A guide to racing the GFNY Championship NYC course, by the ride leaders and ambassadors that know it best.
by Chris Geiser
From Alpine to Haverstraw
Once up and over Alpine, the next stretch will see you passing two (and potentially stopping at two) aid stations (one in Piermont, and one in Haverstraw). While this is a largely flat stretch, and a good time to make up some time, you will want to watch that you are not putting all your eggs in this basket. The GS-GFNY all agree, that while it’s a great area to make up time, the gains that you make for pushing to a red-line level here will not buy you much. Instead, looking to catch on to a group, and while doing your fair-share of the work, letting the group do theirs, and create value for your ride by working together. There will be some kicks up that will break groups up, most notably, 4th Street in Nyack, Old Mountain Road, Toga Hill, and the quick climb out of Rockland lake. While none of these represent long climbs, they could create separation within a group, so it’s important to either hold a wheel, or find a new group as you start to descend or hit the next flat. The time-trial along the river through Haverstraw itself is a tempting time to get on the rivet and push hard. While it may feel great to go full gas here, don’t do it. You will surely curse yourself, as you get back up to 9W, and the real work begins.
I’m in cruise control for this stretch and hopefully in the back of a strong paceline. I’ll need to rely on a good-sized group to string me along. Active recovery with no rest stops until Bear.
I back off a little to see what groups are coming up to pass me and I look for one that I can jump on, are they organized, can I hang on to them, and then in a group that’s pushing me and making me work harder, I can make up some time there. I can do that because I am not a climber. I use the guide in the magazine to stay ahead of my goal as I get to bear with an adjustment for the climbs. I tape a piece of paper to my head tube with my checkpoints, so I know what pace I need to get to bear with to end with the pace that I really want.
If you are not in a group from Alpine to Haverstraw, you are going to get caught in the wind. The second year, I got caught out in the wind and it was such a mental distraction, because I was struggling to do my pace. I would rather wait a couple of minutes and get into a group.
This is a long stretch with a lot of different characteristics. Alpine to Piermont is wide open. To ride ad whatever your race pace is – not over the top, but a good place to earn time. In Nyack – 4th street is short enough to attack. Keep to the left and recognize that you need to be in a lower gear, and pass on the left. Then two short climbs over to the top of Toga Hill. You can take the descent at speed if the road is paved, (often can have potholes – so safety first), is a nice descent.
From the park to the right turn at 303 there is a place where you can start to feel good about your day, as you move on the slight uphill through that 900 meter stretch. In Haverstraw you can raise your pace but you have to know what you give up raising your pace. Push, but maybe no more than 80% – if you go above that, you give up a lot of energy for not a whole lot of speed.
Once I hit 9W, I pick up the pace and try to find a group to latch onto. It’s a 100-mile race why shouldn’t I conserve energy by drafting. I usually skip the Piermont nutrition stop to save some time and get ahead of the other racers.
Previous years I felt like I was by myself and it was a struggle. But last year, I really felt like I pulled all my training together. If you can catch a group, that will help you manage your focus and effort, stay steady, and stay strong. I got a lot of PR’s through that section last year, it was amazing. It was an ideal group – everyone took a turn working and it was great.
Most of the time, it’s pretty easy to find a fast group during these sections, but most riders including me don’t really realize how much those fast pace hurts your legs.
You will see every type of terrain between Alpine and Haverstraw. You will ride close to the river, in two different towns. You will climb from river level back to 9W two different times. This is where the cruel genius of the course is on full display. While not huge efforts, the tendency to make the signature mark on the day through this stretch may cost you as you hit the base of Pinarello later in the day. Know that there is dirty work afoot. Join a group – likely more than one, as groups will fluctuate over the small selections contained here – but try to not lone wolf it through the winds near the river, and make sure to manage your energy.
Editors Take: I will work on keeping my cadence high and my speed within a range that meets my goals. Letting my aerobic fitness go to work for me, and managing to keep my output under control, while making steady progress. High-spin, relatively easy gears, no need to be a hero. Continuing, hopefully, the disciplined next step in a negative-split approach to the course and recognizing the required efforts on the climbs. Like the GS-GFNY, I will be looking for groups to work with and share the load to get back to 9W past Haverstraw in the fastest time, with the easiest effort.
Part IV follows tomorrow.