2011 Tour of The Battenkill Pre-Ride Report

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On Saturday, I went and recon’d the new Battenkill course. I was glad that I was able to convince a good friend of mine from Saratoga Springs, Patrick Lawrence, to join me for the day. We made plans to meet around 9am in Saratoga and drive over to Cambridge together. I of course had to make my coffee run into Uncommon Grounds in downtown Saratoga around 7am, where I enjoyed a large cup of coffee and an outstanding bagel and egg white sandwich. The weather looked great if you were a duck, or a bike racer training for a hard, long, spring race in upstate New York. The run to UG is part of my morning ritual, anytime I’m down in Saratoga on the mornings before heading to races in the southern part of New England. The straight shot drive from Burlington is just too far to drive before a race, so I’m lucky that my parents still live down there – and I can crash at their place.

So, we hit the road around 9am, after I was able to down a few bowls of oatmeal, a protein shake, two more cups of coffee, and two more bagels with peanut butter. We arrived at the Cambridge Hotel, just as the young woman was opening up the lobby and getting things in order for the day. The place was pretty much totally empty, so she kind enough to allow us to use the restroom as our locker room to get kitted up for ride. Of course this time of year the rationale that goes into selecting what the proper kit combination is going to be is always amusing. Tights or just leg warmers? Medium embro or hot? Arm warmers and a thermal vest, or LS jersey and a wind vest? Rain jacket or riding jacket? In the end, the temp outside was about 40 when we started, and everything was WET. It wasn’t raining, and it was going to warm up to near 45, but the wind was blowing hard, and it was not particularly warm. I settled on arm and leg warmers, with my team Embrocation/Rapha riding jacket, and was perfect with the uber secret coffee embro.

Once on the road, I was happy with my kit selection – and we were rolling. Nothing to report about the first few miles of the course; the roads were in typical rough shape but nothing too crazy. The first dirt section where everyone ejected their bottles last year was super smooth and tacky. There were a few patches of ice here and there, but completely ride-able. Then back onto the pavement for the first little climb that comes after the sugar shack—that was all the same. Down the descent and left onto the dirt road approach to the swamp something road [Juniper Swamp Road – Ed.] , the super steep dirt climb that some people end up having to walk up was all fine as well. The hill was smooth and tacky, and steeper than you remember. Trust me. Once you reach the top of that the descent, the dirt was smooth and fast, and then back to pavement before you take a right on dirt again. This was the most shaded section of dirt we hit for the day, so it had more ice on it than the others, but the ice was covered with dirt from… a sanding truck? Yes, they appear to sand the dirt roads over there, so the hard ice with dirt/sand on top was actually the best line here.

Once you come off of this dirt section, you take a hard left then a right onto pavement. These two corners were both pretty sketchy with holes and piles of dirt left by a plow. At this point it’s fine all the way up to Salem, and then out to that paved stair step climb [Joe Bean Road – Ed.] a few miles out of town. The stair step climb was actually NOT as tough as I remembered it, so I felt good about that. I should mention here that my workout plan for the day was to ramp my efforts for 10min heading into the climbs and ride the climbs at a pace JUST under race pace, then ride steady tempo between the climbs or dirt sectors. For the most part, I was able to estimate the timing and effort pretty well all day, and I then planned to attempt to ride the last 20 miles (from just past the feedzone to the finish) at a hard steady pace. The dirt descent beyond the long stair step climb after Salem [Ferguson Rd. – Ed.] was in good shape overall, however the surface was pretty soft, and the little rollers in that sector always make it a bit tougher than you think it should be. Today was no different: it was hard to drive a steady 23-25mph pace through there.

