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Tour Of The Battenkill
The Tour of the Battenkill Gran Fondo is a 75-mile mass-start event for riders wanting a challenging, scenic, and competitive ride/race. Riders are grouped by ability at the starting line and begin simultaneously at 9:15 a.m. with a neutral roll out. The first 5 miles features a full police escort and rolling road closure. After that, the roads are open to the public, but traffic is very sparse. Course marshals are stationed at all critical intersections and hold traffic for riders. Neutral service is dedicated with cars and/or motorcycles. Sag wagons are also provided for riders not able to complete the course.
There have been a lot of superlatives thrown around about the Tour of the Battenkill since its inception in 2004: “America’s biggest one-day road race,” “the toughest one-day road race in the country,” “the greatest number of flat tires at a cycling event…”
Its steep, punchy climbs help shatter the field of riders, with a group of six finishing together considered large. Of course, plenty of other races get more vertical, and with a course length of 75 miles and winning times of 3:30 hours, it’s not overly long. But the course that starts and finishes at the Washington County Fairgrounds is unlike any other in the US. It’s a back-road journey through open farmland, narrow canopies of trees, and a covered bridge — the kind of naturally car-free, rural roads you wish you could ride everyday.
Battenkill’s numerous dirt sections are its trademark, and therein lies one of the special ingredients that have led to its popularity. Whether it’s actually the toughest one-day race in America is a matter of opinion, but to many of the riders — especially those new to racing — it certainly feels like it. The list of DNFs isn’t overly long, but the dirt sections can often result in punctured tires, so be sure to bring plenty of spares, pumps, and CO2 cartridges, or perhaps tubeless tires, sealant, or extra-big rubber.
Rather than being a discouragement, the flat-tire factor actually contributes to the day’s drama. It means uncertainty and luck that could work for or against you. Moreover, the punctures come because you’re out there flying down gravel roads in a cloud of dust, with a number pinned to your back, and a tunnel-vision goal of getting to the front and not being gapped.
The Tour of the Battenkill Gran Fondo is truly a one-of-a-kind race for those seeking a serious challenge shrouded in pastoral beauty. The result is that everyone who finishes, even everyone who starts, goes home with rich stories to tell.