Most people associate Hunter Mountain with skiing however Saturday they held the first annual Hunter Mountain Spring Classic Road Race. The same people that do Battenkill, Tour of the Dragons, Tour of the Catskills and a handful of other ultra punishment road races put on this race.
I shared the ride up with Shawn Ericksen (Elite racing cat3) and Alex Cooper (Tenafly Road Dawgs cat 4) on what was about as perfect weather conditions and as beautifully clear sky as you could have. Sunny clear and cool (60s ish). Walking over to registration I introduce them to my teammates Ben and Kush, as they are both in these guys groups. The overall vibe was really great and I have to think that the weather had everyone in particularly good spirits. I was a bit surprised and glad to see Roger of Fincraft there for his first race since his severe crash last season. Great to see him back in racing action on a bike.
This race is 80mi, 5k' of climbing and although not super hot it was going to get a little warmer and regardless it’s a long way to go with no water. I was concerned about being short a bottle but I wasn't going to carry 4. Ultimately it didn't turn out to be an issue and they did have a feed station shortly after the lap 2 start where they handed out poland spring bottles and I was able to snag one. Oh that reminds me, as I entered the feed zone at the start of lap 2 I had my empty in my back pocket so I went to toss it off the side of the road by the 300m to go sign so that I knew where to find it later and my toss had such amazing aim that it actually hit the post that the sign was mounted on sending it shooting back like a grenade hitting one of those baseball practice thingys and launching it right back into the pack. I held my breath for a few seconds praying I wasn't about to take everybody down. Yikes.
I'm not going to give a play by play but to summarize, the front of my group stayed together for the most part all the way to the big climb in the second lap which was around 65 miles in. At this point we were down to 7 riders and this is where I began to struggle a bit. For the first time I had to work harder to stay on and sure enough another rider and myself came unhitched not far from the top. This was very physically and mentally frustrating because I knew if I could just hang on for like 15-30 seconds longer I would be able to stay with the lead group probably to the end. Amazing how a race 80 miles long comes down to critical seconds. When we got over this I could see that someone else had popped also and was dangling between the leaders and myself. I worked like a bastard to get to that person fast enough before they totally popped so that we could work together and try and get back on. But as I have experienced so many times this always seems much more possible in your mind than in real life. We chased for 15 miles and were never able to close that down but holy crap was that hard just to maintain that gap of what eventually became like a minute. So close...
In closing, overall it was a great race experience and I would highly recommend this to anyone looking to do a long road race that has 2 major things going for it logistically: first it is not quite as early in the season as Bkill so you are likely to be in better shape for a big event and second, it is significantly closer to get to than Bkill. Course is also much easier on your body and equipment, there were holes but they were clearly marked, nothing compared to Bkill terrain. In closing, this is likely a not to miss event for the predictable future for me. Oh and lastly can we make arrangements for the same weather next year?