Hello everyone. I have been remiss in filling updates to my semi-weekly online journal (I tell people that I’ve been avoiding the label ‘blog,’ but I don’t think I can run forever). If you have found yourself missing my musings, you can blame my boss, Dick Drummond, who has kept me very busy at the shop. Since returning from California, I have been fed a steady diet of spring tune-ups and new bike builds. It’s been fun to share the energy and excitement that the arrival of spring weather brings to cyclists in the Upper Valley.
Of course, anyone who has experienced a spring in the Upper Valley will recognize the fallacy embedded in that statement. That is, of course, what counts for spring in New Hampshire is probably closer to blustery winter weather in most other parts of the world. This spring was no exception; with an April full of its fair share of rain, snow, high winds, and frigid temperatures. If you’re anything like me, this is the most demoralizing part of the long New England winter, as it seems to drag on interminably with no end in sight. Just when you’re ready to relinquish all hope of spring actually arriving (around the first week in May), we are graced with three consecutive days of decent weather, and we can finally say that “Spring has sprung!”
I was probably in a better frame of mind about the reluctant arrival of spring considering that I had spent the worst months of winter in sunny Santa Barbara, California. The only thing that I truly missed was being able to ride the wide array of dirt roads that the Upper Valley has to offer. If you ride in the Upper Valley and don’t ride on roads like Beaver Meadow, Goose Pond, Fay Brook, and more, you are missing some of the best riding our area has to offer. Take this as the exhortation you need to put some 25c tires on your bike and ride some dirt! Of course, you’ll have to wait for a few more weeks of dry weather to ride many of the roads. With all the rain and the considerable snowmelt, many of my favorite roads are still slippery, rutted, and muddy!
I did manage to get my fill of dirt on a few occasions in April. The first was, of course, the Tour of the Battenkill, on April 10. The dirt roads around Cambridge, NY were fast, smooth, and dry. This was fortunate for heavier riders like me, because we were not forced to slog through the soft dirt that lighter competitors can glide over. As a result, the 150 rider field covered the 100 mile course at a relatively fast pace, finishing in just over four hours. Because no professional team fielded a complete squad, the racing was aggressive and open. Several riders escaped in the three opening laps, which featured three ascents of Juniper Swamp Road. About 35 miles into the race, Jesse Anthony, a Kelly Benefits rider, escaped solo. He bridged up to a small group of riders and raced past them, riding alone off the front of the peloton. While there were attacks on the climbs, no team had the man-power to organize a productive chase. As a result, the gap between the leader and the peloton was never reduced to less than 1 minute.
The one rider who was able to keep the gap from growing any greater was my teammate, Jamey Driscoll, who pulled valiantly on all of the flat sections of the course between each dirt section. Approaching Stage Road, the final climb of the day, there were three riders off the front and Jamey pulled hard to keep them within reach. With a crosswind blowing from our right, I asked Jamey to move as far to the left side of the road as he could. Because there was a yellow-line rule in effect, we were forced to ride in the middle of the road, but it had the effect of what we call, “putting it in the gutter.” Basically, all of the riders behind us were either forced to ride to our right (and face the wind) or file in on the left side of the yellow line in violation of the rules. Of course, almost everyone chose the latter option, which sent the Official on his motorcycle into an apoplectic fit. He implored us to ride further to the right-hand side of the road, to which we replied, “we’re going to ride wherever we want. After all, we’re still to the right of the yellow-line.” Later, after Jamey slid to the back of the field, he heard two officials conferring with one another, but there was nothing they could do.
Pro-Tip: In a bike race, you are responsible for yourself and the other members of your team. Favors given will sometimes be returned, but when the race is on the line, you have only one responsibility, and that is to figure out how to win.
By this point, the field had been reduced to about 50 riders, and I knew that if I hung with the group up the climb, I would be in a good position to take the sprint. If we caught some of the riders who had escaped, we may even have the chance to sprint for a podium finish. Unfortunately, two riders slipped away on the climb, and held a slim advantage (2-3 seconds) all the way to the finish-line. Coming through the rerouted finish, I moved myself as far to the front as I could, and came through the final corner second-wheel. I launched my sprint with about 200 meters to go and held it to the line for sixth place. I was pleased with the finish on what was a challenging course, racing against a strong field. I hope that it bodes well for continued success this season.
Next up is a two-week trip to Arkansas and Missouri for the Joe Martin Stage Race, and the Tour de Grove, both events on the National Racing Calendar. Stay tuned for reports from these events and more. For now, enjoy the spring. Most importantly, get out there and explore!