April 19, 2012 By mkr
2012 Tour of the Battenkill
Cat 4 (Green)
73 1183 3:31:55 36:57 Aidan Kesner NEBC p/b Cycle Loft
The whole week leading up to the race I was extremely nervous and stressed about the race. I had never raced something that long, or that hilly, and I kept hearing things about how brutal and awfully painful the race was. Just enough to make me have the urge to backout. Fast-forward to the morning of, and I am there, just trying to get through the typical pre-race routine. Pin the multiple numbers. Attempt to put a number on my bike for the first time ever. Make a decision on what to wear for the race because it felt chilly, but I saw everyone in shorts and a short sleeved jersey. I decided on just that, which I was very happy about later on because I got my tan on big time (and by tan, I mean sunburn).
Noah and I lined up at the start a tad late, with terrible positioning. Maybe the in the final 20. During the neutral start, we started to move up, and after the covered bridge we both had decent positioning. Over the first few climbs, the pace was relatively high, but I was feeling really good and not hurting at all. I was passing people with no issues, which is surprising for me just because I do not identify as a pure climber at all.
Then came the first dirt section… No issues, and it was a lot more packed down then I had expected. Not much to worry about until out of nowhere when I was cruising along at a brisk 26, I feel a small impact on the right side of my drivetrain, and I can no longer turn the crank arms. I look down and everything looks alright. Didn’t drop the chain, couldn’t think of anything else. I had to slow down and hop off the bike, and then I realize that a rock or something had hit my chain near the rear deraillieur and hit the chain off the pulleys and had gotten somewhat tangled. I spent the next 2 minutes fixing it, and nearly 100 people from my field passed me. It was the most frustrating moment of the race. I finally hopped back on, and sprinted till I was at around 30mph, and began gaining back on a few people who had gotten dropped on the previous climbs. Every time I passed someone, I yelled, “hop on my wheel, lets chase back on!!” Eventually, I had about 10 guys riding pretty strong except nobody wanted to pull through, and they were all pretty slow on the climbs. I rode off the front of our mini group and kept going. A few miles down the road, I saw a single rider, and I began to bridge up to him. His name was Frank from Liberty Cycle, and although I didn’t know it at the time, I would end up spending the next 50ish miles with him. I told him to grab my wheel, and he looked like he was hurting pretty bad after getting dropped, and then we started riding for a bit without talking, and picked up a few riders, and dropped a few.
Unfortunately, I never saw the main pack again, but I worked with Frank for the rest of the race. I felt the pace was a bit slow, and I could have powered on and caught/passed more riders for a better result and a better time overall, but I would have much rathered riding with someone, then solo for 50 miles.
The rest of the race was rather uneventful, just a lot of swapping pulls, and trying pass/pickup more riders through the dirt sections and on climbs.
One of my goals for the race was to not cramp at all, and unfortunately, I did not achieve it. I had a somewhat uncomfortable hamstring cramp in my left leg and a quad cramp in my right after mile 45 when the real climbing began. It wasn’t because of a lack of food and water because throughout the race, I ate 4 gels, and had 4 bottles with mix. 2 25oz that I brought, and 2 from neutral support at the feed zones. It must have been a lack of really hard 70 mile rides this spring. I did plenty of 70+ mile rides, but I guess I did not go hard enough on them to get my legs used to that kind of endurance ride.
Although I was unhappy with my final result, in the final 2km, another junior racer from my field, joined up on our mini paceline. Frank was pulling at around 25-26, and I was right behind him, and the other junior, who’s name I believe was Aaron was right on my wheel. At about 250 meters to go, Aaron jumped and began his sprint. I jumped a tad late, and felt the cramps coming on. He had maybe a 10 meter gap on me, and my cramps were so incredibly painful. I gritted my teeth, and pushed a bit harder, I gave it my all, and closed the gap, and sprinted past him and threw my bike over the line to beat him by a tire width.
A shout out to Frank for a good ride and thanks for buying the chocolate milk after the race!
Off to Ninigret this weekend where I’ll be racing the 3/4s and the junior race.
30 1159 3:02:35 07:37 Noah Epstein NEBC p/b Cycle Loft
Something always feels wrong when I taper off from training. As I pedal easy on recovery rides, I keep my computer head in my pocket so I’m not reminded every time I glance down that I’m doing 13mph on the flats. So when I lined up at Battenkill, I knew I had to make it count; the past week and a half had been about being prepared for the upcoming three hours.
I had driven up the previous day with three other teammates, and we were staying at Aidan’s cabin in the Adirondacks. Our dinner had been rushed and undercooked – what do you expect when you get a bunch of tired, nervous teenagers who (surprise) can’t really cook? The nervousness followed into the following morning, everyone running around like chickens sans head. Numbers pinned, bottles filled (and extras sent with Ari to the feed zones), GU consumed, porta-potty visited, legs warmed up, warmers off, and all the sudden we were at the start line a bit later than we should have been and at the very back of a 120-man field (Cat 4 Green). The whistle that signaled the start of a three hour pain contest blew, and we were off.
