When the pack returned some 14 minutes later, the old man was still in spirited converse with himself. "What are those two boys doing so far out in front with five laps to go? Can't never hold that pace, ought to know better. Well, life is full of people who burn themselves out early, can't be helped. Now, your good riders are right in there with the pack, somewheres up front, waiting for the right time to make their move. There's where your winner is."
Mike Carnahan first jumped his wheel out of the pack with three laps to go, and a fellow New Yorker named Edward Parrott clung to his tail. The two paced each other nearly to the end, with Stanley Swain, Mike Levonas and Doug Dale giving furious chase. Then the 29-year-old Carnahan sprinted for the wire, with the tall, skinny Levonas trying in vain to catch Carnahan and shake Dale. Swain dropped away, still ahead of Parrott, who visibly was pooped. And it was over.
Carnahan, a winner at last and unfamiliar with the role, smiled sheepishly as cameras clicked. His jersey, faded and dusty, was an indeterminate gray-blue, his face was streaked with sweat. He took the bouquet of roses someone gave him and quickly handed them to his wife. More pictures, this time with the grinning runner-up, Levonas, and Dale.
"I could have come in second if I had tightened my pedal clip," said Dale, without rancor. "I loosened it when my foot got numb. I didn't think, but that's what wins or loses a bike race."
The sun, still shining bright over Central Park, was already wilting the roses. The old man moved slowly off toward Fifth Avenue. "Brains don't hurt none," he snorted.