Once you reach Rt 29, where we typically turned right and headed into the Village of Greenwich, we will be taking a left onto Rt 29 for about a mile, before turning right over a small bridge and train tracks. At this point we are on the opposite side of the river on a paved road. About a half mile up the road, Patrick surprised me with a “Whoa, whoa left right here, left…” Without even thinking, I think my response was something like “What? Up that fucking driveway? You’re kidding me?” He claimed his Garmin was on it, so we proceeded. This dirt road (or driveway) was only one lane wide, and wound up through the woods. I’m not kidding when I say “up” – this road has a section that is about as steep as that swamp road thing we will have climbed twice already. The first pitch is straight and steep, then is curves around to the left, and back to the right before it settles a little bit. We’ll round a right hand curve and continue to climb on rough dirt, before a small rolling decent that leads into another false flat dirt sector. Another small rolling downhill (keep an eye out for the huge hairy steer, on the left) and that drops us out onto the paved road that brings us back into the town of Greenwich, from the Cambridge direction. We are only on this for a few minutes, before we end up taking a left onto the road that we used to turn right onto, after going through downtown Greenwich. Now, back on the old course, we continued on, and hung a right to climb up toward the feedzone. That section was the same, as was the dirt sector named “Mountain Road” where the race came apart last year. Speaking of coming apart, my prediction is that the race will be splintered by the time we reach the feedzone this year. The amount of climbing and tough dirt sectors that have been added in place of the flat rolling section that we used to race going into Greenwich is SO much tougher. The race will not have a chance to come back together from the time we reach the top of the stair step climb after we leave Salem. From that point, I could see a lead group roll off the front on that climb, hold a gap on the descent, and then get into these new climbs and dirt sectors with a considerable gap on the peloton. There is really no place for any regrouping to take place from there on.

So, in an effort to test my fitness, I took the car key from Patrick at the feedzone and set out on a solo mission to the finish at a hard steady pace. Mountain Road was in great shape, smooth and fast, and just as rolling as you may recall. I hammered along there just fine, keeping myself just below a boil. When I reached the end of Mountain Road, I stood up to power up that right hand little pitch of pavement and noticed I had flatted my front tire, so I stopped and was just about finished replacing my tube when Patrick came by and said that he would keep going. I was able to get a solid 15min of hard effort before my flat, but now, with being off the bike and dealing with the flat, I had certainly lost some of my steam. From there, I got back on the bike and began ramping my effort back up along the dirt sector that leads into the sketchy descent that took out Colin and a bunch of other guys last year [Becker Rd – Ed.]. The descent was super smooth, and oddly felt less off camber than it usually does. Nothing worth noting on Meeting House Road, those rollers are still big, steep and dirty. From there it was all the same. I was feeling good about my effort and sensations as I was reeling Patrick in on the long pavement section after Meeting House Road, before we took that left onto the road that leads to the last dirt climb of the race, Stage Road. When I hit Stage Road, my legs were starting to wave the flag for a number of reasons. First, they were tired for sure, and second – the dirt was very soft and just sucked any speed or momentum I had: I was climbing the steep section at only 6mph I think. It was brutal. So I clawed my way to the top and began turning the pedals over again on the rolling decent into the finale. As I was approaching the 2K to go mark, I rolled up on a skunk that was lurking around the double yellow, walking toward me. With large snowbanks on either side of the road, I started planning my strategy for getting by this guy without scaring him into spraying me down. Luckily, at about 200 meters from the skunk, I heard a car approaching me from behind. Thinking quickly, I decided to use the car, and play a “pick and roll” to get around. As the car approached, I had to get up to speed, just as the skunk shot for the far side snowbank and turned around, ready to spray if he needed to. I had my eyes glued on him through the windows of the car passing me on my left as we made it by. Classic….

So, the finale is going to be a bit different this year. Instead of coming into town and turning right onto Main Street for the finish, we are going to come in, cross over Main Street, and take the first right and another right before finishing in the same area that the Balloon Fest Race uses. The road surface from the last corner to the finish is SUPER rough. It’s about 150M of total bombed out, Beruit style road. The frost heaves needed to be rolled like I was riding a pump track and the puddles were at least three inches deep. So, all-in-all it was an awesome day, not a drop of rain, or an impassible sector of road. The course is going to be hard for sure, and the new section is going to be a rude surprise for anyone that doesn’t go and ride it.

 

Winter Training

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For some racers, the winter is the best time of the year. The upcoming racing season is a few months off. Stress of racing has not yet set in and there seem to be infinite possibilities for the coming season. Training begins in earnest, and here in the northeast we pride ourselves on our abilities to ride through just about anything. This year, however, the weather has proved too difficult for even the most hearty soul to brave in the name of training miles.

