As I’ve written before, when it came to bike racing last year was marred by bad luck and my own stupidity, including missing two races because of forgetting to bring my cycling shoes in one case and losing my phone minutes before the start of the another. The former race was the Tour of the Battenkill, a 68-mile route with nearly 5,000 feet of climbing and eight sections of gravel and dirt. Having looked forward to the challenge for weeks–and traveled over three-hours to get there–it would be an understatement to say that I was angry to miss out due to a moment’s inattention.
This year, however, has gone much better: counting last weekend’s race, I’ve now successfully completed three in a row with no mechanical issues and only one minor crash. Unfortunately, when I say “successfully” I refer to the fact of crossing the finish line in one piece as opposed to doing well relative to my competition: I’ve finished in the bottom quintile of every event!
Still, this year’s Tour of the Battenkill was a joy to race. I was rather nervous before the start, not knowing what to expect on the gravel sections and also a bit deflated to feel that I’d likely be distanced by the main group of riders upon hitting the first difficult climbs. My goal, then, was to ride as hard as I could to stay with the group as long as possible, recover, and then time trial the rest of the way. Sure enough, after a few “rollers” (gentle inclines) during which I pushed myself to my limit, we reached a 17% climb on gravel, making it all the harder due to a lack of traction. I pedaled as hard as I could until, bleary-eyed, I could no longer keep up and watched the peloton disappear in the distance.