Posted by Editoress on 04/11/11
Canadian Bruce Bird, who won the Masters 40+ race at the Tour of Battenkill, has sent a report on his victory over the U.S. Masters Champion:
On Sunday, April in 10th in the Tour of the Battenkill, Bruce Bird of Wheels of Bloor edged out Roger Aspholm to claim victory in the Masters 40+ Category.
The Tour of the Battenkill has quickly become one of the most popular bike races in North America. Registration for the event opened up on Dec 21st, and nearly 2000 participants registered within the first 24 hours, including a sell out of the 150 spots available for the the Masters 40+ category.
The Masters 40+ race was the first group to start the 64 mile, one lap course at 9:00 am; thirty other races followed throughout the day. Being the first group on the road meant wide open roads and energetic cheering from supporters along the route. The conditions were dry with a mild wind, with a cool start time temperature of less than 10 Celcius, which warmed to the high teens by the end of the race.
The race began with a neutral start that remained neutral for the first 8 kilometres, all the way up to and through the covered bridge crossing of the Battenkill river. Several riders called out 'nicely done 'as the peloton safely navigated the narrow bridge and sharp right hand turn on loose gravel that immediately followed. There were plenty of stories in race reports from past years stating how important it was to get to the bridge in the lead group and how dangerous the ride up to the bridge was. Despite the safety conscious pace up to the bridge, The Master 40+ race posted the fastest race time of the day for the single 64 mile loop.
The racing began in earnest on Camden Valley Road, and with a quad busting climb up Perry Hill Road that reduced the peloton to 40 riders just one quarter of the way into the race. After assessing what remained of the group, pressured eased off for some tempo riding through the first feed zone and then up to Joe Bean Road.
At bunker hill, Roger Aspholm led a small group of riders with an all out effort that splintered the peloton, as gaps appeared throughout the group, with each rider making their own way up the 1.6 kilometre climb at the best pace they could maintain. At the top of the hill four riders charged on down the other side of the hill. Bird came to the front and pushed the pace along with Aspholm over the next 6 kilometres. The two riders looked back to see a single rider 70 metres behind; Fred Thomas of OC/Cyclemania out of Portland ME. Bird and Aspholm waited for Thomas to bridge up to them as they settled on a break of three riders and began working together with 60 kilometres left to race.
Thanks to the twisting and turning course, the three riders were out of sight of the reforming peloton from the start of the break. The first time check from the race official on a motorbike was 1:15. The next time check ten minutes later was 1:30. All three riders in the break shared the work, with Thomas and Aspholm dancing on their pedals of the steeper climbs. The peloton shut down any chase efforts and the lead of the three riders in the break extended to three minutes with 40 kilometres left to race.
With 20 kilometres to go, the break had extended their lead to five minutes over the peloton as the three riders continued to work together. On the washboard dirt roads, Bird's front skewer came unfastened, creating a dangerous situation that had to be remedied. Just after Aspholm drove the pace up a final steep hill prior to the stage road climb, Bird slowed down and tried to tightened the skewer with one hand as the Mavic support vehicle sped up beside him. The mechanics in the support car let him know that he had to come to a stop in order to get support from them. After a quick look up the road to see Aspholm driving the pace as he sped away with Thomas in tow, Bird did his best to tighten the skewer with one hand while riding and then raced after the two leaders, who had built a 200 metre gap. After a five kilometre chase Bird rejoined the two leaders and they rode together to the base of the the final climb of the day, up Stage Road.
Thomas was the first to attack on the climb, but was unable to gap Aspholm or Bird, who was following in third position. Thomas led all the way to the top and the three riders crested together, with Bird and Aspholm taking over the lead on the descent.
With a five kilometre flat section leading up to the finish, the three riders rotated through a couple of turns before Bird launched an attack from three kilometres out. Thomas and Aspholm bridged up with two kilometres to go, with Thomas coming to the front and Aspholm reluctantly taking second wheel, while Bird moved to the rear. With one kilometre left to ride, Thomas picked up the pace with the other two riders right behind him. Just before the second to last right turn, with 500 metres to go, Aspholm charged around Thomas to the left wile Bird moved around to the right. Aspholm took the final turn in the lead position and sprinted up the left side with Bird following right behind. With 50 metres to go Bird swung out to the right and took the race by a bike length.
Other Canadian riders in the top ten were Lorenzo Caterini of HUB Racing out of Halifax in sixth place and Ian Scott, the reigning Canadian Road Race Champion 40+, of Wheels of Bloor in ninth place.
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