By Mike Burris, USA Cycling Coach and Burris Logistics-Fit Werx Team Director.
Oooooh baby! The Tour of the Battenkill was a good one. Having never done it before, it certainly exceeded my expectations. I would rank it up there with the hardest races in the North East. I would also rank it as one of the most enjoyable. The race directors did a fabulous job and I send them many shout outs for putting on such a great race.
Now about the race itself: Category 30+, 62 miles, sun, wind, temps hoovering in the area of high 40s to low 50s. The questions: 2 water bottles or 3? Leg warmers or embrocation? Vest, no vest? The answers: 3 bottles, warmers, and the vest.
Thankfully I stuck an extra water bottle in my vest. When we hit the first dirt road section, not even 30 seconds into it, I hit a pot hole so hard I thought I’d snapped my steering tube. One of my bottles went flying and my handlebars shifted forward. Now my brake hoods looked like Andy Shleck’s and my computer was at a 45 degree angle. I thought about stopping, but I resigned myself to riding on the tops and surviving on two water bottles.
I settled in after that jarring beginning and concentrated on my position especially before the climbs. I would start the climbs in the front. Sometimes I would stay there. Sometimes I would drift back. Either way, I stayed with the lead group. The pace was fairly relaxed except for the climbs. The boys hit the gas on the climbs. Hard. On the flats we cruised at a slow enough pace that many racers that were dropped on the climbs managed to reconnect. I didn’t quite get this. I got used to navigating the dirt sections so as to not hit any more pot holes. It did hit a few, but not as hard.
The final kilometers included some deep rollers and a final climb, before flattening out to the finish. With about 10 K to go, the leaders hit the gas and strung out what was left of the peloton. I was at the back which was poor positioning on my part. A small group of riders escaped leaving the rest of us looking like a splintered mess.
It was clear that this situation deflated most of those left in the wake of the leaders. We started to reassemble and organize a chase, but only a few ponied up to pull. I still had some legs and thankfully it was enough to take off with two other guys and gun it for the finish. We finished just under 4 minutes behind the winner.
The Tour of the Battenkill is the kind of race that makes you better, no matter what happens. You will never improve unless you really challenge yourself. For me, this race was the perfect length and intensity at this stage of training. It will surely pay dividends over the next few weeks. My results could have been better (I think I could have been top 20), but not bad at all. I am definitely satisfied with my performance and I know exactly what I need to work on in weeks to come.
Mike Burris is the Director of Impulse CYCLEsport. Mike is a USA Cycling certified coach, the Training Director at epicPlanet.tv, and the Team Director of the Burris Logistics-Fit Werx Masters Racing Team. Mike always enjoys working with a variety of athletes. For more information go to www.impulsecyclesport.com