Early on a quiet, Thursday morning, we turn left onto a deserted field. Pavement cracked as we weave our way around under cloudy skies. Just past the sign where it says ‘No Motor Vehicles’, we make our way towards a minivan and a lonely, white table parked in the distance. Off to the left, a couple of cars have been abandoned against the frame of a grassy field. Their former occupants, two cyclists, are riding around, tightly clothed as they loosen up before the race. We’re a little early as I begin to wonder whether more people will show up to this cycling race that is only 20 minutes away from starting…
We take our place alongside the other vehicles, backed against the edge of the field. As my younger brother heads in the direction of the minivan, I notice that there is now a young woman seated at the check-in table. A tent is being put up, along with checkered flags, a bell and a lap counter. A brief time passes. More cars begin appearing. Cyclists materialize from parked cars. In front of the young woman, a short line begins to take shape as smartly-suited men of all shapes and sizes and ages wait to receive their bib numbers.
The cyclists gather. Old friends, new acquaintances, loners. The camaraderie is warm, and the buzz of voices quiets down as the race announcer provides some final instructions. Seconds later, a blur of wheels and spandex, sunglasses and cleated shoes snugly clipped to pedals. While the cyclists race, I run along the outside of the course. A simple series of loops (7 total) laid out by brightly colored orange cones. The minivan speeds past while the cyclists give chase only seconds later. I manage to pick my brother out from the pack before they disappear around the second turn.
I count the laps in my head each time they pass by and decide to head back to the finish line. The race concludes as unceremoniously as it began. The atmosphere is still laid back as the race director prepares to start two more races. Some of the cyclists from the first race gather around to display a show of support and encouragement to the next wave of riders who are competing in a faster class.
The sun begins to peek through the clouds as we pack up our things, say our goodbyes and ‘nice to meet yous’ and navigate nameless stretches of pavement to find our way out.
On a quiet, Thursday morning, we turn right, out of an old airport runway in Brooklyn, and head home- with a 3rd place medal tucked away.
**To see additional pictures, click here.