The first couple of miles were neutral, and people were already riding sketchy. I don’t think three seconds went by without hearing a cacophony of “slowing!” from somewhere around me. Though the neutral start was officially only for 1k, the race was pretty slow-rolling until we got to the covered bridge, which made it easy to roll along the sides of the field up to the front. We were through the covered bridge and I knew Juniper Swamp would be coming up pretty soon. I knew it’d be a big selector, and even though I’m generally a good climber, it was still going to be fast. We got to the climb and I used it to move up more than I already had, tracing along the side of the straining pack. I came over the top with the front guys and descended in a much smaller group than we had hit the base of the climb with. I also noticed that my teammate, Aidan, was gone (I’d learn later he had a mechanical). I sucked down some water and we kept moving.
From this point until mile 45 or so it was all about conserving energy – just staying alive so I could punch it when it really hit the fan. One of my biggest focuses before the race was ensuring that I’d be able to race the distance, and I made sure that I ate and drank constantly. I got my first bottle from Ari at the first feed zone, tossed one out, and kept going. All pretty uneventful, to be honest. It was pretty clear that everyone else was doing the same. During the first ten or fifteen miles of the race, everything was hectic, people were bumping elbows and yelling, but in the middle it was sort of like the race went away. We were focused but calm. It was uneventful.
The dirt sections for most of the race weren’t bad at all. Small rocks and gravelly stuff weren’t a problem – some of the roads were practically paved with a layer of dust over the top. However, once we hit Meeting House Road, later in the race, there was a perfect storm of sorts: suddenly we’re gunning it through these super sketchy dirt sections with literally one line, and if you got off that one line you’d be in deep sandy rocky hell. (Think when you watch Roubaix on TV and all the riders file down the thin smoother strip on the side of the pave – it was like that). Not that suffering in the sun wasn’t hell in it’s own right. So, I’m drilling it on someone’s wheel down this sketchy road, when I poke my head up and see a gap that’s opened about ten riders in front of me, and it’s not a small gap. To make matters worse, I definitely can’t bridge through the sandy-rocky hell to my left and right, at least until we get off the dirt road. But we don’t get off the dirt road, and instead of flat and sketchy now the road is straight up and sketchy, and I’m getting my second feed. I look over at the next hill in front of me (a wall up to the sky, practically) and the leaders are visible, I can see the lead car and everything, but I know that there’s no way I’m catching back on.
I worked with a group of five guys up the next climbs that finished off the race. They were bigger than me and I knew I had an advantage on the climbs, but I wasn’t really thinking. I was working with these people, and I forgot that I was racing against them. So of course, when we started descending, they could coast and I’m on the gas the entire time. Three get a big enough gap that they just power away once the flats into the finish start, and the other two (who had dropped off on the climb) caught back up to me in the flats. I worked with them into the finish, and beat both of in the sprint, but I could only think about how I should have attacked hard on the climbs. Live and learn, I guess.
So, all in all, some course recon would have been immensely useful. I should have been much closer to the front of our group of 30ish when that gap opened up on Meeting House Road, and I should have attacked on the climbs after getting dropped from the lead group. That said, I had a wicked good time and it was definitely the hardest race I’ve ever done. I’ll be back.
Cat5 U35 (Pink)
25 1852 3:35:10 36:09 Emil Baungaard NEBC p/b Cycle Loft
At Aidan’s Cottage in upstate New York, we woke up at around 5:30 to prepare for the race. Noah, Aidan, Ari, and I had breakfast. We left at around 7 and got to the race around 8:45. Noah and Aidan’s race started around 10:40, while mine started at 11:40. I got a little warm up in, but didn’t go too hard because I knew that we had a neutral start. During the neutral start people were just talking and relaxing, it was really awesome. The race began when we went under this covered bridge, and that was when people started setting the pace. The first hill, I made it to the top within the top 4 people, and I felt really strong. At around mile 28 on the second dirt road hill, my chain pops off at the steepest part, so I’m forced to get off the bike and put it on, since it was in my spokes. I then began soloing the next 34 miles alone and ended up 24/50 in my field. Towards the end of the race, my legs started cramping, that I had to slow down my pace just to keep it safe. This was my first real road race, and because of my small mechanical, I feel as if I did a good job.
Cat 5 U35 (Pink)
34 1900 3:47:23 48:22 Ethan Young-Kershaw NEBC P/B Cycle Loft
We got to the school at around 9:30 for my dad’s race which was at 11:00. My race was at 11:40 in Cat 5 under 35 pink. Brandon, Emil, and I rode on the street where the start was to warm up. When it was time to line up we were in the middle of the pack. When we started I tried to stay with Brandon and Emil as best I could until my chain fell off right before the covered bridge and i tried to get back up to them but i couldn’t. I caught two other guys from my field and i rode with them until i dropped them on a dirt section by accident. This course was very dusty and sandy so cycle cross skills came in handy on the dirt sections. My mom was at the second feed station and she gave me a bag full of food and bottles. After that I was with a small group of riders from a different Cat 5 race until they dropped me. When i saw the 5km sign i was happy that it was almost over. Slowly I started seeing other signs until the 1km sign. I finished in 3 hours and 40 minutes. I was happy with what i had accomplished that day.
