Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Tour of the Battenkill a North Country Success

The Tour of the Battenkill has come a long way.

Once it was just the dream of Dieter Drake, now 38, owner of a Cambridge-based air-conditioning business and an avid cyclist. Now in its 6th year, the race has become the biggest pro/amateur bicycle race in the country. And the professional race, which took place last Sunday, attracted thousands of spectators and world-class competitors, including Floyd Landis.

Fashioned after the 100 year old Paris- Roubaix cycling race in France, the race drew more than 1,400 racers in 2009. This year’s registrations topped 2,200.

The race begins and ends in Cambridge, and takes amateur riders over a 62-mile course, a quarter of which is on steep and dusty dirt roads. They also ride through a covered bridge and by many of Washington County’s rural farm towns. Professional riders get to do two laps.

Last year’s professional race was nothing less than thrilling (although it’s hard to follow a bicycle race on the ground — a quick blur of spinning wheels and colorful Lycra, and that’s about it until the finish line). Racer Scott Nydam broke away from the peloton early on during the race, and kept the lead for a leg-burning three hours to score a first-place finish.

This year wasn’t quite as exciting, plus it was a bit damper. Crowd favorite Floyd Landis — the winner of the 2006 Tour de France who later failed a post-race drug test — broke his way through the pack with 23-year-old rider Caleb Fairly of Colorado Springs, Colo. But in the end, it was Fairly who pulled ahead to win the 124-mile course at 4 hours, 57 minutes, 7.4 seconds, according to race coverage in the Post-Star. Landis came in two minutes, 24 seconds later, placing second.

While some local business people reportedly were unhappy the race did not bring in as much business as promised, according to one news story, the event is a fine addition for the region, especially at a time of year when there is little to attract visitors to the mountains.

With six years of success, you can add the Tour of the Battenkill to the ranks of such classic competitions unique to the region, such as the Black Fly Challenge mountain-bike race and the Ford Ironman Lake Placid.

While not technically in the Adirondacks, the Battenkill tour is rugged, challenging and beautiful. In other words, it has the true flavor of the North Country.

Photos by Dave Kraus of KrausGrafik, www.krausgrafik.com

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