Some members of team Embrocation have stayed home and done what they can to live through this winter. Others have flown away to warmer destinations in search of sun and miles. Here’s what some of the team has been up to.

James, Linnea and one of our new guys, Wayne all made trips to Arizona for some much-needed sunshine and dessert riding.




One of the best things about travel to the desert southwest is the abundance of long climbs that we mostly lack here in the northeast. With long climbs, come long descents. Here’s a video series of descents off of Mingus Mountain through the mountainside village of Jerome, AZ.

Mingus Mountain – Part 1 from EmbroJames on Vimeo.


Mingus Mountain – Part 2 from EmbroJames on Vimeo.


James even managed to find himself in the Valley of the Sun Stage Race in the Phoenix area for 3 days of racing against a bunch of guys in really good shape for the middle of February.




Another one of our new additions, Mr. Stephen Pierce took an early January sojourn to Florida, where racing season was still on, including some very warm cyclocross racing. He sent this report back to his jealous teammates:

I made a two-week southbound escape from the bleak gray northern tundra, spent that time working on tanlines and laying down some serious miles. There were a few cx races in that window: tropical cyclocross and dire consequences, in Miami and west palm, respectively. I won both of them very authoritatively, in both cases lapping the majority of the field. Aside from the welcome reprieve from trainer-induced mania, a lot of time was spent checking out tampa’s coffee houses and eating superior burritos. Definitely a good way to kickstart my early season training.






Meanwhile, back in the frozen north, our boys made the best of it, getting out on the roads whenever the chance arose.




Or, in some cases, hitting the trainer in the garage, even in the coldest temps.


The riding continues, the racing is just around the corner.

Coming up: – 2011 Team Roster – Team equipment – California training camp

 

2010 Season Reflections - Part 1

By: Embrocation Team Jan 25

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With the 2011 season currently an approaching but still distant series of goals, it’s a good time to reflect on a 2010 season – all its successes and letdowns, respectively. Embrocation riders weigh in on their season highlights.

PVB

Those late-winter/early-spring rides the team did out to Harvard, MA are some of my favorite. I remember Colin standing outside the Harvard General store and saying to no one in particular in such a genuine tone, “Isn’t this just the best?” Though, moments later he was beyond frustrated that we opted for a more reasonable loop that did not push on to Wachusett. But those rides are some of the best. You are out there together and you see the first inclinations of the season ahead and get inspired by teammates and friends. And you eat hot dogs.


And the final VERGE series races in Rhode Island are always a great way to end the season. There is something about them, a combination of the coursing through the pines, the beach runs, and the warm rotunda that so typifies the ambiance and community that we celebrate nearly every Fall weekend since the first cyclocross race of the year in Vermont.

So with the road season through, cyclocross over and everyone resting, skiing, riding between snowstorms or on the rollers, we’re not too far off from the team rides out to Harvard and beyond and for those, and what those rides allude to, I cannot wait.


Eric Goodson

Night Weasels wins, hands down. Slaloming down a boggy ski hill at night, blinded by camera flashes and heckled by drunks, was a great way to spend a school night.



Jackson

Being given a bike to ride was a pretty serious trip, especially since it was the nicest I’ve ever been on.

Battenkill pre-ride was a pretty good intro to the squad – meeting Franny and then hammering the first hill wondering if we were really going to go that hard for 80 miles…

Winning Wayne Elliot after the team took the race to pieces.

The Rapha Gentlemen’s Race when James and Bradshaw started to kill the last 20-30 miles


The Fitchburg road race (frankly Fitchburg as a whole).


Grabbing the KOM jersey even for a day at my first GMSR – I’m not certain if Morrison threatened me or simply told me to try but he gave a hell of a lead out.

The Saratoga crit where we beasted wheelhouse.


