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Race Day Beckons

I pedaled up E Henry St and onto N Finley, to the start line of the final bicycle race of the day. I lined up next to dead last of the 35 riders in the 20th running of the Olde Mill Inn Tour of Basking Ridge, category 5 race. Which was held on Monday, Labor Day, September 5th.

This was a 10 mile, 6 corner circuit race in downtown Basking Ridge. The category 5 class is for newer racers, weekend warriors and the more serious racers moving up to the category 4 ranks and beyond.

I had entered this race in 2009 and finished 19th of 36 riders, quiet mediocre at best and I haven’t raced since. So, my ambitions were to place mid-pack and maybe, possibly top 15. I approached this race with a very laid back attitude- which is something of a stretch for me. Though I did take my race week preparation fairly seriously as well as my pre-race warm-up.

Perspective

One thing I am unable to fully prepare for though, is the injuries my 46 year old body has to constantly deal with, which are a myriad of physical issues.

*Psoriatic arthritis – both hands and right knee
*Degenerative disc – L5/L6 (chronic)
*Pinched nerve – neck (chronic)
*Claudication – both lower legs/calf’s
*Peptic ulcer

I reference these issues not as excuses or complaints, but rather to put my athletic endeavours in some kind of context and perspective. Even though at times, I suffer from pain relating to these conditions, I still refuse to stop playing sports or competing- it’s my own choice. Luckily, I was taught by some key people in my life to tough it out. Always tough it out if possible.

Sure,  I take prescription (Metaxalone, Diclofenacum and Protonix) and many non-prescriptive med’s, such as ibuprofen, naproxen and aspirin- all like candy. But hey, everyone has something to deal with, so no big deal I suppose.

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All bets are down

The rain held off on this Labor Day, temps were in the mid 80’s but with a fair amount of humidity. By the days end, the crowds were thinning though still enthusiastic on the start line and all along Finley Ave. I glanced around for any locals I might know but I don’t see any recognizable faces (later, after the race I spot two guys I know and turns out my riding buddy Eddie was cheering me on)

“Gentlemen, have a good race” were the parting words from the Race Starter…and we were off! I stayed off the rear of the pack down the front stretch and into turn 1- not wanting to get caught up in anyone’s silly antics and then closed up a bit before turn 2. Between turn 2 and 3, I began to move up through the field.

On the backside of the course now through the esses, into turn 5, I continued my ascent in the standings. Just after crossing start/finish the guy I was in the back of starting grid with, Bruce Rice, called out to me- “let’s work together” I nodded and gave the ok. Trailing Bruce was a another rider who joined us and we pacelined for the next lap.

On lap 4 one more rider attached to our train and now we were 4 strong, each taking pulls at the front of our small group. I glanced over at the start/finish line to peek at the electronic lap counter to see 5 laps to go and I was feeling winded already.

I backed off my pace just a bit and drafted at any point I could, to save some energy for the last couple of laps.  Lap 7 on the back half, we dropped one rider from our group, while passing a bunch of others. We were moving up I thought, cool!

Now I began strategize a bit  in my head. How can I pick up some more spots and maybe drop one of these riders I’m battling it out with. I decided I was going to try and pick one off into the fast and sweeping turn 1. I was 3rd in our group down the front straight, then I hunkered down and  went hard and fast into T-1 up the inside of Bruce.

Driving furiously out of 1, I dive-bombed  turn 2 stuffing my carbon Pro-Lite up the inside of the rider ahead of me- the classic block-pass! Now the road rises slightly, so I had to put in the extra effort to carry my built up momentum. Just as I approached T-3, I caught two more riders, local Califon rider Tyson Witte and an another unknown. The pace was picking up and by the exit of  turn 3, Tyson and I dropped the third guy in our wake. Then there were two… heading into the Bell Lap!

Crunch Time

Back across start/finish I can hear the lead out vehicle approaching- which means the lead pack is not far away. As I set up for turn 1, I can see out of the corner of my eye the fast, full time racers coming through. I moved to the inside to make sure my momentum wasn’t balked by the front-runners, get low, turn my right shoulder, counter-steer and lean her in. I continued my ‘push’ into turn 2, then eased right to allow the few faster riders to come by.

I counted 6 guys who lapped the field- not too bad I thought- only 6 of 35 on the last lap. Okay focus, back to the battle with Witte. I stayed right on his rear wheel all through turns 3, 4 and 5. My plan was to jump him into the last turn, but he had gapped me a bit before 6, so I had to adjust my strategy on the fly.

