November, 6 2006.
Yesterday, Benepe's Bike Blog, aka, Benepe herself roused at 4:30 am to prepare for the NYC Marathon.
Not as a runner, like our dear role model, Lance Armstrong who ran what he called “the most difficult” race of his life.
I was going as a cyclist accompaniment to the wheelchair and push cycle riders at the front of the marathon organized by Richard Rosenthal, previous president of the New York Cycle Club.
The point of our involvement was to prevent crashes of the wheelchair competitors with pedestrians and motorists who might stray onto their path.
My friend Doug Daniele came along, and after missing the bus on 39th St., we rode down to a second meeting point for cyclists to cross the Brooklyn Bridge together and ride to the start.
The ride was wonderful, affording us an opportunity to get acquainted with the neighborhoods in Brooklyn. I saw some familar faces, including Herb Dershowitz, a frequent ebikes writer, and Kurt Guftasson of the Century Road Club Association. Later we saw JP Partland who was riding around with an organizer bike group .
We learned later that Kris Lau who has been on his way to meet us, was struck by a hit and run driver, and sustained several injuries, including broken bones.
We rode to a spot where Mr. Rosenthal had gathered cyclists near the foot of the Brooklyn side of the Verazzano Bridge. After eating a lot of delicious pastries donated by Tom Cat bakeries (owned by cyclist Noel Comass), standing around in the cold, and learning what we were to do, Doug managed to worm his way into the winners’ accompaniment, helping take the hand cyclist winner (not id’d on the ING website) to the finish line.
Myself and Rachel Saks from Waltham, MA, went off with a woman wheelchair competitor number 207, April Coughlin, 27, who sported long braids, and was totally awesome, as they say in CaliforniY-A. Several times she managed to pass a male competitor.
The best part was cycling through all the different neighborhoods of Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx. Musical bands of all types had set up along the route, and as we traveled through we were greeted with cheers and “you go number 207” addressed to April. It was such a wonderful way to travel through the boroughs, without any cars to impede our progress, and the good will of so many onlookers.
In Greenpoint, Brooklyn I called out "cześć" which means "hi" and "bye" to the Polish crowd and they all laughed and repeated what I said. In Williamsburg, I felt transported to another place and time, not just by the typical long coats and hats worn by Hasidim, but also by the old buildings that still stood, architectural reminders of the early 1900's. Many residents also appeaared to be functioning as if they were living in the last century, as they crossed in front of us like wondrous, dark-coated ghosts without looking.
Sadly, many of the windows of the buildings in one neighborhood were barricaded with protective bars, all the way up to the top fifth and sixth floors.
On the Pulaski Bridge, I stopped for a bathroom break at the bridge lookout, which was built like a small lighthouse. I had to climb down open grill steel stairs that seemed to go on forever into the pit of the tower, and echoed loudly, pong, pong, pong, with each step of my cleated shoes.
When I came back out I saw Steve Klein, who had jumped onto the course, and was accompanying one of the wheelchair competitors. “Whatsssup!” I called. I am always running into the ubiquitous Mr. Klein, whom I have never seen in public without one of his 28 bicycles.
Once back on the course, I rode alongside hand cyclist, Kevin Riley, 45, who seemed to be moving along at quite a pace, and was unaccompanied. Despite a minor mechanical problem on the Willis Point Bridge, I rode with him almost to the finish line.
Then Doug and I watched the marathon winners come past the finish line. The women looked spectacular in their striated, thinly muscled bodies. Both in the men’s and the women’s categories, those who broke away, female runner Jelena Prokopcuka, and male runner Marilson Gomes dos Santos, were the winners.
Lance looked worse for the wear when he came through, and later is reported to have said he should have trained more. We tried belatedly to catch up with him, but he was surrounded by a posse of admirers and news folk, and Doug who is built like an armored tank, replete with tattoos, was brusquely pushed back by one of Lance’s henchmen. Lance was then quickly whisked away in a black, dark windowed SUV, like the true celebrity he has become.
But I do remember that Nike, whose brand was loudly portrayed on Lance's t-shirt, very curtly turned down my requests for funding disabled cyclists in the 1996 paralympics competition. They said time they had "no interest" in cycling.
Our sympathies go out to Kris Lau, whose accident on the way to the meeting point was just one more indicator of how dangerous it is for cyclists in New York.
Benepes Bike Blog to be Sponsored By Trek Bicycles
Benepes Bike Blog is now being sponsored by Trek, and I rode their Madone SL5.9 women’s specific design (WSD) silver-blue bike through the marathon. After resolving a couple of minor fit issues, the bike rode like a absolute dream through potholed city streets, and responded like a sleek panther to sudden demands for speed.
Tiggy (my dog) is being sponsored with her blog Tiggy Travels, with a Burley carrier, which should be arriving this week!