We few, we happy few, we band of brothers – Henry V

What to wear to the ball?

Team Organic’s excellent description of the 2008 ride gave grave concern that hypothermia was a possibility – a forecast of just above freezing temperatures to start, with a good chance of snow sleet or rain, but with temperatures rising into the 40’s later, giving you an option on heat exhaustion if you dressed for polar cycling. Wool socks seemed a good idea and in the end that is as far as I got beyond the standard Central Park winter kit:

Clearly the majority of CRCA riders ticked the box “roll over and go back to sleep” – you missed an epic.

Mike Green issued blank index cards at Engineer’s Gate to the six of us standing in the slush at 7.30 – much talk of pave and cyclocross tires as I tested out the grip of my Michelin Pro 3’s with both feet on the ground (not much). Off we went for the traditional two laps of CP hoping that the copious slush on the downhill to the Lasker rink was not going to claim early victims. First lap something like 26 minutes, bit faster the second but not much – so a nervous 10 hour round trip ahead of us?

Much better on the roads through Harlem , cheery trading of Happy New Year’s with pedestrians, but the metal plates on GWB loomed. A puncture just before the on ramp and only 9 o’clock! Plummeting body temperatures followed by a chilling fog from the bridge north to about Nyack . Good job traffic was very light, as the bike path offered a slim corridor or none through the thawing slush and snow. We were particularly cautious of black ice on the big descent before Piermont, but by the time we hit the rolling hills, patches of blue sky were to be seen and the going was much better.

Bear Mountain Inn was closed. A bemused parking attendant in her wooden cabin took the request to fill in our soggy index cards in her stride, and directed us to the bathrooms across the snowy wastes, not that we hadn’t stopped before and not much cover at this time of year.

Break pad failure claimed one of our members and other mechanicals another. Todd Brilliant had set off with hardly a break to make some inroads on the hills, so we were three leaving Bear Mountain and this is where the riding got more aggressive. George thought we would pick up Todd in the first 5 minutes which seemed optimistic. I thought we would catch up by Nyack. The pace picked up as long vistas opened up with no Todd. We steamed up the hills. Maybe it was the humidity, we were generating thick clouds at each exhalation .By Nyack we picked up pro style team car support. At Toga, Todd was reported 4 minutes ahead. George and I worked together, me on the hills, him on the flats. I unzipped my jacket a bit for the first time as we hit 35 mph coming up on Todd at Piermont. We kept on hauling as a two man team time trial deciding at this point ( Scout Camp) to split the purse ($0).

Coming back through Harlem the first uncomfortable dampness in the feet became evident – go black wool socks! Fifth Avenue saw us discussing how we would cross the line – arms raised together in front of the roaring crowds. We nearly didn’t get there. Remember there are two park traverses high on 5th Avenue, so you can’t just ride down the right hand lane. SUV’s nearly scored a double.

Mike was there waiting for us at Engineer’s Gate with a heroes’ welcome, and it wasn’t even dark yet.

Tim Voake