Tour of the Battenkill

April 13, 12:25 pm. Cambridge NY. I am lined up and ready to go for the 2013 Tour of the Battenkill. Cat 5  Group F (35+). Schreeech. Lets back up a minute.

Friday April 12. We have an ice storm in Potsdam. The kids are off from school. Seriously? I have a bike race, outside, tomorrow. I’m feeling nervous. Its my first road race. What’s it going to be like to race in a pack? How bad will the dirt sections be? Will they be muddy? (All I want is to survive the day without too much damage. Its good to have high goals right?) In the end none of those things really influenced my day.

The weather turned out to be just fine. It was cloudy but had warmed to a balmy 50F. Properly dressed the temps were actually not bad. Most importantly the roads were dry. So traction would be goo. There I was getting ready to ride.

Battenkill_prepping_bike

And after warming up for 30 minutes I grabbed some last calories..

battenkill_ready

…and headed off to the starting line.

battenkill_set

The announcer at the start nicely warned us about all of the ways we could hurt ourselves. Something about 50 mph descents on dirt roads. Piling into people in feedzones. Etc. My mind was wandering a bit and so I was looking at the eye candy all around me. I noticed something. Most everybody had 28 tooth rings on the back. Wait (start the ominous music) I only have a 21. And then we were off.

battenkill_go

Things were going great. I was close to the lead.

battenkill_midpack

Oh yeah, it was a neutral start so we were not really racing yet. But that my friends was as close as I would come to the front of the pack for the rest of the day. (At least we have a picture of it!)

Leading up to this race my Fellow Friend of Fatty Jeff (who was also in the Battenkill, but in a different group) predicted that I would finish in 3:27. I am notoriously bad at figuring out how long something will take me before I actually go and do it, so that was the prediction I went with.

Here is the profile for the race…battenkill_elevation

That shouldn’t be too bad. There is nothing really big. Right?

The first 4 miles were pretty flat and in the big bunch we were really going fast. I was warned that at about 4.5 miles out we would turn off the main road, go through a covered bridge and hit the first climb of the day. And so when we turned off the road and went through the covered bridge, I was ready…..

….Well not so much. I was completely take by surprise at how fast these guys hit that first hill (that little one right before the 5 mile mark). And in a blink of an eye, I was off the back of the lead pack.

Meanwhile. My (moral) support crew was supporting me from afar.

Battenkill_moral_support

Having lunch in a cafe.

battenkill_lunch

This was quite probably about the time that I hit the first real climb of the day  (that double peaked thing on the map above) and realized that it was going to be a very very long day indeed.

I also realized that the two things I was most worried about (riding in a pack, and riding on dirt) were the two stupidest things I had to worry about. There was no pack to ride with. And the dirt was in perfect shape. The rain had smoothed it out. And it dried enough to be hard. It was a complete non-factor. Nope the thing one thing I should have worried about before the race was the last thing on my mind: The Course.

Nothing was so exceedingly steep (although I do question the validity of the race organizers claim that it was a max 12% grade, I seriously question that). But it was that short choppy climbing that I hate so much. (I also think they they somehow, through some warping of physics, eliminated any 1-5% grade hills from the course and the only stuff out there was 6-12%. But I have no conclusive proof of that.)

It was hard. Much harder than I thought. I was passed by the group that started 10 minutes after my group at about mile 30. I tried to catch a wheel there, but couldn’t (lost it on the uphill again). I got passed by the leaders of the group that started 20 minutes after me at about mile 40. By then I was just riding my own ride, and didn’t even try to catch on of their wheels. The rest of the day was a blur of uphill grinds, and seemingly short short downhill recovery sections.

The worst section of the day was the second peak on the second to last hill (right at about mile 52). It was brutally steep there, and I was tired. They had a photographer at the top of that hill and he snapped a couple of pictures of me. I tried to ask him to delete those, but it came out as a croak.

In the end I crossed the finish line in 3:53. About 20 minutes slower than Jeff had predicted for me. But I crossed the finish line.

battenkill_done

I was more than ready to pack up and call it a day.

battenkill_lets_go_home

People have asked me how I feel about my effort. While I was riding I was really dissapointed.I felt slow. That’s a leg sucking feeling while you are riding in a race.

But as I kept riding I kept passing people. People from groups that started ahead of me. (I was clearly not suffering the worst, or the slowest person out there.) And I also passed people from my own group who had dropped me earlier in the race. The last time I was passed by someone in my group was at mile 30 (I don’t really count him passing me either. I passed him a couple of minutes before and then he came motoring past me. I figure it was some sort of technical issue). From there on in I picked up about 5 riders from my group. And so by the end of the race it was more complicated than “I feel dissapointed”.

I ended up finishing 21 out of 36 riders in my group. I was 51:00 behind the guy who won. I would have felt really good if I had finished in 3:30. So the time felt slow. It still does. But I didn’t give up and kept turning the cranks.

I don’t want to make excuses. A couple of factors played into my time. I think my cold last week really played a part (probably the largest part) in how hard I was able to ride. I also think my gearing also played a part in how fast I rode. The triple in front saved my bacon, but I rarely had the right gear to allow me to sit and peddle in a climb. That came back and hurt me. And it was my first race of the season, and my road race ever. Things can only get better.

In the end I need to work on my climbing. Plain and simple.

Now I have about 8 weeks until the Willmington/Whiteface 100K. Monday Coach Drew and I are talking about how this race went and the next 8 weeks. Its time to ramp it up. Its time for more intensity, more climbing, and longer rides.

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4 thoughts on “Tour of the Battenkill

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