Harlem Skyscraper Cycling Classic
Location: Harlem, New York
Race Report: Team Sixcycle-RK&O
Setting: The Harlem Skyscraper Cycling Classic races along the outer border of Harlem’s Marcus Garvey Park, specifically Mount Morris Park West, 120th Street, Madison Avenue and 124th Street. Home to the Pelham Fritz Recreation Center, Marcus Garvey Park features an outdoor pool, baseball field and two playgrounds. The park is surrounded by historic townhomes, many of which date to the turn of the 20th century, as well as a few more modern high rises. Bethel Gospel Assembly is located along the Southern edge of the park in the former James Fennimore Cooper Junior High School. A unique and distinctly urban race environment.
Spectators: While the crowds do not compare to the early years of the race, when thousands of spectators would watch the Harlem Skyscraper Cycling Classic, the event remains one of the most popular in New York City with a mix of community residents and area cyclists watching the race from a variety of vantage points including the plentiful townhouse stoops that surround the course. The finishing straight on Mount Morris Park West is a hive of activity with team tents, vendors and food carts lining the inner barricades. The loudest cheers are reserved for the children’s races, featuring competitors age four to twelve.
History: The Harlem Skyscraper Cycling Classic was created in 1973 by Al Toefield, a former New York Police Officer who was heavily involved in the Century Road Club Association and co-founded the Kissena Cycling Club and David Walker, an NYPD Community Affairs Officer in the 25th Precinct. Designed as a community event focused on racing and children’s cycling safety, the inagural edition drew 300 racers and 5,000 spectators who watched Robert Phillips, a 26 year old from Baltimore, defeat Patrick Gellineau of Trinidad.
Racers: Featuring large fields in most categories, New York racers represent the vast majority of competitors at the Harlem Skyscraper Cycling Classic. Following many years as a National Criterium Calendar event, in 2013 sponsorship changes reduced the scale of the race though several Olympic level athletes still participated, with Marcel Kalz of Team Rudy Project Racing winning in the Elite Men’s field.
Terrain: The four corner course utilized by the race is flat and fast with wide sweeping corners generating average speeds close to thirty miles per hour for the Elite Men’s field. The pavement is in good condition but given the urban location there are various manhole covers and other minor obstacles on the course. Despite it’s non-technical nature, the course has a modest reputation for crashes, particularly in corner one. Wind is typically modest.
Conditions: The 2013 edition of the Harlem Skyscraper Cycling Classic took place under blue skies with a high temperature of 80 degrees and mild humidity. The pool at Marcus Garvey Park was crowded throughout the day.
Notes: The winner of the inaugural Harlem Skyscraper Cycling Classic, Robert Phillips, was awarded a color television for his victory.