This article was submitted by CRCA Member and GFNY Team Manager Jared Skolnick. If you would like to submit an article to CRCA.net please reach out to the Club's Communications Director.
I don’t win races. Heck, I hardly even finish the CRCA Club races. Occasionally I am part of a Gruppetto, but even those are few and far between. At 47 years old, proper training and fitness will only get me so far; I’ll likely always be pretty slow in our club. Yet I love this sport and see no end to my amateur racing career.
I’m Jared Skolnick, Team Manager, CRCA/GFNY Racing Team, and this is why I race.
I came to cycling in 2010 and while my introduction wasn’t immediately into the MAMIL set, I got there pretty fast. I was spending time on the North Fork of Long Island and my in-laws gave me a garage sale bike when they were moving. For months it just sat in our basement gathering dust. But one weekend, I took a ride - probably about 3-miles. The North Fork is pretty darn flat, but even 3-miles was tough. However, I was taking in the bucolic landscape in a way I’d never done before. Bike speed seemed ideal to appreciate my surroundings.
Short 3-mile rides became 6, then 12, and I was riding most weekends. My birthday was approaching and my wife said, “for your birthday, let’s get you a decent bike,” and I was thrilled! I bought a Giant Defy 3 and the local shop where I bought it introduced me to group rides. They eventually talked me into the full lycra kit and taught me not only how to draft, but all the etiquette involved in group dynamics. Soon I was doing 35-50 mile Sunday rides with them and loving it.
“Sign up for the GFNY - it’s an incredible event!” (He left out how challenging a course it is.)
In August of 2012 I did my first century, the pancake flat North Fork Century. By September a friend convinced me I could ride the Campagnolo GFNY, so I signed up and began doing their Sunday training rides in December. It was torture, but the best torture ever. And for those that did the 2013 GFNY, you know that the ride was EPIC - about 55F and raining the entire day. I’m still convinced that I only managed to finish that day because I was too ignorant to know I should have stopped. The next year I became one of the eight Gruppo Sportivo training ride leads and, eventually, Head of Group Rides, a title I still hold today. Training new groups of riders to tackle a personal challenge has been both the best way for me to give back, but also among the best ways to motivate myself.
Long rides just weren’t enough, so in the Summer of 2015 I joined CRCA as an unattached rider to get an understanding of the local racing scene. I did three races that fall, and attended many of the coaching sessions. To this day I am in awe of Tara Parsons as a coach and a motivator - she epitomizes what it means to embrace every aspect of our sport. And, seriously, her smile is just contagious!
The GFNY founders are racers at heart and always wanted a local racing team, but the demand of running GFNY really didn’t allow for the local commitment as well. Since they were more than willing to support a team if someone took on team management, I decided to give it a try. I both did, and did not, understand what I was getting myself into at the time. But now in our third year as a local sub-team, I’m happy to say it’s been worth it. And I could not be happier that our team mission focuses on FUN and promoting a CLEAN SPORT over everything else. Sure, we’d love to win races! But not at the cost of enjoying the sport everyday.
Want to stay fit? Race to train. For me, this is more motivating that “train to race.”
So here we are in 2018 and I still don’t have the ability to finish a Central Park race in the pack. Yet I’ve lost weight (even if I need to lose more,) I’m faster (if not fast enough,) and have this great team of friends around me that ultimately support my effort as I “race to train.” See, my goal is to be healthy in body and mind, and the GFNY experience, especially the Racing Team, rewards me with just what i need.
The CRCA/GFNY Racing Team doesn’t always show up in large numbers, and even when we do, no other teams are quaking in their cleats at our threat. And that’s OK; even preferred, over the commentary we hear about some racers or teams. (Thankfully, as a club, the negative comments are in the minority.) We enjoy the camaraderie and conversation of the club and the teams. There are always a few good laughs at the start line (some of them nervous laughs, of course.)
This is why I race. I race to be fit. I race to have fun. I race for the thrill and the speed of the peloton, even if only for 2-3 laps of a longer race. And I race to motivate my training which brings me back to being fit in body and mind. And, thus, it’s a virtuous cycle that I plan to continue until my legs won’t move the pedals in circles.
Vermont & California, Stelvio & Ventoux… Cycling takes you places
Some places I’ve raced: Mont Ventoux, Passo Stelvio, the Catskills, the Santa Monica Mountains, Killington, VT, and the entire perimeter of Puerto Rico. Who knows what incredible location will be next.
So if you see me in the pack just hanging on, or in the Gruppetto, or far, far off the back, just know that I’m proud of every DNF I’ve recorded. Sure, I’m even more proud of the races I finish, and seeing my times improve. But those are my personal podiums; those are my wins.
In the end, you know what is infinitely worse than DNF? DNS. Full stop.