Events: 2018 Thompson 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.
The conditions for the 2018 Thompson Bucks County Classic amateur race could not have been more suited for me. I would like to think I was one of the few racers who woke up Saturday morning rubbing his palms together in anticipation at the sight of cold rain. If I had any chance to make a dramatic exit to my season and career, the weather boosted my chances. I had come off of a successful Tour of the Catskills and put up some great training numbers in the weeks leading up to my final race of 2018. Would they all line up?
After multiple weeks of near 100-degree days, the thermometer went the opposite direction for Doylestown’s Arts Festival, the event that anchors Sunday’s Bucks County Classic. The forecast was so offish the Arts Festival coordinators announced early Saturday the Sunday edition would be canceled. The crowds would not be as big for the long card of UCI bike races scheduled for Sunday due to rain. Another words, the exact conditions people should pack the course for would have many looking in dry places to spend their Sunday. I never noticed how many painted crosswalks Doylestown has until the warm-up laps on rain-soaked roads.
I prepared heavily for this race. Aside from Devil’s Kitchen in the Tour of the Catskills, the last year’s edition of the Bucks County Classic left me wanting a better showing. It occupied my focus for the last few months. I was determined to leave my road-racing career on a high note and the weather gave me a lovely gift and a shot of confidence. Though the Arts Festival had slipped out of town Saturday night, I was ready to deliver myself in the best form possible.
There we were, at 9:30, catapulted onto the professional racecourse some fifty strong. The starting temperature was 46 degrees; the course was soaked from the night before. Precipitation would pick up as the race progressed. We descended from the starting line and tiptoed around the first corner and its worn crosswalk paint. Everyone made it through unscathed. To get onto south Main Street the group had to delicately slice through the crosswalks with precision. There were the telltale signs of a skid through one of the painted patches but we all made it through without alarm. The fastest corner, onto Ashland Street, is an off-camber affair with more crosswalk paint. Yet again we made it through quickly to safety.
The opening half of the course is nothing but a descent. The legs did not have a chance get properly run in. As we zipped down the newly resurfaced Ashland Street I tapped the brakes to squeegee the surfaces and prepare for the uphill half of the course. It was then that the group fired off. I stayed with them past the neutral pit, past the team tent, and up through the finish. That is one lap around Doylestown. I managed to reattach to the back of the group on the descent, tap the brakes entering the residential part of the course, but this time the speed was too much. I kept searching in vain to find places to make up ground.
Unlike last year I kept hammering. Each time I passed through an intersection I heard the encouragement. Each time I passed the tent I heard encouragement. Each time I passed the family I heard the cheering to keep going. It was only until I came up the front stretch, after who knows how many laps that I heard the horn of the lead car that I pulled off. I did not want to interfere with the race, so I thought better of getting lapped while the group went into the first turn and beyond. And that was that. I found a secluded spot where people who knew me couldn’t see me quit and slipped into obscurity. My racing career came to an end as unceremoniously as it started. I then rode around the vacant stalls of Arts Festival waiting for the bacon from breakfast to come up. It never did.
While I wallowed in the proverbial infield of the course, Chris Peltzer of Indiana, PA, snatched the win. He took advantage of Albert Gonzales’ flat with two laps remaining in the race. Gonzales rode the final two circuits with a flaccid tire stating that it went down in earnest on the last lap. Not a bad result for a cold and rainy 40-kilometer course.
Criterium racing is quirky. There have been times in my career when I was in the money when I had no business being there. I’ve also had times where I was sure to win only to be fired out the back. So many things need to go right in a crit race for a rider to win. Having the leader puncture is certainly luck. In my career I stayed with the finishers, but I never had the extra luck to cross the line first.
Doylestown’s course is certainly not meant for me, but I still made it a point to represent the Doylestown Bike Works cycling team in its hometown. I have been spoiled with the ability to roll out of bed and participate in events just beyond the back fence. Today’s race was no different. People have contacted me saying they got a photo of me going by, a video of me at the start, etc., but I’d like to think the show went on because of the fanatics in the local cycling scene. The course may have a longer hill than I can race at pace, but to circle the course with determined volunteers, locals, and cycling fans who stood in the cold rain is quite the send-off.
The Missus stated I don’t need to retire because of age, but the writing is on the wall in a lot of races. I could jump into Master’s class races but I view the racing from a license standpoint: If I am asked to pay $70 for a racing license, I want to do at least seven races to offset the fee. I don’t have time for seven.
Next year I hope the weather brings good tidings to the Thompson Bucks County Classic as well as the Doylestown Arts Festival. Instead of lining up for the start of the amateur 2/3 race, I think I’ll watch it from behind the barriers. If the weather is optimal the speed will be even higher. To which I will say out loud, “Thank god I’m not out there; that looks painful.”