Sitting in the team bus as I write this, we’re on our way to training camp in the Georgia mountains. We’ve been driving for about 15 hours and are officially deep in the south. Yesterday was the ever so epic Battenkill Roubaix in Cambridge New York, which is a favourite race of mine to do.
This year it was a nice, sunny, but cool day with lots of wind. We had 133km on the agenda for the Cat 2 start, with about 100 guys on the line. Early on there were the usual riders randomly attacking that makes you wonder about what these people think, attacking and going as hard as they can for all of 30 seconds into a tailwind, only to get swept up by the pack who is freewheeling. However, after a while 2 guys put in the whole effort to actually get a gap, and they set off for what would be a long day in the saddle.
Battenkill Roubaix is named after the hellishly brutal Paris Roubaix for the pros that was today going from just outside Paris to the velodrome in Roubaix. The pro race is known for its sections of cobblestone roads that wreak havoc on the riders. Naturally, there are no cobbles in the US, so they substitute many dirt roads, with potholes that seem to be strategically placed by the organizers. The first dirt section came after only 8 km, and this is where things started going wrong for many riders, including me. With so many huge potholes in the road, it was impossible to avoid all of them. I clunked over a big one and then looked down in despair as I saw one of my precious bottles go crashing to the ground. This wouldn’t be so bad, but unfortunately I told Toby I woulnd’t need a bottle until the 2nd feed zone, which meant I had some serious rationing to do with my one remaining bottle.
The race was puttering along at a very chill pace, with nobody overly concerned about anything. This was a big change from the euro racing where if you lose focus for a second you find yourself at the back. Although this easy pace can be nice, it’s also frusterating when there is a break just gaining time. Anders and I, the only two Hot Tubes riders in the race, tried to get away numerous times while there was still lots of time left, but everyone was so fresh that they would just mark you and sit on. That is really frusterating, but it seems as though everyone just sees every break as a threat, and not an opportunity for them if they will work with it. In any case, the race remained together going along fairly easily. Right about here there were some more problems for me. Someone kicked up a stick on a dirt section and it found its way into my spokes. Of course, when it came around to the fork, it sent me back wheel kicking up into the air and jolted me pretty good. I didn’t crash, but did break a couple spokes and needed to change a wheel. Not a big deal, there was a bunch of climbing in the next few kilometres and it didn’t seem like it would be a problem to get back, but as soon as the wheel car went zooming past me back to the group, I flatted the wheel he just gave me! Now I had a problem, because the next wheel car was a ways back! Anyway, after getting it all sorted out I just tried not to panic and eventually got my way back into the group.
Everything stayed pretty similar to the start, with the break getting about 5 minutes with 40km to go. This is where the real racing starts though, with steep, punishing climbs that break the field into groups of 2 or 3, tops. Anders and I turned the screws here, really hard. After not much time at all the lead group that was 80 or so guys was down to 3: Anders, me, and some guy from California. We both knew we could go faster with just the two of us working together like a well oiled machine, so we knew it was time to put this guy through misery, but just then I ran into more troubles, big ones this time. I heard the horrible sounds of my rear wheel losing all its tire pressure, and with the peleton strung out for as long as the eye could see over the climbs, the wheel car was nowhere close. I wished Anders luck, and then sat by the road with my bike. I literally had time to take a leak, drink some water, eat part of a Clif bar, and then sit some more before the car came. My day was done. After changing the wheel I finished up hard for nothing but the training benefit, and finished a very disappointed kid. The good news is Anders got 3rd, only 50 seconds back of 2nd place and a little over a minute back of the winner. That’s not too bad considering they had 5 minutes! The thing that really stings is that I’m really confident that with the two of us, we could have flown across that gap and we would have had 2 guys in a lead group of 4. Anyway, that’s just racing and shit happens, but I do wish I could get some love from Battenkill, the exact same thing happened last year!
On another note, I want to say a huge, huge congratulations to my teammate Lawson Craddock, who got 3rd in the junior version of Paris Roubaix! This is essentially a shorter version of the pro race, but covers most of the cobbles section. It’s basically the hardest parts of the pro race, and with the best juniors in the world, that’s an awesome result! Of course it’s no surprise, but it certainly deserves some recognition, so way to go Lawson!