I closed up on Witte out of T-6 because I knew how to keep the pedals turning through all of these corners, something not many riders can or don’t want to do. Tip it in, leaning over and pedaling as hard as I can out 6 onto Finley, I was right on his back wheel. He seemed to be tiring just a bit, so I  jumped out of the saddle for more speed, to try and go by him- (I yelled to myself- Andiamo!) Just as I started to pull even, Tyson stood up on his pedals, kicked hard and pulled away from me in the last 50 or so yards…my gasping lungs and burning legs could just not respond.

I glanced out of the corner of my left eye to make sure no one else was threatening my wheel before the line, I was safely ahead of the next rider coming through. Across the stripe I sat up, short of breath and feeling the burn of lactic acid in my legs. External thought returned to my head and I realized I had survived the 10 miles of corsa veloce. I tried to work out where I placed, but couldn’t pin it down really, I figured maybe it was a mid-pack result.

It’s all over but the shouting…

Back at start/finish, the race director called out the top 10 finishers- when he called my number, “#135” it was for 8th place. I was elated, really happy in fact. I clenched a celebratory fist in front of my body with genuine pleasure- 8th, yea!

Now 8th place in a Cat 5 race doesn’t mean sh*t to a lot of folks, especially
the racers themselves. But for me it was a real solid result and accomplishment. Consider the fact that I usually race only once a year, I haven’t raced since 2009 and I don’t “train” either. Couple that with the physical issues I contend with and you might see why I was really pleased…molto soddisfatto!

I haven’t been that excited about a top 10 placing since my amateur roadracing season finish of 7th place in lightweight supersport at Daytona in 1992, a 5th in LW superbike at the now defunct Bridgehampton in 1993. And then my 5th place in the National 125 Grand Prix Series at Road Atlanta in 1994. All of which are great memories for me.

“…so hard for me to shine- been so long…”

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4 wheels move the body…2 wheels move the soul

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A short 5 minute highlight video of the 5th annual Pro Cycling Race in Basking Ridge, NJ. The BaseCamp International.


Here are the Top Finishers:

1 Robert Forster (UnitedHealthcare Professional Cycling Team)
2 Hilton Clarke (UnitedHealthcare Professional Cycling Team)
3 Jaan Kirsipuu (Team Champion System)
4 Anibal Borrajo (Jamis Sutter Home p/b Colavita)
5 Jonathan Cantwell (V Australia Pro Cycling Team)

What started out 5 years ago as the Ricola Twilight Grand Prix has evolved into a high-profile, multi-national race sponsored by BaseCamp Adventures, Verizon and Liberty Cycle.

Five years ago, local shop, Liberty Cycle put together a challenging and technical course through the streets of downtown Basking Ridge. Then sandwiched the event between the Historic Tour of Somerville and the TD Bank Philadelphia International Championship.

The race has grown into one of the best in terms of talent and competition on the east coast. The prize money has grown significantly as well. Many of the top U.S. teams and riders now show up and ride the Small town race. The action is fast and furious as near 100 riders snake through 8 turns in a 1.1 mile circuit.

Unfortunately, the same accolades can’t be reiterated for the town government and a lot of residents. The 2011 edition saw a drastic drop off in attendance. Easily, there were 30% to 40% less spectators at this years race.

The Bernards Twp government does almost nothing to promote the race and (by doing virtually nothing) basically do all they passively can to discourage its continuation. It is painfully obvious that township officials wish this race gone. They tie the hands of local eatery merchants on the main straight-away from doing business and basically ignore the entire event.

It’s not surprising really, most of the town and its officials look down upon such type of events. If it is not an equestrian, orchestrial or some other wealthy activity, they snub their noses at it. Basking Ridge is one of those towns that wishes with all its might it was an exclusive, true wealthy bedroom community. Instead, it has a nice mix of condos, townhomes and single family homes with incomes that are very varied. Much to the chagrin of township officials and some residents.

The overall marketing of the race in general lacks in promotions and relations and one has to wonder how long it will continue. One possible bright spot is that BaseCamp Adventures is moving to neighboring Bernardsville. Could the race possibly move as well? It might be the best thing to happen to the race since its inception. Time will tell.



Brian Surtees on his TZ250


  –Basking Ridge | May 27, 2009 | By: p9 SportsGroup

Event Presented by: Ricola USA

The established and rising stars of some of the best road cycling race teams, both domestic and international took part in the 4th annual Ricola Twilight Grand Prix in the historic borough of Basking Ridge, New Jersey. The challenging 8 turn, 1.1 mile, spectator friendly circuit snakes through the suburban side streets and up the main road in downtown Basking Ridge. The 44 lap event and race circuit are very demanding of both riders and machines- with its 5 sweeping fast and 3 tight corners that challenge the riders handling skills as much as their speed and endurance.

