We didn’t travel to upstate New York for a one-day bike race because it was practical. We went because it’s The Battenkill and because it would be hard and because we wanted to try to win this type of race while we still had the chance.
Flying to Albany on Friday the 13th must have caused uncharacteristic superstitiousness lasting into the weekend: I thought it lucky that our race numbers were the same as our area codes and that we crossed paths with 2 chickens during our warm-up. Narrowly making it to the start line before the race went off, I had no time to be nervous. I focused on slotting into a good spot in the second row and continued to sit patiently near the front of the peloton, while Liz kept an eye on things from a little further back. We were climbing with the fastest group and hanging tough on the dirt sections. It seemed likely we could make it to the final selection in what we knew would be a race of attrition.
Then we hit the 8th dirt section. The dirt here was different. I’ve named it Deep Dust. I had been working hard to close a gap that had opened in front of me while getting a snack, however, the moment I reached the wheel I had been aiming for was the moment that wheel was losing traction in the Deep Dust. A few riders went down, me included. Unhurt, I rebounded quickly with helpful instructions from Liz to stay calm.
Unfortunately, our chase was foiled when we crested the next rise. The air was thick with dust, and people were running and sprawled on the ground. With the scene in front of us rather resembling the Battle of Saratoga (if the Yanks and Brits had battled in lycra), I needed a moment to compose myself and lost more precious time.
As we came through the second feed zone, a spectator informed us we were in 16th and 17th place with just over 10 miles to go. Soon after that, Liz had a puncture. We decided I should keep chasing, and she would get a wheel from Mavic roving support a few minutes later. I only passed one woman, but a check of the results after dinner showed a slightly more respectable, but no less disappointing, 12th place.
I’m trying not to be too bummed out. There will be lots of other races. Well, sort of. And sort of not. This race was The Battenkill.