Tour of the Battenkill

I rode America’s “Queen of the Classics” today. It was my second time finishing the Tour of the Battenkill, which is the most unique road cycling event currently promoted in the Northeast. The fifth edition was today and it didn’t disappoint. This race is all about the course. It seems like 15 years ago, you could find a great road race somewhere in New England or New York, at least once a month. There was Coberly, Putney, Round Quabbin, Buckfield, Sebago Lake, Killington, Stratton, Westfield, and others. Nowadays, the great road races are few and far between. Battenkill makes up for all of those boring industrial park criteriums that clutter the race calendar. 

The 100km course in the Battenkill Region of Eastern New York State is just fabulous. It is hilly and it has seven major sections of dirt road that test  your skills. This is unconventional and scares away some of the less confident roadies. The course is very scenic with views of beautiful farms, covered bridges, and pretty countryside. The competition is fierce and the waiting lists for multiple full fields prove that the race format is wildly popular. It is one tough race for April.

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Last year’s race featured unseasonably warm weather and scorching sunshine. There was so much dust that you couldn’t breathe. It was awful. Today’s weather conditions were perfect for a spring classic. It was chilly and overcast at the start, with the temperature in the mid-50’sF. About half way through the event, the rain started to fall and it turned the dirt into a nice gooey paste. At least the rain kept the dust to a minimum. Like I said, “perfect.” 

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My GPS data reveals some interesting statistics. I wore my heart rate monitor for the first time in a long time. The data shows that I couldn’t sustain a high HR when I was on my own in the last 20 miles. The steepest hill was a solid 24.4% pitch, which is nasty when you factor in that it was a dirt road. The 5000 feet of elevation gain is pretty good for 100km when all the climbs are short and punchy. 

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I was joined at the event by three teammates. Arlen Wenzel and Spike McLaughlin returned for another go at Battenkill, and Gary Aspnes made his debut. Arlen and Spike rode the Masters 30+ race with me, and Gary was in the Cat 3 race because our race was full. Arlen had a fabulous day, always climbing in the top 20 or 30 riders. He won the field sprint for seventh place. We gave him some flak for not making the six man break on the last climb, but he still had a good day. Spike was off the back of the pack early, but rode in various groups, eventually catching and blowing by me with five miles to go. After getting dropped several times and catching back on several times, I got dropped for good on the climb up to the second feed zone. After that, I was in no man’s land forever and had nothing left when Spike’s small group caught me. I finished in under three hours, which was nice.

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My legs needed a good scrubbing to get rid of all the road grime. My bike is in the garage. I’ll need a fair amount of soap to clean it off in the morning. It is filthy. The Tour of the Battenkills is a wonderful race. This year, they upped the ante and made an entire race weekend. We only went up for the day, but tomorrow, there is a two lap (that’s right!) Pro race and a bicycle tour for non-racers. I think this is a great addition. The race volunteers were awesome and they provided excellent course directions and traffic management. We rode through several picturesque villages and the spectators cheered loudly. As long as this race is held, I’ll be riding it. 

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