Rock N' Ride brings bikes n' beats to Ardmore's streets

Ardmore Rock N' Ride is quickly becoming a summer classic, featuring all day criterium races and a multi-stage concert. In this story, racers from each event share their thoughts about the event on the Philly Main Line.

Rock N' Ride brings bikes n' beats  to Ardmore's streets
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The 3rd annual Rock N' Ride took over the streets of downtown Ardmore on August 19, featuring USAC sanctioned criterium races and a multi-stage music festival. All proceeds benefitted Narberth Ambulance and their life-saving 911 services. Thousands of spectators watched as 268 registered cyclists raced across eight events and even the kiddos were able to ride the course as part of the event's family friendly programming.

In this story, I'm trying something a little different. I reached out to riders from each race event and asked if they'd be willing to share their thoughts or experiences in as few or as many words as they wanted. I'm totally grateful for their responses and I'm excited to invite you to find out what it was like in the saddle at one of the Philadelphia region's premiere bike races.

Humongous thanks to Sandra Clark, Drew Goga, Lana Harshaw, Josh Armstrong, Eric Williams, Rachel Rubino, and Davey Dawson for helping with this story 🧡

Women's Cat 5 - featuring Sandra Clark

"There were many things that made the Ardmore crit very special and in my opinion uniquely accessible to folks who haven't raced before, or who are newer amateurs in the field. I decided to race after noticing very few people had signed up for the Women's Cat 5 category, because I can't just talk about wanting to see more people racing in beginner categories. I have to show up too. So I drew inspiration from KRT/QRT teammates like Jenna Marie Foley and Mike Murray, both of whom raced frequently this season, and decided to come out for this late season crit.

"I was so surprised by the level of support from the organizers, volunteers, and spectators! I wasn't prepared for there to be so much enthusiasm on the sidelines. Even course marshals knew our names and cheered us on individually. The course was safe and wide but also technical, which is good for newer racers because it's not all about speed but also bike handling, positioning,  maneuvering, and gear selection. 

"I love that I placed 2nd to a first time racer. I "retired" from racing bikes over 10 years ago after being hit by a car on my commute to work. Starting over after a setback is a humbling experience, yet I got so much positive energy from both new and established women at Ardmore. Following years of avoiding road riding, in January I made a resolution to get over my fears of riding bikes outside. Since then I've found my family with Kings Rule Together/Queens Rule Together, and I have been training all year to recapture my passion for riding bikes. Ardmore Rock n Ride couldn't have been a better way to come back to amateur racing, and I'm so grateful to everyone who made it the wonderful experience it was." - Sandra Clark, Team KRT/QRT Cycling

Men's Cat 4/5 - featuring Drew Goga

“I started crit racing because I wanted to become a faster rider. Crits were (and still are) the most common and accessible type of racing in the region. There are always a few per year that are immanently accessible for a Philadelphian without a car. The Ardmore Rock n Ride crit is one of these. 

“We met at the new trellis and rolled out to Ardmore as a group of seven, including a few teammates and a few competitors. Despite its nucleus being competition, the racing scene here is downright friendly. Most people you encounter would be just as quick to buy your coffee as they would to try to out-sprint you at the end of a race. A big reason for this camaraderie is that crit racing involves riding in ways that most sensible adults would call absolutely insane.

“A crit race course is a small closed circuit, usually under a mile in length, and often with a few tricky turns. The races have many laps yet do not last long: 30-60 minutes for the amateurs, 60-90 minutes for the pros. These are true all-gas/no-brakes races. Sensible adults hit their brakes when barreling towards a corner at 30 miles per hour, crit racers do not. Crit racers dive into a turn at speed, inches away from each other, holding onto every last shred of momentum and draft benefit. 

“Riding like this demands trust. Trust in your equipment. Trust in the road surface. Trust in the riders around you. All it takes is a small slip-up–a touch of wheels, a deviation from the expected line of riding, a momentary loss of nerve, a handful of brakes–and we see catastrophic crashes. 

“It was in one of these moments that my entire team crashed out of a crit earlier this season. Between our team and the other 5+ riders caught up in the crash, we saw broken elbows and collar bones, bikes and helmets, bruises, concussions, and a whole lot of road rash. The crash made the local news. Our trust betrayed us: with 4 laps to go, a newer rider went into a wet corner like a sensible adult. 

“A few months later and mostly repaired, we were off to the Ardmore race. My intentions for the day were: to not crash; to defeat that newer rider from earlier in the season; and to win. As the day played out, I failed on all three accounts. 

“The race started out with a neutral lap, paced by a car, to allow the riders to familiarize themselves with the course at a mild pace. Almost immediately after the race began in earnest, a crash split the 75 rider field in two. Things kept churning, and I found myself in a 3-rider breakaway, several seconds ahead of the field. Things were looking peachy! If only I could keep up this effort and cooperate with the other two in the break, a spot on the podium was guaranteed. 

“We kept it up to the cheers of friends in the crowd, until I took a tricky turn a little too fast and a little too wide. My tires gradually lost traction and down I went–crashing myself out of the breakaway, and effectively ruining it. Less a bit of skin and some nonessential bike parts, I claimed my freelap and hopped back in the race.  

