Our friend Pat Luckow has been riding and racing on November bikes and wheels for the last several years as he climbs (literally and figuratively - he's an uphill freak) through the categories. When his cherished Wheelhouse was destroyed in a car accident (don't get rear-ended when you have a hitch rack), he became one of the first to buy a Timoneria. Since we didn't get to experience Battenkill ourselves, I asked Pat to write about his day at one of America's great spring races. Enjoy
The Battenkill Cat3 race was a large field, as usual, with well over 100 starters. Everyone was in good spirits as we lined on a sunny Saturday morning, with uncharacteristic temperatures in the 60s. Odd for this typically gritty Northeastern Classic in upstate New York, but I was happy to be able to wear shorts after the never ending winter of misery. 68 miles of rolling roads with 12 miles of gravel, here we come.
I was trying to target this race as I transition from pure-climber to lanky hard man extraordinaire. The week before I had crushed the local hard group ride, and done some quick openers Friday morning. My teammates and I drove from Boston to Vermont for the night and got dinner at the excellent Madison Brewing Co in Bennington. I chose to line up on my Timoneria, with my go-to wheels of choice, Rail 34s. To keep the flats at bay I switched from GP4000s to 23mm Conti 4 Seasons. They measure at 25.8mm, but look skinner than the 4000s. I could go lower than my standard 95psi, but I wanted to avoid flats on the inevitable, unavoidable dirt hole.
They shifted the course this year, starting at the Washington County Fairgrounds and hitting out to Meetinghouse Rd, the first dirt climb, at mile 10. The race to be at the front was on, and before I knew it I got shoved back from the top 10 to the back half of the pack. Despite the huge field I was able to pick my line, and between the climb, the subsequent fast gravel decent, and steeper stair-stepper climb up Stage Rd. a few miles later, I was able to get back towards the front, but not before watching four guys roll off the front.
Juniper Swamp road, a short steep climb at mile 35, was a couple inches of gritty dirt last year, causing folks to dismount and walk. Unfortunately, given that I handled it fine last year, the dry roads made it a pretty straightforward little ring climb that me and my Timoneria floated up. This whittled what was left of the field to about forty, and the following climb brought it down again to 15. At some point I rode straight into a several-inch deep hole in the ground. Made it out mudsplattered, but unscathed and flat-free. I wasn’t feeling much oomph in my legs and took the opportunity to catch my breath, watching an NCVC rider from DC go up the road and hoping someone would chase. A few did, but the group waited. We hit a headwind, the pace slowed, the gap to the break grew, and our group swelled back to 40 or so. With 3k to go this group attacked each other relentlessly. I got gapped, and led out a small group of 10 guys with 500m to go. After a sharp right back into the fairgrounds, I got passed by this entire group in the last 200m after sprinting like a tired climber, and ended up 30th on the day. Not the result I was hoping for, but a great day nonetheless. And excellent post-race hangouts with biking buds I haven’t seen for awhile from Massachusetts, Vermont, Rhode Island, and the old homestead in DC. It’ll be a good season.