Scarborough Criterium Series 2023.
Updated: Mar 12
One thing I have always loved about bike racing is that it is not always the strongest rider who wins the race. If that were the case I would have given up after my first season. The combination of wind, tactics, teamwork, and the power of the peloton makes the event a massive rolling chess game. That being said, of all the possible ways you can win a bike race the most illusive, iconic and enviable is to roll across the finish line in a solo breakaway.
That brings me to the illustration and my friend Hank Pfeifle. I was honored when Hank asked me to do a drawing for the race series he and his team put on in Scarborough, Maine.
Hank is a Legend, first as a runner and then as a cyclist. Maine hall of fame, Masters World Champion, 2X National Champion kind of Legend. He was one of the “punishers” on the lunchtime bike ride during our Nike days together. For direction and inspiration, he sent along a photo of one of his teammates winning the last race of the season a few jerseys ago.
This photo captures the stuff of cycling dreams that most of us never accomplish. A lone rider, off the front and holding back a hard-charging field that is sprinting up from behind. I asked Hank for the story behind the photo. As the race began his teammate Eliot Pitney jumped off the front by himself opened a small gap. So early that no one really took it seriously at first. Eliot then spent the next hour plus burying himself in the Herculean effort. The chasing field got close a couple times but they never caught him. Eliot had been averaging over 350 watts and around 27mph lap after lap. That is a shit ton of power to the pedals. I was impressed.
As the conversation came to an end Hank quietly added another reason this photo was important. Hank told me that a couple years after this race Eliot was stopped in line at a toll booth with his family in the car and they were hit from behind. The family was absolutely fine but he was pretty banged up. He hasn’t really ridden much since and recovery has been hard.
With all this dancing around in my head I focused on what I was curious about. That win and effort meant I had to do a little sleuthing. The athletic equivalent of FaceBook stalking. I “followed” Eliot on Strava and looked up his "activity" on that day, after finding the date from the photo. To my amazement, and confirmation about what strong riders strong, I also discovered that Eliot rode to and from the race for a total of 70 miles. I grabbed some screenshots of his efforts because these little charts, bars, and graphs tell quite a story all on their own.
Later, I asked Hank over "Messenger" how Eliot was doing.
I found out that his recovery has been slow but he is giving it his best efforts. Zwift and Trainer Road are where you will find him these days.
This illustration certainly meant more than a simple graphic to be printed on a winners mug.
I quickly realized that the horizontal template for the mug was going to be my biggest design challenge. After sketching a few ideas I gravitated towards a single-point perspective, arms raised in victory, view of Eliot as he crosses the line with the colorful field sprinting in right on his heels. A view you can’t really get in person unless you have a 5 thousand dollar lens and a “Press” pass. I had fun drawing the crowd and populated it with little caricatures of friends and family who seemed to appear on their own as I sketched.
There is this thing about bike racing that always amazes me. It doesn’t really matter the size of the race, the location, or the perceived difficulty of the course. If it is a race it is going to be as hard as everyone can make it. That day Eliot also proved that sometimes it is the strongest rider who wins the race.