Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Tour of the Battnekill

Every time someone comes up with a plan to hold a race that is in resemblance to a European spring classic such as Paris Roubaix, this years addition of the Tour of Battenkill is everything they could every dream of. A strong 166 rider field racing over 200km's of narrow, rolling back country roads which of course some where dirt, and the perfect ingredients from mother nature with temperatures in the mid 40's with windy, cloudy, and even spotty rain showers.

The race got started under a few ray's of sunshine through the clouds that would disappear as quickly as the field disappeared across a covered bridge onto the first dirt section of the day. The racing started off hot as I found myself clicking down for more gears only to find I was already in my 11. Everyone was out to race and nobody was going to let anyone get away, even this early on in a long race.

We quickly covered ground as we raced over some flat ground before tackling the first climbs of the day and hit some wind that quickly made the big pack narrow into a long line. We had our guys in position covering moves, but we had the misfortune to loose two in less then 30km's due to mechanicals. The race never really slowed down as we hit the big pave climb on the day. Fly V, Garmin, and Ralfa were upfront riding hard trying to escape with Waite, Luca, and myself in the top 10 following everyone of them. The race come down the dirt section afterwards and was mostly intact, but some sting was put into the legs before the first long rolling sections of dirt.

10km's out from the tough sections of dirt the sky's started to open up a bit and light rain began to fall. I went hard to the front, followed a move, and found myself alone off the front just before the key sections of dirt. I just rolled to get there first as the field came right up. I did exactly what Frankie said some guys would do, which is "If Joe Blow sees the front in a hard section they will go as hard as they can even though they have position." Contrary to what some will say I did slow down when I was on the front by myself not wanting to do anything silly at this point.

We hit it, and by this time it had turned to mud. It wasn't long before the glasses were covered in mud. Once again Waite, Luca, and myself were right in the top 10 staying out of trouble and the apparent carnage at the back. The bike was sinking into the mud, gears were grinding, mud was flying, legs were ripping, and the race was splitting. Visions of the 2001 Paris Roubaix were in my mind. By the time we hit the pavement again a regrouping of 60 had come together before the bottom of the Stage Rd climb. A 2km stair step climb on dirt.

I was in great position still sitting third, until my luck would run out and I punctured. Not really knowing where the car was because of the carnage, and not wanting to chase over a climb like this I thought if I could ride it to the top the car would be able to get up and I could use the downhill and pavement to get back to the group. So I drifted back seeing Luca, Waite, and Gaimon in the field. I sat close to the back knowing I needed the car, but didn't want to come off as some where going backwards fast. Of course this was made a bit harder as my guys were going fast up front hitting it over the climb. As soon as we crested I couldn't go to far down the hill with a flat so I rolled slow and waited for the car. They eventually pulled up and I got a wheel change and I was back in the caravan. Some quick maneuvering through it and I was in the group by the time we hit the start of lap 2.

I found Luca and was informed Phil and Waite where in a front group of 10 riders that included some from Fly V, Type 1, Bahati guys, and was looking good. The group had sat up and they were rolling. 3 events occurred that shut down the break that should have never been caught by the field. Maybe by a select group, but not the field. First Jamis was unhappy with who they had up there so they started to chase. Secondly a couple of riders where sitting on the break. Thirdly Fly V attacked the break sending one rider off with over 80km's to race, so they stopped working in the break. There two minute gap came down fast and other then 1 Fly V off the front the race was back together.

Jamis continued to do the brunt of the work to bring back the sole rider. Before the final feed zone the winning move would come from Fairly, Landis. Soon after they took off Luca went out with a Fly V rider and a Jamis rider. I sat close to the front as we approached the key dirt sections waiting for the next selection and moves to come, but they never came. The race was going up the road. Luca put in a tremendous amount of work chasing down the leaders, but was never quite able to get there. The Jamis rider blew and came back to the field. Luca finished 4th on the day and I came across with what was left in the field. The whole team had put in so much work on the day it was good to get close to the win.

A little cleanup was necessary after the race. Even by the time I got home I wasn't clean enough as my wife came at me with cue-tips in hand.

The Tour of the Battenkill is starting to live up to some hype and very well could be the Americas Queen of the classic. We need more races like this that can be considered classics. It's a race that everyone has a story to tell afterwards.

Breeze On