Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Sprinting - One of The Last Tues Night SUNY Purchases

Some time back I'd mentioned the Tuesday night sprints at SUNY Purchase. The get together eventually stopped after a couple unfortunate incidents - one involved a pretty spectacular crash amongst the sprinters.

Actually a huge crash happened at one of the first SUNYs I ever attended. Carpe Diem Racing was a pretty big team, focused on the Cat 3s, and had an illustrious leader in Mike H. He poked and prodded us into training together, racing as a team, even dragging us down to the track in Pennsylvania for some "outside the comfort zone" racing.

On this particular night, this SUNY crash night, we had a full complement of team riders present. I think the full group included Mike H, John S, Bob D, Kevin R, maybe Mark R. We were doing yet another sprint, Mike H was leading me out as usual, and when a surge went up the side, Mike eased, I went, and things looked like they'd turn out fine.

Until two riders touched and fell, almost at the front of the large bunch.

Mike had drifted back just enough to be one of the first guys to catapult over his bars, but, incredibly, he just leapfrogged his bars, landed on his cleated shoes, and skated to a stop from about 30 mph, arms waving wildly for balance.

John, of the Belgium trip (Parts One and Two), wasn't so fortunate. He almost sliced his Achilles tendon in two, although he eventually recovered.

I met my friend Abdul that day, helping this still-unknown rider in his pale blue skinsuit get his bashed up bike back to the car. He had gotten torn apart in the crash, and I couldn't believe how much flesh he'd lost. And he was chatting like nothing happened. A few Tuesdays later we had dinner with him.

A whole slew of other racers were scattered on the pavement, bike equipment intermingled with the moaning riders. We all got up and escaped the area before anyone could call 911 (this before cell phones). But the damage had been done.

Another much worse incident was unrelated to the sprints - a runner was hit by a car (the was apparently out of control, harmonically swerving, and hit a runner while going 40 mph or so). This incident really put a damper on the loop, and eventually the local police started enforcing a 15 mph speed limit, two stop signs, and ticketed riders relentlessly until the ride faded to oblivion.

Before it did, we managed to make it out there. And Fred C was out there to take some shots. He gave out a few beer "primes", took pictures, and generally had a good time watching us sprint the 2 mile loop.

It's nothing compared to the crowd at the peak of the SUNY Purchases. The group used to be huge, and if it got too big, say, over 100-110 riders, some of the group patrons (usually the Triplets) would point and relegate riders to the second group. Teams set up massive leadout trains, with strong solo riders trying to break up the organized efforts.

Towards the end the rides got much harder, at least for me. No shelter, fewer moves, and riders much more willing to go from far out.

Fred came out towards the end, probably the last or second to last SUNY Purchase I ever did. On that day I had one teammate dedicated to leading me out, and another who, although riding a little more independently, essentially went with all the earlier moves, effectively discouraging them.

Brad looking back. John is marking him while Bob brings me up.

Brad didn't care, he launched anyway. The gap tells his effort.

Bob, though, pounced hard, and then moved right to set me up.

It's hard to beat a team setting up a sprinter when you have no team. I distinctly remember this day, and feeling bad for Brad. He was one of the few guys willing to fight.

Fortunately he doesn't hold a grudge, at least not for the team that kind of bullied him on the day. When we saw each other literally a decade later, he greeted me warmly, a big grin on his face, a firm handshake.

Brad, this is for you.


Unknown said...

as a suny purchase alum, 2006, im sad to have missed this. did you ride the cobbled section?

Aki said...

On Tuesdays we didn't ride the cobbled section. We rode in a counter-clockwise direction, took a left just before the exit from campus, went under two building overpasses (which I now recall were exhaust vents - nice and warm in the cool weather, stiflingly hot in warm weather),then a left at the top of a short rise. Another 100-150 meters "neutral" then it was game on from the bus stop at the top of the small rise.

On Thursdays, "TT" day, the group went around the outer perimeter with the two cobble sections, but I only did this once. It was full out for 2, 2.5 hours, and typically you'd average, if you didn't sit out a lap or ten, 28 mph or so. I got dropped pretty much every time up the hill, it was brutal and totally not fun.

Towards the end, with tickets flying around at the two under-building stop signs, we went around the long loop, but it was tiring and guys inevitably attacked on the backstretch hill just before the back side intersection.

Oh, one other detail. We parked near what was apparently the art building because we'd ride in there to sneak water for our water bottles and use the bathrooms. We'd navigate around sometimes huge projects to get there, art students accepting us as a normal collegiate anomaly.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Aki! I miss though days, and my lime-green shorts.