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New York City Cycling Championship - NE

USA, August 4, 2002

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A spectator's report

Ron Vogl was among the estimated 100,000 New Yorkers on hand at the inaugural New York City Cycling Championship last weekend. He describes the thrill of big-time racing coming to the Big Apple and concludes that Dominguez' victory was 'justice served'.

A fans perspective
Photo: © Jonathan Devich
Click for larger image

First lesson learned: Manhattan is big. It took 45 minutes to take the subway from my brother's place on 95th Street down to Wall Street. No transfers, no nothing, just a long way. Second lesson learned: Any medical resident who claims they're up for doing something the day after they work the night shift is lying.

So, I arrived downtown at Water Street without my brother and just a little late. The field was just finishing their first of 60 laps, with each lap being just around a mile. The crowd was reasonably large, people were lining the whole course, three or four deep at some points. Most of them were wondering why Lance wasn't winning the race yet, though. The course was basically a quarter mile of Water Street, with a little loop at each end for the turnaround. So, the best places to watch were actually on Water Street, because you got to see everyone go by twice per lap, once in each direction. The best of those spots were cordoned off for the sponsors' mucky-mucks and their guests, but I found a pretty good spot about 100 meters from the finish, and 15 minutes later enough people had moved that I was right up on the barrier.

View from the barricade
Photo: © Andy Shen
Click for larger image

The course was in pretty good condition, recently paved. There was a 50 meter stretch of cobbles on one of the turnarounds, which I think was sort of half-intended. The big minus was that there were a lot of manhole covers, and the riders did not seem pleased to be going over them.

On to the race. The first few laps had a lot of attacks, but nothing got away. Finally, a group of seven guys formed ahead of the peloton at around lap 10, and they steadily increased their lead through the rest of the race. Antonio Cruz of Postal looked very strong, taking long turns at the front. Henk Vogels looked good every time there was a sprint for money at the end of a lap, but he didn't entirely do his fair share the rest of the time. For the most part, the field let them go. Lance got on the front early on, but it was just to please the crowd, he wasn't pushing the pace at all. And, man, the crowd loved Lance. They'd cheer for him every time he went by, even when he was just sitting in the pack. Ivan Quaranta looked just like he did in the Giro, he dropped out of the race early on because he couldn't keep up. I wonder if he still got an appearance fee.

Peeking in the window
Photo: © Zui Hanafusa
Click for larger image

Around halfway through the race, I thought the breakaway would get caught, because people were attacking off the front of the peloton and raising the pace. My favorite part of the race was when Lance and Chan McRae jumped off and split the peloton. They're were too dangerous to let go, though, and everyone tried to bridge, eventually dragging the whole peloton up to them. Once they gave up, the pace settled down again, and the breakaway was safe. With seven or eight laps to go, the gap was up to 1:20. Lance had been at the front, but to be honest, he wasn't pushing the pace too hard, the field was still fairly bunched behind him, and the gap wasn't dropping at all. Then, everything changed. The break lost focus, all of a sudden nobody wanted to pull. Their laps had peaked at low 2:20s, and now they increased to high 2:40s. The really impressive thing was Saturn, though. They came to the front, and they hauled. In one lap, they took 30 seconds off the gap. By four laps to go, the race was back together.

The sprint was pretty cool, I was one of the guys hanging over the barrier hoping I didn't get hit by a rider. It happens so fast though, there's no time to process what's going on. Ivan Dominguez of Saturn won the sprint, which I think is justice served, because Saturn did all of the work to bring in the breakaway.