It begins with a whistle, and at the sound 15 to 50 athletes start off for between 15 and 25 laps testing themselves and their bicycles in races against one another and their own personal bests. Competing in categories based upon experience and performance. The racers at Cedar Creek's Tour de Park speed around the well paved loop access road splashing their gaudy color on whirring tires past onlooking spectators and sea gulls. It is a day of excitement and yet there is an element of quiet anticipation. It is a race, yet the day is strangely unhurried almost laid back. As they await their particular event the riders lie quietly about lounging on the grass, lawn chairs or sitting patiently on their bikes locked into trainers.
Out on the track, they race at high speed, yet their strategies are marked with patience and cunning, a quiet almost slow motion dance of pacelines and teams working together to make up seconds on the leader through the course of several laps. Everything is done in increments almost imperceptibly, the chasing field creeps up on the leader taking their breakaway rider closer, closer to the front, and suddenly he breaks away to challenge the rider out front. When they pass again, the challenger has silently melted back into the field and the victor rides silently on... his tires whirring on the tarmac rythmically... patiently awaiting the next challenge.
The tour de Park at Cedar Creek Park in Wantagh has been a regular event, but the 2005 season was canceled due to poor road conditions, so this was the first Tour there since it was repaved. Certainly a renaissance well worth waiting for.
The course runs one mile through the park, freshly re-paved and picturesque it is an extremely pleasant place to watch a bike race. It is quite easy to move around the course on foot or on bike. There are two long straight aways for speed, one extremely sharp hairpin turn, and a hill climb and a short descent through a series of "s" turns just to make it interesting. Spectators can enjoy a the action and racers can enjoy the challenge.
One performance that was particularly fascinating was that of Coleman O'Connor. In the 45 plus race, he rocketed to the front in an off the line breakaway and then merely stayed there for the entire race.
For those who do not follow racing, the traditional method employed for winning races is a cooperative team effort. To advance the standing of the team a group of riders typically work together in a paceline. Constantly rotating through an in-line group, the riders take turns leading the pack, doing the hard work of breaking the wind resistance. The rest of the riders tuck in close behind, drafting the leader. Everyone takes turns at the lead. The estimate is a 20-50% energy saving for riders in the draft.
By taking the lead so early and remaining there, Coleman had to ride the entire race alone in front, with no benefit of draft. Near the end of the race the field attacked to close the lead but, they never got closer than 5 seconds off the lead, and by the final lap, they had fallen a good 30-40 seconds off his pace.