Along with a couple thousand other cyclists from the East Coast (and beyond) Team Sixcycle-RK&O spent the past weekend in Cambridge, New York for the annual Tour of the Battenkill. At the end of a long day of racing on Saturday Team Sixcycle-RK&O headed back to New York City with tired legs, dirt covered bikes and a great fifth place result from Ollie Davis. Pictures from the weekend and race reports from Matthew Vandivort and Ollie Davis follow below.
Tour of the Battenkill Race Report from Team Sixcycle-RK&O's Matthew Vandivort
It has been interesting observing the evolution of the Tour of the Battenkill in recent years. While this year's course was essentially the same route that I experienced in my first year at Battenkill (2010), much has changed about the event since that year, when Caleb Fairly and Floyd Landis went 1-2 in an incredible and muddy day in upstate New York.
The pro field is now gone, replaced instead with a Gran Fondo, and the race has gone through a number of different timing technologies (anyone remember the awkward helmet timing tabs from 2011?). However one constant has seemingly been the growth of the event - to nearly 3,000 cyclists this year (not even including the Gran Fondo). This equates to an incredible 14 separate Cat 5 fields - so many that instead of the traditional colors to differentiate between fields, they are now lettered, A-N.
While the Tour of the Battenkill is clearly in demand (as exemplified by the registration fee) this demand also means that the course is packed with fields and riders on race day. Which brings me to my experience at the 2013 Tour of the Battenkill...and the classic game of red light, green light.
The morning started unremarkably - not unlike the prior editions of the race - pinning numbers, waiting inline for one of the few stalls at the high school and eventually lining up with a mass of some 125 other riders for the race start. Before long we were on our way, the first few miles ticking by without much of note - a few riders sneaking off the front here and there for reasons I couldn't fathom at this early stage of the race and the first of what would be many yellow line violations throughout the course of the day by various riders (a single moto official for 125+ riders meant modest enforcement at best).
The pace remained lethargic until mile 9 or 10, when Juniper Swamp started to loom on the horizon, and riders started to push to hit the dirt in good position. Around the corner and onto the dirt one of my teammates, Michael Nelson, hit the deck in front of me, but he was quickly back on the bike as the speed continued to pick up. As the field roared to the top of Juniper however we suddenly came to a complete and total stop at the crest of the climb....red light.
It turns out a field ahead of us had a severe crash at the base of Juniper and so we were neutralized at the summit for four or five minutes - and with the neutralization hope of gaining separation with the back of the pack was long gone. After an extended pause the race resumed, the peloton rested and in one piece, still some 100 riders strong...green light.
The next 30 miles passed without much excitement.A few riders would roll off the front every now and then, perhaps out of sheer boredom, but there was never much momentum to the action, even on Joe Bean, which passed by without much in the way of acceleration from a still sizeable peloton.
My sense is that we may have finally shed some riders on Carney Cassidy road, but I was too busy trying not to destroy my bike (or myself) to take a true gauge of the field size. As it turns out, even if we did drop some riders, they had an opportunity to catch back on when we were again neutralized before the second feed zone for a break in the field behind us...red light.
Thankfully the second neutralization was shorter than the first, though it was the more confused of the two as several dropped riders from our field continued storming past us and down the course, not realizing our field was stopped on the side of the road. After a minute or two the action resumed, the peloton once again refreshed by our time lingering on the roadside...green light.
At some point my teammate Corey Morenz attempted to spark some excitement and took a flyer off the front, though the field was persistent in its desire to stay together and he was left off the front to ride solo for a few miles before ultimately being reeled back in.
Shortly thereafter we found ourselves on Meeting House road, still a massive peloton of some 70+ riders. Matching the story of the day the pace on Meeting House was modest enough that not much damage occurred at the front of the pack, and thus our lumbering peloton continued towards the finish.
As we rolled toward Stage Road James Nord from Rapha took a long solo flyer off the front - it was an impressive effort to add some excitement to the proceedings, but much like Corey before him, James was eventually reeled back in.
The pack hit Stage Road and the pace quickened for what everyone knew was the final effort of the day. Given the modest pace of the day, we were still a large pack and my goal was simply to get over Stage Road with those riders whose climbing ability far outweighs my own. However despite my best efforts I cracked slightly before the summit of stage road, my legs unable to keep pace with the lead group.
I battled to catch on through the descent, but didn't have the legs to match the pace. With the chocolate milk officially out of reach (and my teammate Ashley headed to a good result in the lead group) I dialed back the pace and rode a casual pace the last few miles to the finish, eventually being passed by two sizeable chase groups before rolling across the line well back of the leaders.
For me it was a disappointing race. Whether the result would have been any different if the race had less red light, green light action is anybody's guess - at the end of the day that's bike racing and coming home in one piece (other than the partially torn ligament in my wrist still lingering from a prior crash) counts as a success.
Tour of the Battenkill Race Report from Team Sixcycle-RK&O's Ollie Davis
We started the morning at the Bennington Hampton Inn, which provided 3 important things: 1) a decent night’s sleep, 2) a breakfast waffle from the waffle machine; and 3) a business centre – complete with scotch tape – to manufacture a last minute cue sheet.
The morning started out pretty chilly, so after registration we huddled in the car to try and stay warm and more importantly work out what to wear - knee warmers or no? After deciding to man up, we dispensed with the knee warmers, embro’d up and got to the start line.
We set off to a slow start,and hit the first of the dirt climbs at Juniper Swamp, with my teammate Charlie setting the pace and giving me a good wheel to follow. Having done Juniper Swamp, the field settled down and the next few miles proceeded as before, with Charlie again keeping me safe at the front of the pack. Joe Bean approached and from the bottom of the climb the pace started to pick up quickly, with the field scattering over the climb and quite a few riders being shed.
More slow miles followed after Joe Bean, with timid spinning being the order of the day, the pack waiting it seemed for Meeting House Road at 50 miles. I managed to eat during the slow sections, and was reminded of the racer overheard at the start, who’d announced that he’d prepared for the race by pre-opening his gels before putting them in his jersey pockets.
The race proper started on Meeting House, with only 10 of us coming out the other side as a group. We quickly decided to work together to stay away, so the pace finally picked up and the next few miles consisted of some decent work to maintain the lead over the chase group.
Battenkill is often called a race of attrition, and Stage Road proved that to be right again. All out war ensued between the group of 10 over the dirt hills at mile 59, and one by one the group shrunk as the pace increased. I held on until the last roller, but was finally gapped by a small group of 4 before we hit the tarmac.
After that it was a case of time trialling the last 5k home, passing riders from earlier fields and desperately hoping I wasn’t about to be overtaken myself. In the end I was happy to see the right turn into the finish line, with my Sixcycle-RK&O teammates shouting as I rolled in for 5th, and we quickly set off for a post-race grilled cheese and a few beers.