“Lap bleeds into lap; time melts. I watch a couple of other riders eat it in various turns: they bounce off the asphalt and onto hay bales/road signs/sidewalks. Then suddenly, the blaring announcement: "1 to go! Last lap!" 

“As you wring the water out of a washcloth, so goes the effort of the last lap. 

“The newer rider from earlier in the season came over the line in first, a second ahead of me. 

“As the old heads say it: 'that's the kind of shit that keeps you coming back for more.'" - Drew Goga, Team VeloJawn Racing

Women's Cat 3/4/5 - featuring Lana Harshaw

“This is the third time I’ve raced at the Ardmore Rock N Ride and every year has gotten better! From a brand new racer to the most seasoned vet, this course offers a challenge for everyone who races on the day. The atmosphere is electric, the event staff and volunteers are amazing, and my team at SOAR Foundation Racing looks forward to participating at this premier local event year after year!

"The course has some good technical features with the fast downhill into turn 2 and then the climb over the train tracks. I think the field was pretty strong this year in the Women's 3/4/5 and I believe this was the largest field I’ve been in at that race. Always good to see more women participating and hopefully there continues to be a push to get more women out there for larger fields." - Lana Harshaw, Team SOAR Foundation Racing

Men's Cat 3/4 - featuring Josh Armstrong

"Whenever there's a neutral lap, you know it's going to be crazy because of the people at the back who need to push their way to the front, and those at the front who just need to hold position. I staged aggressively and just needed to stay at the front and then open it up once the real race started. There were some people we were trying to mark, and generally I was trying to stay near the front and potentially get myself into a break. Unfortunately, I missed the move where a solo Cumberland rider rolled off the front and pretty quickly had nearly a 30 second gap. My VeloJawn Racing teammates and I started to get a little train going on with a couple to go, but we let it fall apart. Practice makes perfect, and I'm glad I avoided any of the crashes today.

"In general, having a non-business park crit that's a short ride from the city, has a fun and dynamic course, and has people there who aren't there for the bike race itself is amazing. It's great to see people from the Philly bike community out there supporting each other. I think having a separate novice field for the women, rather than just a combined 3/4/5 field is pretty cool too, and is good for bringing new riders into the sport." - Josh Armstrong, Team VeloJawn Racing

Men Masters (45+ and 55+) - featuring Eric Williams

"The Ardmore Rock N' Ride bike race is one of my favorite bike races! I've participated in this race since it's inception, so I've seen it grow and gain popularity over the years. One key thing that I have noticed is that every year this bike race manages to bring together all of the local teams/clubs to create such a good vibe in Ardmore!

"I do chat with a nice amount of people who are new to bike racing and I always advise them to stay as close to the front of the group as possible with this particular course." - Eric Williams, Team Bicycle Therapy Racing

Kids' Race and Family Experience

Separate races were held for kids aged 4/5/6 and 7/8/9. These were some of the most deeply intense races of the day, featuring sprints, crashes, and equally unabashed doses of tears from both elation and anguish. While some raced as if their lives depended on it, others were overtaken by sheer exhaustion and only found their way to the finish as a result of unwavering encouragement from their coaches. Unfortunately, none of these rising stars were available for comment because they’re not yet old enough for e-mail.

Women's Cat 1/2/3 - featuring Rachel Rubino

"This race is one I look forward to every year. It's super local and I love any race that we don't need a car to get to! It was also such a treat to see a few friendly Philly Bike Expo squad mates in the crowd hanging and cheering! Especially since I was a a bit sad to miss my Philly Bike Expo crit companion Candice, who was out due to her injury (healing vibes to our friend!).

"The course is a good mix of a few fun turns and one terribly long power section often into a headwind. The strength of our local women's field is never to be underestimated. With some of the nation's best track sprinters in the field and a breakaway rider who can ride everyone off her wheel at will, you know you will need to come prepared. It's a wonderful feeling to know it's anyone's race out there, it almost feels like you just have to get lucky to win the day. I certainly counted my lucky stars to take the field sprint, getting second to Kim Stoveld who won handily in a solo break from 15 minutes in." - Rachel Rubino, Team Philadelphia Bike Expo

Men's Cat 1/2 - featuring Davey Dawson

“Ardmore Rock N’ Ride is always an important race day for me being from the area. In particular because the promoter Anthony Hennessy is the first guy that helped me get into racing back in 2006. This race has been in the making for over a decade and has really been something special to support and help grow year to year.

“The course is more vibrant and dynamic than a lot of even the national level events the pro criterium team Automatic | Abus Racing travels to. My race day itself had some unfortunate bad luck with a crash and outcome that forced me onto a neutral service bike for the remainder of the race. Managing a top 10 was a consolation to the day that had really been targeting a win here all season.

“That’s bike racing sometimes. Being able to show up and be there for the event, my family, and friends watching was still a day that always stands out from the sometimes routine nature of the season.” - Davey Dawson, Team Automatic | Abus

Final Lap

Rock N' Ride was a perfect day. After pedaling through Lower Merion and watching the races with friends all day, I had my fill of Victory IPAs while dancing to headlining Rubblebucket and I safely caught the train back home. This was the first time I'd been to a road race since the days I'd head into Manayunk in summer to see the races as a kid with my mom. While the Philadelphia International Cycling Classic may not be coming back, Rock N' Ride is a new summer tradition I can't wait to come back.