Tuesday, July 17, 2007

No Glory, But Lots of Guts

My bike club, USI (Unione Sportiva Italiana) puts on the Hudson Valley Empire State Games qualifying race every year. This race is used to determine the members of the men's and women's cycling teams to represent Hudson Valley in the Games. The men's team consists of 10 riders, and the women's team consists of 3 riders. For the qualifying race we attract a decent sized men's field to compete for those 10 spots. On the other hand, trying to get women to do the qualifying race, and then be willing to go to the Games and race for 4 days is like pulling teeth.

I thought with the Games being in Westchester County that we'd have more women who would want to represent the home team. I can understand not wanting to travel to Rochester, Buffalo, and other nether regions of New York State to compete, but this is Westchester County. The criterium is in downtown White Plains. How cool is that? The last bike race in downtown White Plains was a pro race in 1989. Our club has wanted to host a race in White Plains for years, and now it's happening as part of the Empire State Games.

For the qualifying race there were 5-6 women who signed up. However of the 6, one didn't start, two had no intention of going to the Games, two were just riding the race as warm bodies, and one who was willing to go if others would go. The average age of the women's field was probably around 50. For riders over 35 there's the option to compete in the Masters Division where the races are shorter, the competition not as intense, and the option to do one, two, or all three races. So if time trialling is not one's thing there's always the road race or criterium to choose from.

My intention this year was to do the time trial and criterium in the masters division. I've been pretty successful in the three times I've competed in the Masters. I have three Golds, two Silvers, and a Bronze. In 2005 I won gold medals in the two events I competed in. Anyone who read this blog in 2005 might have come across my accounts of those two races. This picture is from the awards ceremony after the time trial. (I'm not sure where the Bronze medalist went, but she missed the presentation.) The silver medalist is Susan; the one who I sprinted by in the road race the next day.

In 2005 I had dreams of repeating my performances in 2007 in my home territory. Little did I know about the major detour in life that would take me out of the competitive athlete lifestyle for about a year. Accidents suck, but life goes on. I had tempered my expectations about the Games this year, and figured I be happy for any spot on the podium in the time trial, and a field finish in the criterium would be satisfactory.

Sometimes I do some crazy things because I feel very strongly about doing what I feel is right. When I rode (note: not raced!) the qualifying race in June I told the Hudson Valley cycling coach that I would go into the Open Division instead of the Masters if it would help filling the women's roster. I was hoping he'd get three women without me since my training was way behind previous years. But I also felt that it was embarrassing if the home region couldn't even field a women's team. Also by not having a women's team it costs the Hudson Valley cycling team big time in the points competition. (Members of the team score points for what ever place they finish in each race. If you don't have a full roster you get zero points in that event. Even coming in dead last scores points. At the end of the four days they total up all the points and award team Gold, Silver, and Bronze medals.)

Sooooooo, to make a long story short, Janice was willing to do the Open if others would. So we have a two woman team made up of two 45+ masters women who won medals in 2005. Mark and Clarence could not talk any of the other women into doing the Open Division with us. At least by having two of us we can do the team time trial on the last day. But it still embarrassing that the home region can't field a full women's team, and the team we have is two masters riders. I think Janice is in much better shape then I am this year. In 2005 I beat her in the time trial. Hopefully we can keep a similar pace in the team time trial.

So what will it take to get some younger female riders to want to compete in the Games? Some of the regions like NYC, and Western have no trouble getting women riders, and good ones at that. There are many women who compete in triathlon who are good cyclists. It would be nice if we could get a few of them from this region to take up bike racing. One person told me most triathletes don't like riding in a pack. (The way some triathletes ride, they shouldn't be in a pack.) For me, riding with the pack and getting strong enough to stay with younger and stronger riders helped me become a better triathlete.

When the Empire Games go off next week, I will not be raking in the medals and basking in the glory of being up on the podium. I will be riding until they tell me I can stop, and scoring a few points by coming in Dead F$%&ing Last for Hudson Valley. As we say in triathlon; DFL is better then DNF, which is better then DNS. My training partners think I'm a little nuts, but just maybe those few points that Janice and I score each day will bring a team cycling medal to the home team.


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