The temperaturewas a mild 70 degrees with partly sunny skies at the beginning of the race as some 93 riders from about 15 pro and category 1 & 2 cycling teams rolled off the start line. The opening laps pitted Kenda/Inferno racing, Battley Harley Davidson Cycling Team, Canadian Team Planet Energy, Mtn. Khakis Team, Empire Cycling, Kelly Benefit Strategies, Team Team Type 1 and OUCH Pro Cycling Team against one another for about the first quarter of the race.

GP start

Empire Cycling Team briefly led the first few laps before Mtn. Khakis took a turn at the front followed by the Harley Davidson and Kelly riders who struck back taking their team colors to the head of the field. The race was fast-paced and tidy, as the bulk of riders stayed mostly together through the first half. Then the racing action heated up as Battley Harley Davidson made a mini break but was soon caught by the pack. As the last third of the race wound down a handful of riders led by Team Kelley Benefit made another attempt to split and break free but it was short-lived as well.

GP Lee

The tempo was rapid but steady as the pro’s winded their way through some of the narrow streets, inches from curbing and hay bales- the action, swift and intense. The group bent their bikes in- leaning hard left sweeping around Lee Place then a quick cut right on to Hillside Terrace as the tight pack tucked in and drafted up No./So. Finley across start-finish one more time.

 GP Finley

Lap after lap, turn after turn, the 90 plus rider field was whittled down to about 30 with 10 circuits to go. Soon after, team Mtn. Khakis made a solo effort to break away and began to gap the main field by about 15 seconds. But on the penultimate lap the fury of the speeding pack in the final sprint reeled him in and one became 20+ riders flying on the road at over 35 mph- pegged at their absolute limits heading to the final bell lap.

 

GP finish

Up South Finley Street on the main finishing stretch of road- it was Aldo Ino of Team Type 1 and Kazane-brand mounted Eric Barlevav from Mtn Khakis  fighting it out- as the Slovenian Ino nipped Barlevav at the line with Francois Parisien aboard his sleek and swift Argon 18 of Planet Energy Racing team taking third. The 44 lap Ricola GP went by quick- as the riders clicked off lap after lap with speeds touching just over 40 mph in some sections of the course. Thankfully there were only minor incidents that saw only 2 crashes, one being a Champion Systems rider that was relatively unhurt. In the end, the average speed of the event was a very stout 32.2 mph.

Top Three Finishers:

  • 1st place – Aldo Ino | Team Type 1
  • 2nd place – Eric Barlevav | Mtn Khakis Racing
  • 3rd place – Francois Parisien | Planet Energy Racing

Fourth to Tenth Place:

Maxime Vives | Planet Energy
Jonathan Page | Battley HARLEY-DAVIDSON/Sonoma Grill
Clayton Barrows | CRCA/Empire Cycling Team
Cheyne Hoag | Kelly Benefit Strategies
Chad Burdzilauskas | Kenda Pro Cycling
Stephan Kincaid | CRCA/Empire Cycling Team
Ryan Anderson | Kelly Benefit Strategies

GP podium

A big round of applause goes out to all of the riders and teams as well as Ricola, Base Camp, The Store and Liberty Cycle. The racing was great and the excited, cheering fans who lined roads were treated to a unique display of athleticism, determination and passion all rolled into one fast, galant battle of men and their machines. See you in 2010!

Larger/Additional Photos: http://www.p9group.8m.com/photo2.html


 –Basking Ridge, NJ

Part II

For those who may not know, Basking Ridge/Bernards Township is situated in the Pharma belt of Somerset County- which is also the second wealthiest county in New Jersey.

The Bernards Twp/Basking Ridge area is home to the corporate offices of AT&T, Verizon and The United States Golf Association. Basking Ridge boasts its own country club as well, with an 18 hole PGA golf course.

Ridge High School, one of the best rated in the state was ranked second overall in 2007.  There is no doubt that Basking Ridge is a much sought after, desirable community and a nice place to live- just ask any of its 26,000 residents.

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Quick Stats

Bernards Township is one of the most expensive boroughs to reside within Somerset County, as well as the state. The cost of living is 68.66% higher than the national average.

The median house value is approximately $685,000, with median property taxes just over $9,500 and the median household income above $128,000.

The public school budget rings in at a hefty $84,007,764. The cost per pupil is over $11,000 (24% higher than the state average) with a total student cost of approximately $68,500,000. Which leaves approximately $17,000,000 for expenditures. Salaries, vehicles, athletics, etc. A very healthy budget indeed.

