be sure I wasn’t a random drug test. With my early exit I feel I could justify I was hardly on any zoom-zoom juice. I could imagine that call, “Oh were you the early exit guy? Yeah you’re fine then. We’ll go find someone who was there a bit longer. Say four laps.” I rolled back to the Missus, but not before two guys carrying a table expressed their frustration of having to wait as I went through. They mocked me by saying, “Oh, sorry cyclist.”
I recalled those cars off the pace of the Indy 500 and realized I had watched the car version of myself at my personal Spectacle. Maybe next year I’ll be back and in better race form. Maybe not. One year ago the Missus stated she would come out if I managed to make it into this year’s field. That comment propelled me through the entire 2017 season. Like worrying about the first turn before clipping in, I should consider it a win to have gotten the race she and I have always attended as spectators. I’ll say I may come back, but as we all know I’m pretty stubborn. Getting dropped never sits well with me.