The Internet of Bikes: 2014 Tour of the Catskills

The Tour of the Catskills is a three day stage race held in Windham and Tannersville, New York. The race features a 10 mile out and back (up and down) individual time trial, a fast 65 mile circuit race and an epic 109 mile road race that includes 8,000 feet of climbing and the infamous Devil’s Kitchen climb at mile 100. The race is a personal favorite because of its challenging terrain and its proximity to family. I joined 55 riders in the Pro 12 Omnium category. Weather for the weekend was dry and calm with temperatures in the 70s. The main feature of the individual time trial was the new pavement on Route 23 and the five miles of climbing on the outbound section. Despite the short and long hills, the outbound section went by very quickly. Inbound was almost all downhill; the only way to make time was by pushing the 55T through some flat sections. There was traffic at an intersection which slowed things down a bit, but I was nevertheless able to catch three riders and a ghost rider and finish the course with a time of 21:14 which was fast enough for 6th place.

 

The main feature of the circuit race was a two kilometer climb at the beginning of each loop (20 miles per loop). This climb stretched things out each time through, but never caused a break; a long downhill on the other side ensured that the field always came back together. The compact was very useful: the low gearing allowed me to spin up the climb with the field and accelerate sharply to close any gaps. There was a break of four riders up the road after the final climb. At this point the Kelly Benefit Strategies eight man team moved to the front and rode down the break over the course of 12 miles (the pace was a sustained 28 to 30 miles an hour). Coming into the final three miles, the there was a crash as a result of a cone in the road marking a pot hole; of course, no one could see the cone. The field raced on leaving bouncing and skidding bikes and riders in its wake and charged up the last climb into the Windham parking lot. I finished with the group in 29th place and thus maintained my position in the general classification. Another pleasing result: I did no work except for a few efforts on the climb and felt very fresh.

In retrospect, the strategy of sitting in and conserving energy (a strategy relayed from Dan Vallaincourt) was clearly the right one. The road race was longer than previous versions (109 miles compared to 90 miles previously) and climbed out of Prattsville rather than descending into it. The field broke up going into the switch backs and the pace did not slow on the following climbs, some of which were eight to ten percent in sections and long. I was gapped at one point and watched the field power up a climb. I was about to resign myself to a solo ride, but it turned out there were enough riders behind me to form a groupetto; we successfully chased back on. This is when I realized how difficult this race was going to be: we had covered only 35 miles.

The following descent is long and very steep in sections; sight lines are very good and thus speeds top out at 55 miles per hour. In 2013, I had to ride this descent in the pouring rain which was stressful. This year, conditions were dry and the field seemed relaxed and keen to recover. Unfortunately, someone touched wheels and about four riders went down at terrific speed. This was unsettling and the field was in full chatter mode on the next climb trying to figure out how that could have happened. The next crucible was the five mile climb back up to Windham. This climb was hot and ground on relentlessly at three to six percent; it was a big ring climb. There was a rider up the road on this section so the pace was fast. Riders were cracking and getting dropped; I managed to keep up by marking strong wheels and trying to keep a steady pace. I got through it but it was very hard.

The race pushed on back up into the elevations and down the screaming descent and made its way to the Devil’s Kitchen. At the base of this climb, there were about 30 riders remaining; I was tired and keen to get up and over this difficult climb. I managed to do so using very low gearing (34T x 21-28). This allowed me to set a steady pace that was fast enough to make gains on other riders and avoid blowing up and turning into a paper boy (weaving from side to side of the road). I lost time as the lead elements of the race were able to get up the steep climb very quickly. I recovered at the top and pushed through the final miles with two other riders to finish in 14th place. I lost time and slipped in the GC to 11th place, but was very pleased with the result nevertheless: there were so many opportunities get dropped during this four and half hour ordeal that to finish within four minutes of the leaders felt like a significant accomplishment. The Superleicht Carbon Limited ran very well, and set up with a compact and a set of Zipp 202s, it adopted mountain goat characteristics. The Catskills is a very nice place to spend the weekend racing and the event was well run. Many thanks to the organizers.

Superleicht Carbon Limited

 

tt Carbon Limited

 

The view of the Kitchen from the kitchen

 

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