Race Report: Tour of the Battenkill

By: Embrocation Apr 29

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The Tour of the Battenkill is the closest thing I have to a home-town race, having lived in upstate New York for a good swath of my young adulthood. I grew up, as it were, riding those roads – testing myself on the repeated hills, dirt roads and whipping winds. As such, I look forward to Battenkill all year and think that it’s one of the best-organized and most intense races of the calendar. I knew heading into this year’s race that the team was well-prepared and motivated for a result. I’m happy to say the result was just about as good as we could have hoped for.

The weather on race day was about as expected for upstate New York in mid April: windy, moderately cold and with passing rain showers. An exceptionally wet winter actually improved the conditions of the dirt roads, and in many sections we found the dirt to be smoother than the pavement, which made for fast, spirited riding on the dirt sections.

The Battenkill course is basically a series of rolling hills. For the majority of the race, you’re either going up or you’re going down. The few flat sections at the beginning of the race normally see copious attacking and despite the long and technical course, it’s best to contain the attacks lest an early and strong breakaway gets down the road and is able to maintain a lead that turns into a true threat. Not one for the hills, Kyle kept control of the front end of the race on the early flat sections, reeling in attack after attack.

By the second time over Juniper Swamp Road (basically a dirt wall that we climb a couple times) the group had thinned out considerably. By this time it was just a matter of attrition. The goal was to stay on the front end of the group and stay in contact with the leaders; keep the pace high enough to discourage attacks and breakaways. Despite this, the occasional group did manage to get down the road – usually individual riders trying to make a go at it. Jackson did a tremendous amount of work at the front of the race during the last half to reel back in these potentially dangerous attacks, repeatedly turning himself inside out to control the pace and neutralize threats. It became funny, actually. Several times I thought Jackson was done, cracked and off the back. Then, out of nowhere he’d appear, riding up past me to chase something down, saying “I got this one, Boss,” as he sped past. It was an impressive display of teamwork and assured that I could stay protected and not waste energy prior to the final 20 miles.

Just after the second feedzone, and with about 20k to go is where things usually get real; attacks start and the pace stays about as high as possible for the remainder of the race. Meetinghouse Road is a sinister dirt section that’s a series of steep hills, one after the other. It’s a place where the group thins out greatly and the right move can get away and stay away. Sure enough, the pace quickened, and with each successive hill, the group gradually diminished. My plan at this point was survival – just stay toward the front of the group over Meetinghouse and then the final climb of the day up Stage Road.

The final climb itself isn’t that hard. It’s a stair-step climb on dirt, without any particularly steep sections. What makes it truly difficult is that it comes at the end of 80 miles of viscious hills, so the legs are a bit worn out by the time this final section begins. We came up over the top of this final climb with a group numbering around 25 out of the original 150 starters. Jackson had done his part to contain the race and fell off the group at the bottom of the climb. As such, I went into the finale without teammates.

From the top of the final climb, it’s a fast descent down to the final kilometers – a long, flat drag into the town of Cambridge. Containing a group here is hard. Everyone wants the win and attacks begin to come immediately and without pause. I knew that if I stayed toward the front, I would have a good chance in the finish. This year’s Battenkill finish was different than the previous years where we finished on the long, flat main street in Cambridge. This year, we crossed over main street and then quickly executed two sharp right hand turns just prior to the finish line on a side street in front of the Cambridge Hotel. The finish is nearly identical to the now-defunct Balloon Fest race that used to be held in Cambridge in June. I’d done well at that race many times before and knew the finish tactics well.

Coming into the final mile, a small group of 3 had attained a gap of about 5 seconds over the rest of the field. I was tucked into third wheel coming across main street and into the final turns. After the penultimate turn, I attacked as hard as I could. I caught the 3-man group just prior the final turn onto the finish straight and went around them, holding as much speed as I could through the turn, narrowly avoiding the barrier on the left side of the road. From that point, it was about 100 meters to the line, so it was an all-out sprint. I was able to hold off a charging field to cross the line with a good gap built up behind me.

