"Everybody's doing a brand new dance now."
Sitting second wheel taking a breather while being pulled along at a tidy clip by one of my riding partners I could not quite make out what Rune, was saying - no singing.
"Come on, baby, do the Loco-motion."
Really? Yup, really. We were about 80 miles in, making the most of the relatively flat and fast section between the Ramapo feed station and the late hills.
"I know you'll get to like it if you give it a chance now."
Than I realized Rune's inspiration. Looking back, I clocked that as well as sheltering Bastian, the third member of the crew, from the wind we were dragging a couple of dozen others that had jumped on our train as we had come past them.
And as I got down in the drops and came past him to take my turn at the front I could not resist joining in: "Come on, come on, do the Loco-motion with me".
It was that kind of day.
The large numbers involved were very evident at the start on the lower level of the George Washington Bridge at 6 am. By the time we made it up to the bridge itself via various checkpoints and pit stops, the concept of ordered corrals had fallen by the wayside except for the lowest of numbers who were allowed to bypass the throng on the righthand side.
The "we" here was me, Rune and Bastian — a Euro trio hailing from the UK, Denmark and, way back when, Germany and now with young kids of the same age in Westchester County, NY.
Ignoring the advice offered by GFNY co-founder Uli Fluhme for my preview of the event, we were riding together. Bastian was gentlemanly enough to tell us to head on without him at Ramapo, but we refused his offer and were determined to finish together.
It was the first time I have ever set out to ride a race with people. I have gone to the Marmotte and the Maratona Dles Dolomites with my great friend Joe Saumarez Smith. In the latter he was in the front pen and I was farther back, though we did ride together for 30 minutes or so after the Giau and in the former to my surprise he took off like a scalded cat at the start and was gone.
The run north to Bear was relatively uneventful with the strong wind largely a non-factor except around Haverstraw where flags were stretched sideways and it was blustery. I was very glad for my vest/gilet and arm warmers throughout.
We stopped at the Stony Point feed station at mile 32 and then headed for Bear agreeing on the way that we would tackle it at our own pace and regroup at the top.
Rune and I ended up scaling the four-mile, 1,000 foot climb together despite his God-given climbing advantage in weighing 2/3rds of my bulk. For some reason my legs, which had been a bit recalcitrant earlier, felt good and we were soon tapping out a decent pace, handlebars a few inches apart. Despite a rising heart rate all felt wonderfully easy.
"Oh, the Dane's made his move! Can McCausland respond? He can! He's reeling him in. And he's gone over the top. Amazing!"
"A climb likes this separates the men from the boys, the champions from the pretenders. Spectators will be telling their grandchildren about the day they saw Ulbak and McCausland duel on Bear Mountain."
"He's dancing on his pedals ... its a game of cat and mouse ... the elastic has broken."
"This is what makes bike racing so compelling. Unbelievable ...." and so on in our best Phil Liggett impersonations.
(Apologies to those who found us insufferable.)
Rune finally got away from me when he refused to be overtaken by one of the few who came past and it ended up with the two of them out of the saddle and sprinting as we found someone willing to join in the silliness.
Laying down our bikes at the top we couldn't stop smiling. Bastian rocked up five minutes later as we started to get cold in the stiff breeze.
Bastian is a former Varsity rower, a big, big man and can lay down the power on the flat. Gravity is not his friend, however, and the demands of real life had hampered his training.
Thankfully the rain had missed the top of of the colle and the descent was dry. Cheesecote followed quickly and we span up the climb with the carrot of the respite until Alpine in front of us.
By Ramapo with most of the 8,500 feet of climbing done, Bastian — like many others — was suffering.
With 32 miles still to go we committed to sticking together. We agreed that Bastian would stay second or third wheel out of the wind at all times and we would see how we would go until the uphill stretch around the 85-mile mark. Rune and I were feeling pretty fresh. The locomotion was on and it was a hell a lot of fun for almost 20 miles.
And it worked. We crossed the finish in Fort Lee in line abreast having covered the flat sections at pace and kept it steady up Alpine and Dyckman Hill and the small rises in between.
Well ahead of us, Camila Cortes of Bogota took the women's crown by over 20 minutes from Marcella Toldi of Sao Paulo in 4:51:21 with Ottawa's Heather Low third seven minutes further back.
Unlike the multi-national women's podium, the first three home on the men's side all hailed from New York City after years of foreign domination. Michael Margarite led home the field in 4:30:25 a comfortable six minutes in front of Allan Rego who had seven seconds on Adderlyn Cruz in third.
The lantern rouge of the full course was Axel Kaban of Astoria who persevered to finish in 10:30:30.
Team Eurotrash split the difference at 6:50:37 (36 seconds for Rune) to finish 1137th, 1139th and 1140th out of 2,707 finishers on the full course.
Just under 3,500 are listed as official finishers — 665 took the shorter Bear option and bused it back.
An event of that size is a logistical nightmare. Once again, the Fluhmes and the GFNY organization made it look rather easy and the slickness of the operation is remarkable, from expo to post-race festivities.
I do not know whether the corrals issue at the start was due to the record number of riders or because we arrived too late — the instructions for race day state that if you arrive after 6:25 "you will be routed to the last corral". If that's what happened then most of the field was in the same boat. Update: According to organizer Uli Fluhme too many riders left it to the last minute to get onto the bridge, underestimating the time it would take to filter up the ramp. His estimate is that a third of the field arrived after 6:25.
Once the race had begun, the standard of riding was pretty much as to be expected when you have that number of people on the road. The major issue was slower riders not staying right. I don't know why, but too many people thought that middle of the road, or even left of middle, was the place to be, forcing faster riders to squeeze though on the left or slalom to the right.
One crash occurred just in front of us when two riders went down after what looked like an overlap of wheels and we saw the injured from a handful of others — all being looked after by event staff.
It was a reminder of the thin line between a good day and disaster and twice we almost witnessed absolute disaster.
On Baby Bear north we were in a knot of riders when a cry of "Garmin!" went up as for some reason a head unit hit the tarmac. The owner, who was quite far to the left, instinctively braked causing a ripple effect around him and forcing a coupe of riders across the yellow lines and into the path of a very fast group of 15 or so coming down Baby Bear in the other direction filling the lane.
Thankfully, the climbers were just able to get back on the right side of the road in time to avoid an horrific collision at a closing speed of 50mph or so. Not surprisingly, the descenders turned the air blue resulting in Bastian coming up with the best line of the day: "I think Puta means thank you in Spanish."
It was a similar story at the base of Bear Mountain where people ahead of us were stupid enough to move to the left of the median line causing a couple of AG2R shorts moments for those coming down.
Thankfully, we avoided anything more dramatic than the odd squirrelly rider failing to hold their line.
And it seems that Bastian is even considering returning for the 2017 event.
It even makes you happy when you're feeling blue
So come on, come on, do the Loco-motion with me