I learned that I should always check if everything is working properly on my bike before a race rather than deal with it during one.
Cat5 U35 (Pink)
DNF 1867 00:00 Brandon Holden NEBC p/b Cycle Loft
I raced Cat 5/u35 (pink) at Battenkill. I drove up the morning of the race with my dad who was there to provide support for me. We arrived at 10:00, in plenty of time for my 11:40 start time. I had ample time to register, put my numbers on and get a warmup in with Ethan and Emil who were also in my field. The race started out pretty slow for the first eleven miles until we got to Juniper Road. The field splintered a bit going over the steep section but I was in good position, second person over the top. Immediately following the incline was a dirt road downhill. At some point going down I fishtailed twice in succession so I pulled over because I was sure I had a flat. I ended up not having a flat and I had to chase back onto the peloton which was a pain (literally). It was then I realized just how sketchy the dirt sections were. After I caught back on, the roads switched back to pavement and the pace really quickened. Apparently there were about 5 people at the front who were determined to blow apart the field. They might have lost a few people then, but not too many. Soon after we went through the first feed zone where I picked up a bottle from my dad.
Over the next ten miles the terrain was filled with rolling hills with a net downhill which were terrible for me. Because of junior gearing, I physically could not stay with the pack as they accelerated down the hills and after each section I had to chase back onto the back of the peloton. Around mile thirty three the rolling hills became dirt and I realized that I wasn’t going to be strong enough to stay with the leaders through this. There was a lead group and a second group, both with 5-7 riders and spread out along the rode behind them were me and quite a few other riders who couldn’t hang on. After a couple miles, two riders came from behind and picked me up. We gained a few more riders which really helped the pace (we were slowly catching the second group on the rode) and my legs. It was then, though, I started to feel pain in my lower back. The pain quickly escalated as a tried to power up the dirt sections and I eventually lost the group I was with. As I rode by myself my thought process switched from finishing in a good place to just finishing at all. It was becoming increasingly difficult to ride the dirt sections while maintaining a position that didn’t cause a lot of pain throughout my back. At mile forty five, though, my back went into a full cramp so I abandoned. Luckily my dad was there to pick me up. I probably had this coming, seeing as I did very few long distance rides in preparation for Battenkill. I look forward to my upcoming races and training with my teammates as school winds down and summer picks up.
Although I’m still recovering from an injury, I decided to go to Battenkill with the team because I wanted to help out and because I knew it would be fun. We (Aidan, Noah, Emil, and I) arrived in New York at Aidan’s cottage on Friday evening (about an hour and a half from Battenkill). We called it a night after a rushed, poorly cooked dinner and a quick opener, which I tagged along for and just stayed behind on the sprints. On Saturday morning, we got to the race around 8:30, leaving enough time for Aidan and Noah to prep for their race at 10:40. Emil’s race was at 11:40. I was planning on doing the feed zones for everyone, by giving Noah and Aidan bottles at the first and second and then sticking around at the second zone to wait for Emil and give him his bottle. My plan had one flaw, though: I didn’t have a ride to the feed zones. So, between 9 and 10, I was rushing around frantically to every random person that looked like a wife, husband, mom, dad or friend of a racer, asking if I could get a ride to the feed zones on around the same schedule as Noah and Aidan’s race. After asking at least twenty people, I finally met a nice woman whose husband who was racing the 4s on a similar schedule to Aidan and Noah. She gave me a ride to the feed zones. I gave Noah and Aidan their feeds at the first zone without incident. Noah was near the front and looked strong, and Aidan said he had a mechanical. On the way to the second, we got lost. When we got there, I saw Noah coming up the climb as we were parking the car, and if we had gotten there more than 5 seconds later–literally, 5 seconds–I would’ve missed him. I managed to get across the street in the last gap between Noah and the riders in front of him and gave him his bottle. Aidan came by, and then Emil an hour after that (in the 5s), and both of those feeds went well. I got a ride back to the start/finish area with Ethan YK’s mom and met the guys, and they were totally cooked–they all raced hard. We stuck around at Aidan’s cottage for a couple more days because the roads out there are fantastic. I can’t wait until next year when I can race out there; that’s my kind of race. I’m a climber by nature and it’s my favorite part of racing, and I really can’t wait. This year, I was glad to get out there and do what I could to help the team. For me, it was both frustrating and exciting. Obviously I was extremely frustrated that I’ve lost all my fitness with this injury and that I couldn’t participate and I could have done really well, but the trip was also positive because I got some nearly-direct contact with riding, and I saw directly what I’m looking forward to when I get better. I’m not going to sugar-coat it–these past months have been without a doubt the worst months of my life, and they’ve felt like a year. Call me a wimp, but that’s just how much I care. But now I’m at a point where the light at the end of the tunnel is bright and unwavering, and there’s no point in looking anywhere but forward.