The 2015 Tour of Battenkill was one of the biggest motivating factors for me to train hard through this extremely cold winter. I really enjoyed the challenge of racing the Tour of Battenkill last year and wanted another crack at the race. This is a unique race for most participants because it is a chance to race a road race that is longer than many other events and challenges riders over its entire length. This is the type of course that isn’t all that hard in any one place, it adds up on you by the end of the race(at least that has been my experience and that of many other racers that I’ve talked to and watched.)
Here’s my 2015 Tour of Battenkill Race Report!
After last year, I felt that I had unfinished business at the Tour of Battenkill.
I had raced the category 2 race after receiving my upgrade from cat 3 the previous fall and wasn’t sure exactly what I’d be in for. The race in 2014 felt manageable to me but after 65 miles I had a physical meltdown and only managed a mid-field finish off the back. Not what I had hoped for.
With experience from the 2014 Tour of Battenkill and a year of racing at the Cat 1/2 level, I was excited to race the 2015 edition and put those lessons learned to use. For 2015, the course was changed up, starting on the opposite side of the circuit from previous editions of the race. This meant that the famous Meeting House Rd. section of the course would be the first real challenge that racers would face and it also meant that the Cat 2 race would do two early loops including this section to add miles to the circuit.
I went to the race without any teammates in my race. I would be on my own and able to freelance. I figured that an early breakaway was likely to form on the opening loops. My strategy was to try to conserve energy during the beginning of the race to avoid the implosion I experienced the previous year and because I figured that would play into my strengths for later in the race. My goal was to get over the Joe Bean Rd. climb in the front group and then let the chips fall where they may.
Saturday turned out to be a beautiful spring day, the total opposite of the previous year, when it was cold and wet. The racing started out quite aggressively, with a small group of riders getting off the front going into the first trip over Meeting House Rd. There was not a concerted chase by the field at this early stage in the race. We completed the first loop and started onto the second trip over Meeting House Rd.
After rolling through this section of gravel, another small group went off the front. This started with two riders and then a third attacked. I was just off of his wheel when he went and was about to join him when a rider swung into my way and closed me off against the edge of the road. Then another rider attacked and started to bridge from the outside. Again, I was in the wrong spot to join him.
As this group was consolidating off the front, a couple more riders got clear. I was able to jump this time but was quickly marked by the field. There was a pause and I jumped again and again the field didn’t want to let anyone else go up the road. I watched as the riders off the front joined up. They would go on to survive the day. I had missed the move and realized that they likely wouldn’t be caught since there were so many teams represented. The racing continued to be aggressive but nothing would manage to stay off the front. The pace was high enough on the hills that there were not really any attacks or moves on these sections. Riders would continue to try to get away in between the hills for the rest of the race, and this kept the overall pace high throughout the race. Prior to the race, I guessed that the Juniper Swamp Rd. climb would be the point in the race where tired legs would start to show up and this proved to be true. I found the pace up the steep section of this hill hard to hold and gambled on easing up a little bit to conserve my legs and chase on the decent(knowing the course was helpful in making this decision.) This paid off as I was just off the back over this climb but was able to chase back on over the following mile.
When we reached Joe Bean Rd., the pace was hard (at least for me) and I wasn’t able to hold on. Suddenly I just couldn’t put out the power that I had been on the other hills. I crested the hill and went into chase mode but when I shifted to my big ring, my chain wouldn’t go up. I messed around with my shifter and derailleur for a minute trying to get things going. I finally reached down and lifted the chain up to the big ring. By this time a group of 5-6 riders had passed me as did the moto official. When I finally got going, I was able to quickly catch this chase group. We worked pretty well together, but since we all had been dropped on the climb, we were all pretty tired and never saw the main peloton again.
We climbed that last small hill and started the final long decent to the finish climb. We hit the finish climb and I was totally spent and a bit deflated. I climbed at tempo pace and finished the race, stopping my Garmin at 3:46. Not bad for 86+ miles. This was not the result I was looking for and I was certainly disappointed on several accounts. I had recognized that the break was dangerous as it was forming but failed to get in it and then didn’t have the legs to stick with the field over the last climb.
The race had felt hard to me but I knew that I had finished 3 more miles than the previous year in 25 fewer minutes than the 2014 race, averaging 2+ mph faster than the previous year. When I was able to sit down and evaluate my power data from the race I found that my normalized power was 20 watts higher than the year before. I also hadn’t experienced the total blow up that I did the previous year.
While I was hoping to have a better finish result, I had certainly improved from the previous year. I had better times on all of the significant hills than the previous year. I put out 20% more time above my threshold than I did in 2014 but didn’t do unnecessary work. This was silver lining for me. I still have unfinished business at the Tour of Battenkill. I look forward to going back again and putting together the race I know I am capable of but am happy to have made significant improvements. I got beaten by smarter and stronger riders.
I also gained more valuable experience. I know what I need to do to improve my result at this race in the future. I have work to do but I have a good grasp on where to focus that work to be there at that end of the race the next time.
I can’t wait to get another crack at this classic race.
Get the complete guide to conquering the Tour of Battenkill along with a specific Battenkill training plan. The guide and training plan will be available on Dec. 4, 2015, but the pre-sale is open now and you can get a special, limited time price by ordering today. You won’t be billed until Dec. 4, but you will be sure to get a great deal that won’t last!