2011 Black Fly Challenge
Words by Richard Serton Photos by Pam Karaz
CNYCers Rich Karaz, Steve Gates and Richard Serton kitted up this weekend for the 16th running of the Black Fly Challenge - a 40 mile, point-to-point race in the Adirondacks. The course offers a mixture of asphalt, dirt roads and even some gnarly singletrack towards the finish. This year's race drew over 350 entrants on both mountain bikes and cyclocross rigs. One or two tandems may have even been spotted at the starting line. The two Rich's were both on cross bikes, deciding to trade comfort for speed. Steve Gates went with a plush, dual-suspension trail bike. Conditions on race day were, in a word, atrocious. Temps hovered in the upper 50s and driving rain was at the start to greet everyone. The first few miles on pavement saw most of the pack stay together. All of the cross bikers and a few of the mountain bikers kept up the pace until we turned onto the unpaved roads. It was then that things in the cyclocross group got interesting. The wet, sandy soil was absolute murder. On the flats, tires were swerving back and forth. On any kind of incline, max power was required to keep any kind of reasonable pace and when the roads pitched up further, spinning tires were common throughout the pack. Never mind the fact that the roads were also littered with giant, rim-shattering rocks and certain sections were completely washed out as a result of a wetter-than-normal spring. Not long after the first dirt section started, a small group of 4 or 5 riders pulled off the front and opened a gap. That left about a dozen riders, including both CNYCers, chasing. 12 miles into the race came the biggest sustained climb of the day - 7 miles and 700 feet of climbing in a sandy mess. Serton attacked, picking up the pace and settling into a steady, grinding pace. It would be the last time he saw any of the chasers until the finish. By the top, he had opened a gap of about a minute on the rest of the main chase group. A fast, some might say reckless, descent later and the chase was on. By this point, the lead group was having some difficulty. Serton passed two of the leaders on the side of the road with flats. These two riders eventually caught Serton as he chased and the three worked together briefly before exhaustion started to set in and Serton couldn't keep pace. He rode the last 10 miles or so by himself, trying desperately to outpace the remaining chasers and secure a top 10 finish. As the final unpaved section of the race began, one of the chasers was nearly caught back on. It wasn't until Serton crossed the finish line and looked around to see Rich Karaz less than 5 seconds back. The pair took 6th and 7th place overall, with Rich K winning his age group and Serton garnering 3rd place in his. It was a great showing by CNYC in one of the region's most difficult one day races.