I (Pat) lined up in one of the many 4’s fields at Battenkill with Kolie, Brendan, Tod, Josue, Ed, surrounded by a bunch of New Yorkers I didn’t know. I was ready to rock, fueled by a couple excellent rice cakes (thanks Ed!). The amusing announcer and rock music at the start line only made me more eager to ride my bike fast and hard.
10:18 hit and we were off. Things started off slow and steady, but as soon as we hit the first dirt section we realized it could be a messy day, thanks to quite a bit of overnight rain. The field was happy to oblige me riding at the front at an easy pace, and I didn’t mind the opportunity to navigate the dirt without navigating people. One of the first little climbs I was unhappy to see Ed on the side of the road with a dropped chain, but before I knew it he was back in it, and promptly shepherded me back up towards the front before the Perry Hill/Juniper Swamp climbs.
Kolie offered to set me up for an attack at one of these spots, but unfortunately the silly crazy dirt/mud mixture made handling a challenge for me. On one of the dirt climbs around mile 30 I had to get off and walk because I couldn’t get any traction. Kolie and I never found each other. The next couple dirt sections were also a mess – the flat or downhill ones were just as bad. At one point I nearly came to a stop trying to navigate the 4 inches of mud, while Brendan was putting on a clinic floating right through it. This plus a couple other challenge climbs and dirt sections whittled the group down to 15. Brendan was looking great and I had high hopes for him if it came to a sprint. We chugged along at a decent pace and before we knew it we were seeing signs for Cambridge. And crossing the finish line? Somehow the lead car had led us astray and we missed the final two tough climbs and finished the race 20 miles early.
After about 10 minutes of the 15 of us hanging out near the finish line, one of the race organizers led us back out to the course in the trademark ‘battenkll” car (with 5 miles of neutral to get there). To my dismay Brendan realized on the way out that his crank was falling out. He made the safe call and turned around and headed for home. Meanwhile I took advantage of this lull to get some food and drink in my system. The 14 of us left kept it pretty chill until the Meeting House road climb (mile 59 of the day). Up the climb we went steady but at a somewhat challenging pace and the group shrunk to 7. This fantastic little band of brothers again kept the pace steady to hold off any chasers, with some merry banter along the way. Everyone was both in the money and looking forward to some upgrade points, so spirits were high.
Around mile 67 disaster struck. We hit the stage road climb and I was really feeling the effects of the days efforts so far. First one guy popped, and as I went around him another guy lost the wheel. Next it was my turn. The lead four stuck together and quickly opened up a large gap. As I crested the hill I looked back and saw the two others and decided to sit up and wait for them – ended up being an excellent decision. We worked well together, or, um, they did a lot of excellent work for me. I took a couple short pulls but couldn’t manage to do much work at all. We got to within a couple hundred meters of the lead four with 2km to go, but could never quite shut it down. At 1km to go we saw the leaders begin attacking eachother, but we kept it steady, racing our own race. One of my fellow chasers began falling off/barely holding my wheel at this point. With about 200m to go I sprinted around the other for 5th place. I didn’t feel great about not doing much work in the chase, but was eager to try a sprint and get some upgrade points. Kolie also got in a great result, and was actually the 5th person to cross the finish line (well before our group finished!) for a solid 16th overall.
Overall it was a great day at the races and I really appreciated hanging out and talking shop with teammates. I’m optimistic for lots more success this year, both personally and as a team.