Friday, April 20, 2012

Battenkill: Ben's View

Last but certainly not least is long time race veteran Ben. He was in the cat 3 class with Fred, and like many, just before and through Meeting House was a tough spot in his race. This is the last of the 4 part Battenkill wrap-up series. Hopefully these series wrap-ups will be an ongoing theme in 2012 for the team.

I got up to Saratoga Springs on Friday in time to enjoy dinner and relax. My race began at 10:10 with Fred. Looking around the start, I knew only Fred and a Van Dessel guy, Zebulon Nelesen. Fred points out one of his CX buddies that I should look out for. I couldn't get too excited about that. There are about 120 guys to look out for.

I was comfy and riding among the top 20-30 for nearly 50 miles. Went just below my limit up Juniper Swamp Rd. I knew that would be required so I was just happy to have it behind me. I was just ahead of a small gap at the top but it all came back together quick.

The middle portions were non-eventful. 4 guys attacked going into the feed zone. Three joined them soon after. Knowing that was dangerous, a few racers including myself convinced others to pick up the pace. That group was likely off the front for 20 minutes before getting reabsorbed.

Through the middle of the race, we were catching dropped riders from earlier racers. There was a little confusion. Guys were barking about a break but the pace car was just ahead. Next time I look ahead and the pace car is gone. Two guys got away and I thought they were random riders from other races. That is one of my few gripes about this race. Towards the end, there are bodies everywhere.

We hit Wrights Rd which was a left turn onto a dirt climb around mile 44. I went straight to the limit knowing that the day was going to end for many at that point. I struggle over the top to hold onto wheels with about 10 guys in front of me. The next bit is a blur. A large group of +/- 30 riders reforms during a flatter portion of that climb. As we approached the second feed, things got strung out single file and I couldn't maintain it. As I entered the second feed zone, the group was exiting with a few riders dangling off the back like myself.

Other dangling dropped riders and I, made our way through Meeting House Rd. just ignoring each other. We were all suffering in different ways. I seemed to be the one struggling most going up while making up ground on flat and down portions or that rolling dirt road. I felt the heat hit me like a wall. 

I recall cresting a rise and then descending on pavement towards a right turn. Three dropped riders were coming together about 10sec ahead of me. I look behind and see no one. Fvck, I need to close this gap NOW or I am done. Knowing the guys would slow through the turn, I busted ass and counted on some cornering skills to make the gap. I was going fast enough that I got nervous and the race marshals looked like they were about to crap themselves.

I catch the small group and we begin working. Some guy comes out of no where from behind and helps. One guy is not contributing so we begin a rotation and do our best to keep him from screwing up the effort. The lead group is just a 1/4 mile away. What a friggin tease! We work together as well as dropped riders can and were actually making up ground. It was actually very entertaining and suspenseful.

As the covered bridge adjacent to Stage Rd. came into site, we genuinely thanked one another for the effort and said, "Good luck!" I was literally 100' behind the wheel van as we all hit Stage Rd. Unfortunately, the lead group consisted of the best in my race or more rested riders than I who had been drafting. I had been working near my limit for 25 minutes [I]leading up to[/I] Stage Rd.

Once on Stage Rd., all bets were off. The leaders turned themselves inside out. The remaining riders in that pack were able to continue faster than me. I hate to say it but my goal was to be in that group at the base of Stage Rd. Then it would have been [I]mano a mano[/I] and I would earn whatever result I got.

I made it over Stage Rd. as fast as I could but only passed guys from other races. I dive bombed the descent after. Passing guys so fast I couldn't tell if they were in my race or not. On the flat run in to the finish, I was behind one of my chase companions and could not real him in. I turned myself inside out. Felt the tell-tale signs of cramping begin in one hamstring.

I finished 32nd of 107 starters. 3:10 behind the winner. I was expecting to be in the top 30 and was hoping for a top 20. 32nd is close enough. I would have been bummed if I had just gotten dropped and rode the rest in without a fight. As I said, the chase was pretty entertaining. I was pretty happy to make up ground on the approach to Stage Rd. As my tires went from pavement to dirt on Stage Rd., I knew they were all going to ride away from me again. I just put my head down, found my happy place, and rode the rest out.

You can see from my HR data where my race blew up at mile 45. I popped off the back about 1/2 way up that climb in the profile. My HR drops slightly as I form the chase. The remainder was just everything I had left.

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