Kyle

THE GOOD

1. Clamfest: Jurgen was a new addition to the team, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. We were all over the front of the race, early and often. It was fast, lots of attacking, and we were always there. When you always have a teammate in the break, it’s impossible to miss the move. Jurgen’s move was the one that stuck, and he got the win. It was HUGE, not only b/c of the venue, the crowds, and the atmosphere, but b/c it was Jurgen’s hometown, and his first Elite win. You couldn’t write a better script.



2. Fitchburg: You know you’re doing something right when you hear Richard Fries and Dick Ring calling out Embrocation on a daily basis. It was a true, classy display of teamwork and smart riding by everyone. Jackson made the winning break in the Circuit Race for a podium, James handily won the Road Race in a solo move AND secured the jersey, and we did a great job controlling the Crit for a bunch sprint, where Colin just missed the podium for 4th. I always die a thousand deaths in this stage race, but knowing you have guys who can get the results makes you dig deeper than you think you can go. We raced smart. We raced professionally. And people took notice.

3. Green Mountain: We didn’t podium in a single stage, but this race is always a blast. The scenery, the weather – it was way too perfect. We had a long season, and ended it by sharing a small room with 3 sets of bunk beds. Laflamme was in attendance, and there was the rare opportunity to see Cory and Franny, who we don’t always get to see, and wish we could see more.

4. The Ladies of Embrocation: Weekend after weekend, all summer long, they were there. Going on the overnights, waking up early, sitting for hours on-end in the feed zone with special instructions for this type of mix/coke/gel/labeled bottle on this specific lap, helping with dinner, and providing more moral support and cheering than you could ask for. I can’t think of a single race we did this year (minus the occasional crit) where we were completely on our own. So thank you Jess, Sarah, Ali, Sofia, Jill, Suzie, Erin, Jan. We love you!



5. PlayStation 3! Josh is never allowed to bring this to an overnight race – EVER AGAIN.

THE BAD & THE UGLY

1. Missing Embros: If our entire team was healthy at the same time, I can’t imagine how many results we would have achieved this season. But even while down, they were never out and always engaged:
Chris: Butt/nerve issues – out all season
Jay: Knee issues – early exit from the spring classics and rest of season

2. Crashes: There were some doozies this year – more than I can ever remember on one team in one season. Here’s a quick recap:
Colin: broken collarbone, ribs, collapsed lung at Battenkill. Amazingly, came back by Killington to crush the rest of the season until fatherhood took over.

James: Broken ribs at Green Mountain. Hung tough through the Road Race and Crit. Fractured ribs at Connecticut Stage Race in the mass pileup over the bridge during the road race. I’m sure there were more injuries, but he’ll never tell!

Kyle: broken scapula at Quad ‘Cross. Another failed attempt to make the start line at Mayor’s Cup for the second year in a row. Let’s hope that the third time is a charm!


Colin Murphy

The epic Myles Standish 120+ miler with Bradshaw and combs is up there for me. Charge pond was canceled after we were already half way to Plymouth but we went down anyways to check out the cranberry bogs and the infamous south shore fat bag. for some reason, 80 miles and a fat bag or two in we decided to make a tour of all the local Myles Standish historical markers including but not limited too the his statue, grave site, and homestead. we worked on our Myles Standish victory salutes before heading back up to Boston via 3A. all in all an awesome day on the bike. plus Bradshaw got to use his new salute the next charge pond (or he should have anyways)



Another, more serious highlight, was all of you guys coming to see me in the hospital after Battenkill, some of you before you even changed out of your kits or had anything to eat. knowing your teammates have your back helps a lot when you are laid out and in pain. so thanks. plus it was pretty funny to see you all clattering around and cluttering up the ER.


Franny

The Battenkill Recon Ride & meeting most of the team.

Rolling to the start of Battenkill with a full squad.

Embrocation OWNING the Saratoga Crit..

Having a solid ride at The CT Stage Race, proving to myself that I belonged on Embro.

EXPLODING on the last lap of the Fitchburg Circuit Race.

Redeeming myself with a solid TT at Fitchburg

Doing my job, and string out the Fitchburg Crit with two laps to go… ( At the start, I thought I would be watching the last two laps from the curb!)

D2R2 with James and Kyle.

Getting into the break with Jackson at the GMSR Circuit Race, even if only for a lap or so.

 

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