Report by Ali Wilson
I have said it over and over: I love riding gravel and dirt roads. Why? It’s thrilling! They are a little more technical then paved roads: the rider has to constantly look around for obstacles or deep pitting sand, the fast downhills are risky and the seated climbs are hard on the legs. Anything can happen on gravel roads and they take their toll on the body and bike if not prepared accordingly. And how would one prepare for such riding?
Prepare Bike for Assault: Bring your bike in for a tune-up at your local bike shop or DIY. Make sure your gears run through smoothly, your brakes are adjusted and your wheels trued. Why? Because they most likely won’t be after your done riding J Also, assure everything is screwed on tight: all bolts, bottle cages and bike computers. I had my pre-race tune-up at Cyclepower’s south end shop on Bank Street by Marc Ouellette and he did an AWESOME job. My new Fuji team bike was perfect: smooth and responsive. The frame is super strong and stable: perfect for riding gravel and dirt. No flats, no dropped chains= job done.
Prepare Yourself for Assault: You have to be physically and mentally ready for the abuse. Now don’t get me wrong… this applies to all road racing, but when gravel/dirt is involved, the mental toughness has to be as well! Also… practice! It’s an excellent way to get a feel for the different kinds of gravel or dirt roads out there. The more you ride them, the more you’ll be comfortable with them.
This being said, it should not be surprising to anyone that the Tour of the Battenkill remains my favourite race. It’s a race of attrition; the rolling dirt hills, windy open field roads, risky pitting sand and the longer distance definitely make it very hard for anyone to get away! Having done this race last year, I had the advantage of knowing what to expect so hung around at the front for most of the race. Some moments were especially difficult when some of the ladies were really pushing the pace at the front but I was proud to still be hanging on there at the end. I think what disadvantaged me this year was how I didn’t do very many long distances before this race and lost it in the last 10km. It was so frustrating to see the 5 girls I was with most of the race just ride away from me, not attacking, just riding up the last hill at a regular pace. A pace that my legs refused to follow… My heart and breathing were fine but no response from the lower extremities. I have to admit I finished the race disappointed and frustrated in myself but now that I think about it, I did improve on last year quite a lot and think I raced smartly until that point. What also put a smile on my face at the end of the day was when Allison said ‘Ali, you’re a pro now!’ after I got the 25$ prize which was given to me for my 6th place position.
Battenkill was a great weekend and it certainly wouldn’t have been the same without the girls from my team. Nina Nesdoly (29th) and Véronik Bourgon (33rd) both demonstrated extreme strength and mental toughness throughout this race. Nina, being from the track, had never raced this long of a distance! She had a mechanical but still managed to finish with the biggest smile on her face and tones of energy. Véronik who also suffered from a mechanical- a flat tire, which took at least 7 minutes to get changed, also finished strong and proud of her day! I also couldn’t have finished without Allison Lampi who was there for much needed support. My bottles were totally empty by the time we got to the 2nd feed zone and seeing her there with a fresh full one was surprisingly comforting. She is also the reason we got home safely early Sunday morning (the Battenkill race is 6.5 hours away in New-York!)
So again- Thank you Team and Sponsors for the much needed support. And you know what they say… third times a charm? Maybe 2013 Ali Wilson will finally be crowned Queen of the classic… just a thought!
Ali is truly the queen of gravel. Great racing!