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"Fine," I said. "But is it dangerous?"
"Oh, it can be," he said matter-of-factly. "If you race long enough, you will crash—that's a given. It's best to try and stay toward the front of the peloton. If you're at the back, a lot can happen in front of you."
For the next half hour in his living room, he verbally took me over the six-mile Central Park course that we both knew well. He told me how and where I should shift, brake, move to the front of the pack, get on the inside, get to the outside, and what I could expect during the mad final sprint.
"You really only have to remember three things," he said, smiling. "Stay with the pack, stay with the pack and stay with the pack. If you lose them, you won't be able to draft, and you'll get dropped. Then you're finished."
On the big day I got up at 5:20 a.m. and was at the sign-in table by 6:20. It was perfect racing weather—clear skies, low humidity, a temperature of 67�. I paid my fee and learned that the A group would go out first and ride five laps for a total of 30 miles, followed by the B1's and B2's (four laps each, 24 miles) and then myself and the C's (three laps, 18 miles).
I stretched for a bit and checked out the competition. After a warmup ride I headed toward the starting line where the other racers were congregating. Fraiman was there chatting with CRCA membership director Jim Boyd, also a C rider. Boyd knew what he was doing, Fraiman said. I considered this information very valuable—when in doubt, I would do as Boyd did.
Fraiman, who wasn't racing, disappeared as the A group, about 25 riders in all, was called to the line. There was a countdown before the A's took off, and they were immediately replaced by the B1 group, which took off a few seconds later.
The B2's, all six of them, then moved up to the line, but they did not take off. After some discussion, the starter announced that the sparse B2 group "looks like a few guys out for a Sunday ride. B2's will race the C's."
"Four laps, four laps, four laps...," the few, but loud and well-positioned, B2's began chanting.
"The race will be four laps," the starter announced.