Conquering Battenkill-Roubaix

BY KENNETH LUNDGREN

CONQUERING BATTENKILL-ROUBAIX
By Kenneth Lundgren

Battenkill-Roubaix is a notoriously difficult road race that is distinct not because of its notorious steep climbs, but because many of these notorious steep climbs are off road… During the race, you will be riding on roads you would never dare dream take your bike, going 35+ mph on loose dirt conditions as you barrel into steep climbs…

Here are my recommendations:

Tires. Go wider and thicker. 700 x 23-25, some decent tread. Buy tires specifically for this race because you will need them. The dirt climbs are not always hard-packed, and the grades are steep. The tread on the tire, which looks slower, will make you faster during the race. Traction and the fact that riders flat all over the place are two reasons alone to run heavier, grippy tires. Don’t look for super lightweight tires, as it’s not an issue – you want to finish without crashing or flatting. 90-100 psi is good: lower pressure will give you more grip but too low and you run risk of getting pinch flat…

Wheels. Again, lightweight is not the most important aspect. You need something that is incredibly strong, as you’ll be rocketing over bumps, holes, small rocks – treacherous obstacles that can easily bang a wheel out of true. Ksyriums are ideal wheels because they’re very, very stiff. Leave the carbon racing wheels at home.

If training with a PowerTap, put the heavier tires on the rim and use the meter. Absolutely. The data is priceless, don’t worry about racing on a heavier wheel. Put the Ksyriums in the follow car. The climbs are steep, but they’re short so I’m not sure if you’ll truly appreciate the benefits of a super lightweight racing wheel. Get respect and use the Powertap at arguably the year’s biggest amateur race. It will not make a difference with you staying with the leaders…

Stay at the front at all times. The dirt roads are narrow, and lots of times it’s hard to move up on the climbs. You can miss the split instantly. If you get gapped, it can be hard to catch back on. A lot of the climbs lead to open farm roads, and if a break of 20 is hammering along, you will find it borderline impossible to bridge solo.

The one year I raced, I let the lead group get away, deciding to catch them after cresting… WRONG. I bombed over the climb, hit the descent, and watched the break splintering away. I was on this wide flat farm road, rushing into a headwind, and the breakaway is going 30 and I’m doing 29 and already beginning to die… STAY AT THE FRONT. You want to be in top-8 when you hit the hills. Take a 12-25 cassette. Believe me you’ll want that extra gear.

What kind of bottle cages do you have? Put steel ones on. The bottles WILL NOT stay in the super light ones. I’ve seen plenty of riders lose bottles, and Battenkill-Roubaix is not a race where you want to get dehydrated. You cannot afford to lose a bottle in a race like this. If there’s a feed, try to bring a feeder. Although the conditions are usually cool, because of the race intensity you will need to stay topped up.

Regarding diet, start to carb-load by Wednesday night. This doesn’t mean eat MORE — it just means fill more of your diet with quality, LG carbohydrates. During the first half of the race, you may feel heavier and bogged down, the body filled with glycogen and water, but believe me it will be worth it if you can perform at a higher level later on… Diet is very important for this race, as it’s difficult from the get-go and lots of guys run through their glycogen stores rather quickly…

The first two years of the Pro race finished in breakaways, and last year finished in a mass sprint. Roubaix is a race that can bring anything. The guys I’ve been working with who want to peak for this race, they’re ready to hit the climbs, power a breakaway, or be competitive in the sprint if it’s all together at the end…

The course, with its steep climbs, twisty roads, and numerous turns, favors a breakaway. On those climbs, stay seated as you don’t want your rear wheel to slip. As Roger mentioned, spinning a high cadence will do you no good! I climb at 100 rpms, but when I did Roubaix I quickly found out I needed to grind away at certain sections…

Just stay at the front and race smart. If this is an “A” race, consider making a decisive split or jumping with a move – the course will help a breakaway succeed. If you’re still in the middle of some Build weeks and don’t feel 100%, just do what you can to stay with the leaders and try to get good position going into the sprint – a long, flat sprint where most riders will already be half-dead means anything can happen…

Remember to always be eating. Eat eat eat. In last hour, as body is beginning to fall apart, start sucking down those GUs. Good luck to all you gladiators out there who are braving The Hell of the North…

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Kenneth Lundgren's Diary | Wednesday, April 16th, 2008 | | |