This is not a race report. This is a review and an assessment of my experiences at the 2011 Tour of the Battenkill.
Before I proceed, I want you to think. Think about what you expect to read here. Got a picture? Considering the flame wars that have erupted on this blog in the past and my public disapproval of race organizer, Dieter Drake’s lack of tact and public relation skills I’m sure that you expect me to slam the ToB.
Let me be clear: I have always thought the course was great, I just never thought the race itself was a good value for the amount of money that the promoter charges for the event. I have always maintained that the promoter did not supply adequate race support given the conditions that the course throws at you and the price the promoter charges.
My assessment of 2011 is mixed.
Firstly, in my qualitative assessment, racer support in 2011 was improved since 2009 when I last competed in this race. The lower category races each had a “wheels in, wheels out” car that stayed behind the main group. I ride Campagnolo. When I gave my wheels to the driver of my field’s follow car, the driver asked me if they were Campy and then put them in a separate spot in the car, which was a nice, PRO touch. I didn’t flat. After the race when I went to retrieve my wheels from the pit, the rear wheel was missing. I changed and went back, still missing. I got some food, loitered and kibitzed and it was finally there over an hour later. Meh. Someone must have used my wheel. They were slow to return it, but that is on them, not the ToB promoter.
I have multiple friends (1,2,)who flatted in their respective races and got wheel changes quickly enough to get back into the group they were in before they had trouble. Gone were the streams of dejected riders walking wounded steeds for lack of support. In fact, I saw few people on the side of the road seeking wheels. In short, ToB’s organization has much improved their rider support, which was my main beef with the race.
Cost to awesomeness ratio. Also read: Cost to epicness ratio or Cost to fun ratio. The race is good. The course takes people apart in ways that few road courses do. It is not a pure climbing course, but you can’t do well unless you can climb. It is not as sketchy as it seems, but if you can’t handle a bike you start at a deficit. You constantly need to make decisions between remaining out of the wind or out of trouble. While there are climbs, the race finishes on a flat fast stretch that encourages tactical riding in the final kilometers. There are crashes to be avoided. Equipment choices and proper bike maintenance can make the difference between winning the race or walking many miles. In short, this race rewards strong, smart riders while throwing in an element of chance.
So is it worth a $75 entry fee? Honestly, I am not sure anymore.
Next year: I’ll do the Ronde. Unless of course I think that I am going good enough to achieve a good result at Battenkill again (I am not actually that unhappy at 2.5 minutes down on the leader). Then I might go out and take another stab at it. Or I may start burning $20 bills and ride the Ronde instead.