Wednesday Night ‘Cross Practice on Randall’s Island, New York City
Photos and interview by Chris Lee
Ride over to soccer field 70 on Randall’s Island in New York City around 7 pm on a Wednesday and you’ll be met with bikes rolling around in grass and dirt, someone yelling “come on you can do it!” and a group of 15 or so racers running drills around cones and trees. This is the home of the weekly ‘cross practices in New York City.
Evan Murphy, a cat 2 cyclocross racer, runs these weekly practices with his teammate, Kyle Murphy, a cat 1 racer, every Wednesday on Randall’s Island. The Murphy “Brothers” bring cones and homemade barriers to run drills and mock races. These practices not only build the skills needed to become a better racer but also helps build a community of racers in a city and in a sport where stepping out of your comfort zone is the name of the game.
Give us a brief history of the practices that are held here on Randall’s Island.
Evan Murphy: I’m pretty sure a guy named Jed… maybe? I’ve never met him but he’s legendary in New York City. He started bringing cones out a couple years ago and they got passed onto Dan (Chabanov). He was then the keeper of the cones. I came out to one of Dan’s practices. We got to know each other a little bit better the following year. Dan’s work schedule started conflicting with ‘cross practice, so last year I was coming out with cones and setting up a course. Maybe nine people would come… A big night was, oh my God! 11 people are here! And then this is the year that we kind of started taking it seriously by setting up drills and really focusing on specific skills; even breaking up into beginner versus advanced groups. So this year its been every Wednesday night (at 7 pm): we meet up at Randall’s Island, hopefully everyone brings food and water, and five bucks donation for me and Kyle (Murphy) running this thing. We do some hot laps and get into more specific drills. It usually runs until about 9 pm.
So how long have these practices been going on for on Randall’s Island?
Evan Murphy: That’s the mystery! That’s the aura of these ‘cross practices! Some people say it’s been happening for like, 10 years… others will say “oh I remember back in the day so and so ran ‘cross practice!”. But as far as I’m concerned, I started coming four years ago. At least before then!
Give us some insight on what motivates you to come out week after week to run these practices.
Kyle Murphy: I love coming out here because, as far as I know, its one of the only places in New York City that you can rip it up on a ‘cross bike. So that’s just super liberating and fun. The other part I like about it is seeing people come back, week after week, and show really real, tangible progress in their skills. Seeing people gratified by that makes me feel gratified. This whole cycle of hyper-gratification is awesome! And luckily, since me and Evan have been here together, and sometimes the groups are a little smaller when the weather is worse; we’ve been able to spend quality one-on-one time with people. Seeing someone tell you that they can’t do something, then coming back next week and actually doing it is just awesome!
Evan Murphy: I mean when I was doing it for no fee, it was a burden of love. I mean, it was the same thing. It’s still a lot of work and we’re not making money off of this. I think first and foremost is that it’s a rad community of people that come out here. We’re facilitating, you know, people meeting each other and the community. It’s just a good thing; there’s no bad vibes!
What do you see for the future of these practices?
Kyle Murphy: For a while there were just a core group of experienced riders that we could rely on to help facilitate. I want to see that grow. I want to see people learn from this and pass that knowledge on. I mean, I think that’s what happened to Evan. Ultimately what I see happening is someone taking the next step, when the baton gets passed, the bar gets raised.
Evan Murphy: This is sustainable in the sense that we can just keep doing this. But it’s not sustainable in that a lot of the advanced guys just aren’t coming anymore. I think they’re bored. They don’t necessarily want to practice dismounts and remounts again. I think it would be really awesome to have some sort of commitment to come all year so we can split up into three groups and have varying levels. But I think the ultimate goal is to just actually promote a race. I think that would be really badass. But thats a HUGE project. And so far we’ve been able to get away with this being unsanctioned and I think the minute we start asking people for permission, its gonna get really hard. There’s enough people here to really make something, to make a big awesome race!
Where can someone find information on these practices?
Evan Murphy: If you live in New York City and want to race cross, you can go to the New York City Cyclocross Facebook page. It’s pretty easy to find, there are about 600 members, click to add. Me, Dan (Chabanov) and Brittlee (Bowman) are the admins, so we’ll add you. You can get a lot of information there. That’s the core of the information in the community. I think on top of that, if you can get the work off… come out on a Wednesday night! But show up late too! People come late and that’s totally cool too.
Any shout outs you guys wanna make?
Evan Murphy: We have awesome sponsors! Our title sponsor, NYC Velo, helps us out by giving us tubes and tools for the practice. Sometimes even the owner of the shop comes out and helps facilitate. We’re decked out in sweet Castelli gear. Giro helps us out BIG TIME. Our main equipment sponsor for this year is Ludwig and Larson. It’s a furniture studio run by this guy named Casper, who is also really active in the New York City scene.
Kyle Murphy: It was my sister’s birthday like… a week and a half ago! Happy birthday Katie!