I knew I had won the field sprint, but it was unclear to me at that point how I had done in the overall. Battenkill is one of those races where individual riders get off the front of the main group and then get brought back, one after the other, mile after mile. I knew we caught the majority of them during the final climb and subsequent run into town, but I wasn’t sure. It turns out that one rider had impressively managed to hold a few precious seconds gap over the field to take the win. I’d have to content myself with second place on the day, and I was pleased with that.

As I sat there, collecting myself, other team riders began to trickle in. Jackson and Kyle were especially jubilant – my podium position having justified their sacrifice early on. Time for podium and celebratory consumption of Battenkill Valley Chocolate Milk.

All in all, a success for the team and a good race. Thanks to Sarah and Gretchen for the feeds, Marty for allowing a gaggle of bike racers access to his house, and Dieter Drake for hosting another great Battenkill.


Race Report: Myles Standish Circuit Race

By: Embrocation Apr 13

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This is one of the early classics here in New England – a time to test one’s legs after winter’s grip has loosened a bit and a couple weeks before the bulk of the spring season sets in upon us. The Circuit Race in Myles Standish State Forest in Plymouth, MA utilizes a technical closed course on some rough, Forest Service roads. While the exact course changes from year to year, the race usually goes down the same – a group gets away from the field and, due to the technical nature of the course, tends to stay away until the finish. This year was no exception. A strong field started the 5ish mile circuit, this year going in a counter-clockwise fashion, with a few little kickers for uphills and a long, downhill, fast finish.

Going in, we knew there would be a break and it was likely to form mid way through the race or earlier. We had a good crew of racers, most fresh off the trip to California, so we knew we had depth and fitness enough to get one and probably two riders into any move. This plan worked out. Jackson, Colin and new guy Stephen Pierce represented well in some of the early moves. James and Adam Sullivan did solid work to cover counter-attacks and contain some early race threats.

When the real move came, it was Kyle who was ready and able to go, getting down the road with some seriously strong riders like Dylan McNicholas of CCB and Cameron Cogburn of Jelly Belly. The 5 man group quickly gained a decisive lead over the remainder of the field and held this for the rest of the race.

Behind the break, in the field, chase groups began to form as the pace increased. With one lap to go, Colin found himself in a major chase group. Just as this group was about to make contact with the break, Colin flatted and was forced to drop out to take a spare wheel. Meanwhile, up front in the break, Kyle hung tough as the chase group caught the day’s main breakaway, creating a 10 man group at the front of the race, which quickly broke apart as the pace increased. With one of his best finishes, Kyle weathered the attacks and managed to stay in contact with the break to finish 5th on the day.

Colin, back in the field made his way to the front and led James out for the field sprint for a respectable 11th place finish on the day.

All in all, a good start to the season, some solid teamwork employed, and a tremendous finish for Kyle, who’d done so much support work for other teammates in the past.

Coming up next: Tour of the Battenkill


Team Training Camp 2011

By: Embrocation Apr 5

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It’s become a tradition of sorts – our annual sojourn away from a particularly dire weather situation in New England and a journey toward warmer climes. In this case, two weeks situated in Santa Ynez, California. This is wine country, just north of Santa Barbara and the setting for the movie Sideways if you’re familiar with that. We were less interested in the ample wine tasting opportunities than we were in the diverse riding options.

It was one of the wettest winters or record for the Santa Ynez valley and as a result, it was a green place to be with trees and flowers in full bloom, thriving on a ample diet of sun and rain. This was an ideal backdrop for two weeks of rides and relaxing. In fact, that’s what training camp is all about, right? Ride, eat, relax.

Remember that cycle, because it’s important:













And in the few, fleeting moments where you’re not doing any of these things you might try the following:

Find metaphors for your near future in local farm animals.

Clean bikes.

Michael Jackson impression outside Neverland Ranch.

Construct self portrait bust.

Take pictures of inexplicable California shit.

Coming up: More on winter training, the first races of the year and updates on team roster, sponsors and equipment.

Thanks for reading.


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