Saturday, April 10, 2010

Battenkill'd and Busted.

What an adventure.  I'll try not to ramble, but the way today unfolded on the course almost requires a stream-of-consciousness approach.  First, the Tour of the Battenkill gets mad props for being a crazy, fun, dangerous, and well-oiled event.  Perfect for a spring classic.  On to the race report:

We arrived in Cambridge on Friday and I warmed up on the course a bit.  The first hard left turn was followed shortly by a covered bridge, seen here.  I'm just practicing the first bit of the course, because early reports indicated that the first climb (a few miles after the bridge) would be decisive, so I wanted to know what to expect.  Fortunately, the gravel that was present on the wood-floored bridge Friday was gone as we rocketed through on Saturday. 

On Saturday, we arrived at the event about an hour and a half before the start.  Plenty of time to kit up, warm up, and make some new friends at the start line.  I have to give a few shout outs here, especially to Jeremy, Dave, and Frank who took time to chat and make the race that much more interesting.  Dave actually recognized me from the blog and spoke kindly of it.  Big ups to Dave!

Sporting the CLM colors, I had a nice lady flag me down prior to the race to say she loved the kits.  Way to go, Mitch!  I went with the striped armwarmers for visibility in the feed zone.

The start was relatively uneventful, as the first km was neutral.  I ended up hovering in the top 30-40 just taking it easy to the covered bridge.  That went smoothly but soon the pace picked up.  However, the group was clearly saving energy for the first big climb:  Juniper Swamp Rd.  Rumor was that the race would split here and a select group of riders getting over this ridge first would stay together until the last climb when more splits would be made.  We still had a few miles to go until that turn, so really everyone was just trying to settle in.

Now, things got interesting for me. Within seconds of hanging a right onto the first dirt section (Rich Rd.), I hit 3 or 4 potholes and lost BOTH of my nearly full bottles.  Crap.  I feared the sweet, lightweight carbon cages would not stand up to the bumps, but that was just insane.  I was now without liquid and no way to get it until the 2nd feed zone at mile 41.  By the way, did I mention this happened in the 7th mile?  I'm not to too good with fancy math, but that seemed like a long time to go without fluid in a race.  Egads. 

Shortly, we took a hard left onto Juniper Swamp Rd., the second dirt section.  You might be able to see me on the right side of the group in the orange and black. 

I didn't know Jill and Sarah would be there to take this picture and cheer, but I definitely heard them shouting!  True to prediction, we lost several riders on the steep dirt climb.  Frank went over in the top 5, and I was in the top 20 and feeling fine.  The subsequent dirt downhill was hairy due to speed but smooth.

After Juniper Swamp, I regrouped and developed a plan to conserve as much as possible (even more that I already was) and doubled up on gels to compensate.  This worked well, and I was still in the pack as we approached a dreaded paved climb around mile 30.  At the bottom, two guys RIGHT in front of me locked handlebars and went down in a flash.  I had nowhere to go, so *DOINK* I ran right into them, performing a nice endo.  I stayed up, but was now holding still and clipped out while the peloton scurried up the hill.  Not good.  Sprinting up the hill, I felt the heat and heard the engine of the chase car, knowing that I needed to stay up and catch the group on the hill or I was permanently off.  I nearly got there by the top, but had to hop on a few wheels of other guys to finish the bridge.  Fortunately, we went off-road about then and I was able to make it back up as the group slowed.

Now in the pack and down 3 or 4 matches, I was still nervous about cramps.  At mile 35, we cruised through the town of Greenwich with a group now down to about 25 or 30.  On a sweeping left hand turn, the guy to my left hit a pothole and launched his bottle into my path.  Was this karma for my two bottles earlier?  I didn't have time to think about that as, try as I might to avoid it, I hit it square with my front tire. 

*aside*  I would love to have seen the spectators faces at this moment.  Cheering as they were, I thought I heard a deep gasp from several onlookers as I pulled what must have looked like a BMX tabletop-fakie-kickstand move before recovering and sprinting to catch the group.  Wow.

Within a mile of that madness, I went to shift for an easier gear and felt a strange sensation through the right-hand shifter.  Kind of a clunk / shred.  My pedaling became strained and I could not shift to an easier gear.  Rats, derailleur cable failure.  I'd noticed some funky shifting over the past week, but it had been perfect after some adjusting earlier today.  Now, I was 5 miles from the feed zone and debating dropping out.  Knowing the profile (big hills to come), I was a dead duck.  Combine that with the fluid deficit I'd accumulated, and I was suspecting a struggle once the fast boys turned it up. 

As I approached the feed zone, I drifted to the back of our group and pulled over.  Jill was bamboozled as I was seemingly looking fine, but I explained the malfunction as I pulled the shredded cable out of the housing.  Race over.  I watched as the group rolled up the road.

But, I cannot complain.  Dodging a wreck, surviving a water bottle collision, and actually making it 41 miles with zero fluid (well, maybe I got a sip at the start) is quite a bit of racing fortune.  Sure, it would be nice to finish, but some things are just not to be, at least not this year...

After the race, we headed to Woodstock for a great dinner with Coach and her sis, Sarah.  These two have supported me quite a bit over this adventure, and it has made the difference.  A parting shot from the pizza joint in Woodstock:
Don't worry, this blog is not dead.  I'll take some time to think of my next steps, and Battenkill 2.0 might be the project.  I've loved the journey, and am so very happy to have participated in the race. 

Stay tuned.


Northstar Bikes said...

possibly the coolest cycling cap I've seen...ever...period

Dave said...

Hi! This is Dave. I introduced myself before the race. Thanks for the shoutout. Sorry your race didn't go to plan. The good news is that you've got some great training in for the next races.....keep your eyes out for Team Ommegang if you ever come North again.
I really enjoyed the blog.

Erich said...

yo dave! hope you finished up well. i'll be on the lookout for your team. thanks for following, and stay tuned...we're just getting into the season!

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