Yesterday we sa a recap from a long-time road racing veteran in Maurice. Today, the opposite end of the spectrum. This was Eric's first road race ever. No crits, no local road races, maybe not even any shop rides. Feet first, head first - no matter which way you look at it he went right to the deep end of the poop. Here is his view.
Battenkill - My first road race. Words can't describe the anxiousness I had the week leading up to this one. It was all I could think about. I'v'e participated in group rides, centuries and countless long road rides with lots of elevation, but not in the form of a race. My race experience is primarily on dirt, grass and mud. This is a whole different game with different rules and strategy. I didn't come out expecting to win, in fact I predicted that I'd probably end up mid pack. I was treating this more as a learning experience.
I don't want to draw this out so I'll get right to my race. I started in the front, I think I was the 2nd or third guy back when we rolled out. The neutral start was something Iv'e never experienced before. Much more gentleman like than the "READY-SET-GO!!!!!" balls out starts in MTB and Cross. I was glad to warm up the legs and get a feel everyone around me. Seemed like we just coasted for the first 5-6 miles. Most of us were chit-chatting as we cruised steadily up 313, the only thing we were missing was tea. Shortly after the covered bridge everyone put their game faces on and we eased into a hotter pace. The race officially began on the Perry Hill Rd. Climb.
Perry Hill rd. was the first of many climbs that would start filtering out the group. I knew it would happen eventually but didn't plan on getting spit out the back of the lead group that early on. And by the time we began climbing up Juniper Swamp, the lead group was already pulling ahead. Oh well, thats racing. The rest of us got pretty strung out into 2's and 3's and each successive hill broke everyone up even more. Now we're in chase mode fruitlessly trying to catch the leaders but this was not to be.
From here on out I found myself jumping from group to group and also riding solo in the wind at times. The elevation combined with the varying skill levels of my fellow Cat5 racers made it difficult to keep a solid paceline going for any extended period. The wind was strong at times and I burned a lot of matches chasing down groups I'd see in the distance.
I was pleasantly surprised to see my girlfriend Megan with her hand out with a water bottle for me at feed zone 1. I did not expect her to do this but man, she's on top of it! She executed a perfect hand off and I was happy to know I wouldn't dehydrate! I rode with a group of 4 guys for he next 20 miles or so. At this point, I know I'm probably about mid pack.
Feed zone 2 near Meeting house road. Megan was there again with another bottle for me and a banana already opened. Man, she's good! Meeting house road was extremely dusty with large loose rocks. Racers were flatting everywhere. I got passed by the over 35 lead group as well as their support vehicle. They kicked up a sand storm as they flew by. It seemed like Meeting House road is where the race became a death march for many. This is where I saw the most racers from different fields and everyone looked like hell. The sun exposure, heat and dust gave this road a real desert like feel.
By now, I'm cramping everywhere and my lower back is killing me. Weakened by this, my avg speed is dropping. Hit the pavement after meeting house and cruise as best as I could working with another guy in the 35+ Cat all the way to Stage rd. Stage road…Oi, that was a doozey. I read that it pitches up 3 times and not to be fooled into thinking it's over until you hit pavement. Glad that I opted for an 11/27 cassette. I look over my shoulder and notice 4 guys that are in my field. I didn't wan't to loose any more spots so I hit the gas. By the time I crested Stage road I knew I was home free. I put the pedal to the metal and gave it all I had (which wasn't much) from this point on. Surprisingly I was taken out by a guy in my field with less than 1 mile to go. Unfortunately, I did not have it i me to chase so I let him go. Fnished 23 of 42 starters, 39 finishers Cat 5 blue with a time of 3:24.
Final thoughts: The production was top notch and much more elaborate than any race Iv'e done in the past. This was a great experience, top to bottom and I will definitely return for another shot next year. Maybe even train specifically for it and make it a priority.