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DiscoverNEPA Cycling Team Looks Back on 2021 Season

Members from NEPA Velo, the DiscoverNEPA Cycling Team, were excited to get back to racing this year. The team proudly represented NEPA at events across the state and beyond. As they wrap up the road racing season, they’re recapping the year, celebrating their accomplishments and looking ahead to what’s to come.

NEPA Cyclists Finish Out a Busy Racing Season

Bike racing was back in 2021! With racing starting in May and running until September, there were plenty of events for local riders to participate in.

The team’s first race of the season was the Pickle Juice Bike Race in Royersford, PA. The event offered a technical course with plenty of fast corners to negotiate. Unfortunately, one of the NEPA Velo Cycling Club members, Pat Brown, was caught in a crash. He was still able to make it through the finish line on a spare bike in the professional men’s field for 16th place.

Photo courtesy of Ron Short

The next race took place just over the border in New Jersey at the Historic Riverton Criterium (a multi-lap race on a short circuit). This early-season race stresses technical ability with its narrow streets, high curbs and even higher-level competition. For the professional men’s field, Pat Brown was able to avoid crashes and take 11th place.

The Pennsylvania Criterium State Championships were a bit earlier than normal, being held in mid-June just outside of the Pottstown city center. Riders from all over the state competed for the state honors on the line. New racer Jon Hernandez from NEPA Velo was more than up for the task, finishing with the category 4/5 men and just barely missed out on the winning move. As for the elite men’s event, Pat Brown was finally able to break into the top 10.

The 33rd Annual Lower Providence Criterium was one of the longest and most popular events on the Pennsylvania calendar. The team came out in force with riders including Jon Hernandez, Nate Mayne, Eric Simakaski, Pat Brown and Phil Cable, with Phil racing both in the masters and elite men’s categories. Unfortunately, Eric got caught in a crash with a few laps to go, which also affected Nate and Jon’s finishes due to their positioning. Phil tried for a late race move to get up the road and stay away, but he was caught in the masters event with a few laps to go and finished with the group. For the elite men’s race, Phil mustered up what energy he had in reserve from his race just an hour earlier to put Pat Brown in position for one lap to go.  After a hard-fought battle for wheels through the last few turns, Pat found himself boxed in without a clear path to sprint around the riders ahead. Yet, he was still able to improve on his best finish place, coming in 7th.

The next event was the Pennsylvania State Championships for the individual time trial in Hop Bottom, a scenic town in NEPA’s Endless Mountains. The race welcomed riders from Pennsylvania and beyond for the flattest and fastest 40-kilometer (24.8-mile) race against the clock. Many locals showed support by either volunteering or competing, with many first-time racers present. Nate Mayne flew down the road, earning him a top 5 in the category men’s field. Pat Brown, the event director, posted an impressive time with an average speed of just over 27 miles per hour. It earned him 4th in the race for the overall state title.

Back to criterium racing, the team headed to the Main Line Bike Race just outside of Philadelphia. The professional men’s field had a split after just a few laps with Pat Brown in the second half. After a few laps of chasing alone, Pat found himself stuck in the back with no chance at a top 10. However, he was able to win a field prime (a prize that is awarded as a sprint prior to the race’s conclusion) and the field sprint for 13th place.

The team returned to their home turf for the Electric City Hill Climb. This relatively new event in Scranton boasts a steep, brick-cobbled climb unlike anything else in the state. Aaron McNany, Eric Simakaski, Jon Hernandez, Carl Deeley and Pat Brown came out to represent the team. Most of the members made the top 10, and Pat Brown made the lowest step on the extended podium with 5th place overall.

The Piscitello Law Crit was next on the calendar. The event was at a cycling and fitness path just outside of Trexlertown, across from the velodrome. With a focus on saving energy, Pat Brown stayed in the peloton, sheltered from the wind until the last few laps. Just prior to the sprint, he found himself out of position and ended up in the front of the group and in the wind.  The only tactic was to sprint early and try to hold off the well-rested sprinters. Pat was able to hold onto 6th place in the final.

September brought the last few weekends of racing, not to mention, some of the most prestigious races on the calendar. The Easton Twilight Criterium was no exception, being one of the only night races taking place in all the country. In the featured event, Pat Brown had the unfortunate luck of crashing not only once, but twice under the lights. He was able to finish the race with the field, having lost some confidence while taking risky lines.

It was back to some smooth, four-corner action at the second of the two Lower Providence Crits the following weekend. Nate Mayne and Jon Hernandez showed off the team kits in the category 5 race. Jon placed 11th and showed a big improvement from earlier in the year. Nate was also able to improve 11 places from the first race. Pat Brown was able to maintain his 7th place spot, despite the professional team Skyline coming out in force that weekend and the wounds from Easton still biting.

The last race of the season was one of the biggest one-day races in the entire country: the Bucks County Classic. Some of the best riders from around the country came out. There were even a few international racers who attended. With only elite races on offer for this event, Pat Brown was the only eligible rider from NEPA Velo to take to the starting line. Being a past winner in a lower category, Pat had the privilege of getting called up to the front before the race to acknowledge this feat. He was unfortunately unable to finish this time and completed about half of the 50-mile race.

2021 was a big improvement in both the number and quality of events that are easily accessible from Northeastern Pennsylvania. NEPA Velo is excited for next year’s road season, especially since there is more interest in cycling and bike racing, as well as more events popping up to support this interest. They are also looking forward to cyclocross season with popular Pennsylvania races including Crossasaurus Awesome, West Chester Cross and Sly Fox.

Follow NEPA Velo on Facebook to keep up with the DiscoverNEPA Cycling Team. You’ll also find information about group rides and events for cyclists all levels.

Main photo courtesy of Ron Short

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