Sunday, April 20, 2008

2 How I Won The Tour of the Battenkill

On a trainer I mean....

That's right folks. It was a blazing hot day (80+ degrees) for a 60 mile bike race, which is one of the reasons the photo of me above has almost angelic substance to it (or the photographer is horribly bad. Or the camera sucks, which cannot be the case. Its mine!)

Earlier, the previous evening, the Mayers hosted our short stay. Howard Mayer, with his long white beard which must have a lengthy tale behind it itself, treated us to a story of his 20 or more tractors, volkswagons and his Ford Model-T before a much more interesting session on how to drink Guinness beer Irish style.

Caught an old Model T in the garage. She needs a paint job, don't you think?

An auspicious full moon hangs above

After a night of peaceful slumber, we woke up to find ourselves in the midst of rural country.

Calves in the backyard

Off Howard goes early morning in an intimidating tractor

We headed to Salem to do some racing. The lots were full of cars. If anyone was caught riding around on grass or roads without a helmet at 5mph, he would be 'disqualified'. I thought that was pretty lame. But rules are rules, what can you do?


The guy next to our car was all tricked out with tri spoke wheels and all. But on dirt roads? Okay, he could have won the race too...

The first race number of the season I pinned on with some hope.

It seems I was in the Cat 4 Men's 'black' with a total of 102 starters.

We rolled out of the start house a quarter after noon. The air was dry and pretty hot and there was nervous energy in the big pack as we handled the first dirt roads of the day, the beginnings of which were mild until one of them shot up a nice 10-15% gradient. There was dust and confusion in the air as racers from other categories mixed in with us and shouts to move out of the way came from right, left and center. It was a mess and deeply annoying. Some got easily messed up with speed and mechanicals that they had to mount off their bikes and walk.

I however, kept climbing on my bike. My buddy Dave Kina said later that day ,'I saw so many getting off and walking but I saw you on your bike and I said to myself, if Ron can do it so can I.'

I'm glad I motivated him. The problem is, Dave, I didn't win the damn race!!

In all the confusion, I kept my own pace and stuck with some guys for some 10 miles or so. The main pack had already disappeared.

The scenery was gorgeous, and riding on stones and dirt made for a jarry Paris-Roubaix like experience. It was classy. Not many races in the country will afford you something like this, I assure you.

But for a long race like this, with temperatures soaring, I thought there could have been more feed zones.

Because after mile 40, with some 3500 feet of climbing in the legs, my body asked for water and water it didn't find anywhere. Things really got difficult from then on, and I grit my teeth and managed a 20mph pace somehow, most of it alone. I think I may be exaggerating but I felt I almost neared dehydration at some point before we got to a town. Ladies passed us the first bottles of cold water. I drank some but splashed most over my head and face. I took two, maybe three but they still didn't satisfy.

Towards the end of the course, I joined with another guy named Mike who was cramping and hurting but we somehow encouraged each other to keep pedaling. After the last long stretch of dirt road that was wildly exaggerated on the course map, our speeds dropped to 1o, maybe 15 mph and it soon became a training ride from then on.

Those last miles of road were painful. Not too many straight sections. Roads kept rolling and going all over the place which disturbed our rhythms a bit. Exchanging water bottles and pedaling along, we talked about cycling and racing. Marshalls were packing up to leave and some were looking for water themselves! That was hilarious.

After 3 and a half hours in the saddle, we crossed the finish line and it was all done. The race was really fun and painful, don't get me wrong. I monstrously gulped down a can of 7-UP and visited a restaurant in town for a big post race meal over a rock band grooving.

If it weren't for the long drive home ahead of us, I would ride my bike all over the roads of the Battenkill country. And maybe take some more pictures as well.

I looked up the results today. Out of 102 starters, 91 finished. I was the last to cross the line, with the same time as Mike's. The experience was truly great and I hope to do it again next year, and better! I better!


  1. Ron,

    Glad you had a good experience at Battenkill. It is a one of a kind race! And it looks like you got the full experience on the farm!


  2. Maureen : We had a pleasant little time. Things were very interesting down there, and everyone was very helpful. Hope you're doing fine!


Thank you. I read every single comment.