Sunday, April 19, 2009

Dirt and chaos at the Tour of the Battenkill

Tour of the Battenkill is a unique race in that the racers ride bikes that were specifically not designed for the conditions at hand. In this case, that included twisting descents and crazy steep climbs of dirt and sand. This year I met up with two of my teammates, Stuart Wight and Gavin Mannion, at the race before heading south with the team to a training camp in Georgia.

The race started off easy enough, as the first dirt section had to be removed because it was unridable. However, the fireworks started soon enough with the climb over Juniper Swamp road. My teammates and I led into the climb and all emerged at the top in the first five riders. Just getting up it was a tough enterprise, so climbing it in the middle of the pack was pretty much impossible. Surprisingly, the pace was pretty easy between dirt sections, and the pack was pretty much all together at mile 60. My teammates and I tried to lead into all the dirt sections to stay out of trouble. One descent was so fast and the corners so sharp that the first ten riders went right off the road. I grabbed some brakes and realized that my rear wheel was about a foot to the right. Somehow I made it out and exited the dirt with another grin on my mud-covered face.

Finally the hammer got dropped a little after mile 60. Gavin and I made the split into a group of about 15, and Stuart flatted just as the move went, ending his chances for the day. I attacked the group, got caught, then Gavin attacked, but a group of 3 caught him before the finish. I came in with the next group for 8th, and Gavin took second because he ran out of gears in the downhill sprint. In the interest of team bonding, I helped Gavin down his prize, a half gallon of fresh made chocolate milk.

Immediately after, Stuart, Gavin and I left with Toby and Gabriella for the long drive to team camp in Georgia. I was interested to see how my new invention of "Ultra-Lite Travel Bags" would hold up, since I used plastic garbage bags. The invention needs some fine tuning for sure. After a week of training in the north Georgia mountains, my teammates and I will be departing for our European adventures.

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