Battenkill 2011 Race Report Fred Schmidt

Battenkill 2011 Race Report

A few of us decided in November that is would be a cool idea to race Battenkill this year.  Battenkill is a 62 mile, point-to-point road race in NE New York with a pretty steady cult following.  About 25% of the race is on unpaved roads and you climb about 4000’ over the circuit.  Battenkill starts and finishes in a great little upstate town that looks like it has about 2500 residents.  It is small enough that the local elementary school and high school share the same building.  On race weekend, over 3000 cyclists roll into town and the population probably triples with all the support staff.  We rolled into Battenkill on Saturday after a five hour drive.  One of the great things about the event is the organization.  Registration was a breeze.  Signage, volunteers, bathrooms, results, start/finish, feed zones and whatever else cyclist like to complain about was perfect.  We got into our kit and went for a Saturday afternoon ride.  

We wanted to ride the start since we heard that the first dirt section would be key point in the race before the 1st couple of climbs.   Battenkill is infamous for a covered bridge which marks the real start to the race at about mile 5.  In hind sight, that bridge is like some medieval entry into a forest with things that shall not be named. 


We found some locals boozing it up right after the bridge on Saturday and I was obliged to take a cold Bud Light from the cheering Tifosi. 

 

Race day rolled around and about the only thing I attacked was the breakfast buffet at the hotel.  We got to the race and chilled out w/ 3000 geeky cyclists and waited for our start.  Temps were warmer than we expected and we didn’t have any support for feed zones.  We started in low 50’s and raced in mid-60’s through the middle of the afternoon.  We saw a guy toe the line in full winter kit.  He didn’t make the finish.  After months of stressing about tires, training, and weather; we couldn’t have asked for a better day.  Roads were dry, but dusty.   Wheel support was easy to find.  Start was well organized and off we went.  Three of us in our field from TSV did great entering the first dirt section and over the first climb.  Then it was more like survival instead of racing.  Our Cat 4 group started w/ 125.  We had 5 groups  of 125 of Cat 4’s as well. 

 

 

Climbs vary at Battenkill from saw tooth, to gradual, to steps.  Some were paved but most climbs were on hard packed dirt.  The only thing that I know is that they were all hard.  Guys were getting dropped faster than a dress on prom night on all the climbs.  Alan Foody managed to stay with our lead group until about mile 50.  He managed a respectable 21st place for  his 1st time at Battenkill.  I managed to get gapped going up a climb called Joe Bean and could never catch back on.   I got a group of 10 guys together and we motored along for the next two hours charging down hills and crawling up.  Thankfully most of the group knew how to work a pace line so we bombed it on the down hills and tried to drill it on the flats.  Although you didn’t have many valleys to ride, we did our best.  I ran out of water around mile 45 or 50 and suffered over last few climbs.   Ben Nester had two flats.  A local Bike Shop was cruising the course and tossed him a tube after his second flat.   Ben said the inside of that van looked more like an ambulance with guys that had taken too many chances on downhill and decided to crawl into sag wagon and humbly tip their hat to Battenkill terrain.  I have to say that the course is really hard on your body and tires.  Some of the paved sections were worse than the hard pack unpaved sections.  Potholes were looming around every turn.  Some of the unpaved sections had that loose gravel that made climbing out of the saddle on an 15% grade impossible.  You had to sit and spin to the top and hope you didn’t have your tires slip too much.  One of the best parts about Battenkill is wasting your winter training time talking and thinking about tires, gearing, weather, and training that would get you through the meat grinder.  Similar to the Spring Classics in Europe that we all love to watch, I think half of the race is luck but it was fun to ride.  It isn’t often that we get challenging routes like this at the amateur level. 

I can see why this race has built such a loyal following.  At about mile 45 you really start to question why you participate in such a crazy sport.  When I rolled across the finish I was ready to sign up for next year.  Not sure if it is true but some local told me that average 1st timer brings 1 other person but the next time around it is 4 or more.  All of us are resting and recovering from the weekend but we’ll be back to tackle the hellish conditions in 2012.