The general tax levy in Basking Ridge has increased a massive 110% in 10 years. Rising over 11% annually, (more than double the cost of living) from $30,128,190 to $66,837,438.

The only aspect that keeps the very beautiful and historic borough from being an exclusive bedroom community is the four thousand plus condominium units throughout the township.

Those 4,000 units have a median price in the neighborhood of $300,000. These more affordable options (evidently to the chagrin of some locals) are approximately half the cost of most single family homes in Basking Ridge.

Who invited you to the party?

The Ricola Race has the distinction of being the only professional sporting event to take place in Basking Ridge and immediate surounding area (excluding the Somerset Patriots Baseball team). This alone should be a fantastic draw for the fast-paced, excitment filled event.

You want reality? The race is the best reality show around, happening real-time, up close and in your face. No other sport allows the spectator to get so close to the athlete- while he or she is competing! Cycling offers unique perspectives and unprecedented access.

Interestingly enough the only other two other major annual events that take place in Bernards Twp., are the Far Hills Race Meeting Steeplechase and the Music at Moorland Farms Summer Symphony. Both of which get a lot of attention and exposure from the local media, surounding townships and presenting sponsors.

It seems as though the bicycle race may not be perceived in the same vein as the equestrian, golfing and symphonic events. But a look at the social and sporting statistics of bicycling tells a different tale.

FYI

Cycling is the second most popular recreational activity in the United States.

Cycling demographics cover three areas of interest. Recreational, Racing and Spectator Events. Like most professional sports the race participation is male dominated. Though unlike most sports, cycling has a very large female recreational and spectator base.

Demographics

grids

  • Cycling is the #1 fitness and health activity among doctors and lawyers over the age of 40.  
  • Cycling is the second most popular recreational activity behind sport walking.
  • 17-million bicycles are sold in the United States each year.  
  • The mean price for a professional racing bike is $3,500.  
  • Household income for 45-49 year old licensed racers. ($95,940)

  Source: Simmons, MRI, USA Cycling Membership, Bicycling Magazine

There is no doubt that the sport of cycling is very popular and attracts a wide array of participants who take part in one way or another.


 -Basking Ridge, NJ

Part I

ricola_grand_big

The 4th annual Ricola Twilight Grand Prix cycling race is set to take place on Wednesday, May 27th in the bucolic borough of Basking Ridge New Jersey.

The elite cycling event attracts a good number of pro and pro-am riders from all over the country including a small contingent of globally based riders as well.

Though not a points paying race for these pro’s and non-pro’s , the large attractive purse of $10,000 in prize money is definitely a strong pull for the 120+ competing riders. Most of whom were already in town for the oldest bicycle race in the country- the 50 mile Tour of Somerville, which will have run its 66th edition on Memorial Day.

The Ricola GP organizers capitalized on the Somerville classic, taking advantage of logistics by staging their race just 2 days after the ToS event. Local bicycle shop Liberty Cycle and its owner/operator, Greg Cordasc was instrumental in bringing the event to the Somerset County borough.

The race takes place in historic downtown Basking Ridge, with the riders passing along the main line of retailers along South Finley Avenue. The circuit layout is key in showcasing the many types of retail stores and services in the borough.

The race course is not the typical “criterium” style course and is regarded as one of the most technical short race circuits in the U.S. It features a 1.1 mile loop that offers a combination of 8 tight and sweeping corners every lap over the 44 mile race distance.

There are plenty of ideal spectating spots where fans get up close and personal- just inches away from some of the best elite riders- sweeping past in excess of 35 mph, which makes it unique and exciting to watch.

small alp horns

The event offers some interesting and fun pre-race activities such a BMX riding and tricks demo, the Bonnie Brae Knights Drum Corp. and the Ricola Swiss Alp horn players. The organizers have made the event appealing not only to cycling fans, but the whole family and all ages as well.

Obtaining the headline sponsor, Ricola USA was a huge ‘get’ for the event, providing visibility, name recognition and a lot of potential market appeal. With such a major sponsor, you would think that the race would be a fairly big attraction for the borough.  After all, it is a professional sporting event.

But apparently that is where that thought ends. It is somewhat painfully obvious that borough officials of Basking Ridge do not exactly embrace the event- for whatever inexplicable or unapparent reasons they may have.

Spectator turn out is decent, but certainly nowhere near its true potential. The racing event has tremendous appeal, but does not yield the bigger, more enthusiastic type crowds at other similar cycling events within the area, such as the Tour of Somerville.

There seems to be a bit of a disconnect between the solid efforts from the promotion of the race and the townships lack of efforts to publicize and market the race- in fact, one could even say they almost seem to undermine it.

(a topic further explained in parts II & III)

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