The full photo essay can be viewed here.
Standing in Cambridge, New York, for the first time at 9.30am, I had no idea about what type of day would unravel. Looking at the skies, the rain was definitely going to play its part and make the dirt sections pretty spectacular. Things were shaping up for a true “Spring” classic. Seeing Kristen House lining up at the start, resplendent in his red, blue, but mostly white British champion’s jersey, one thing was for sure: this might be the best advert ever for Tide (although, according to Dean Downing, four rinses gets the Battenkill dirt out).
The pre-race prep gave a lot away. The Fly V Australia and the Holowesko Partners (Garmin) teams have got things dialed in, money talks. Rapha Condor, despite living out of suitcases, still looked like the coolest team on the block (separate post coming on the Leggeros – a beautiful ride), well at least before the race; after, the mud made everyone pretty much look the same. Next were the teams that had to bring in hire cars and vans, but still managed to make things look good with about $25k worth of bikes propped up against them. Then there was the regional riders, getting ready out of the trunks of cars and pick-ups, and looking a little apprehensive about lining up on a day like this.
I got out to Mountain Road for the first lap. By the time the race got to me, they were already strung out the full length of the dirt section into the distance, small groups of 10 and 15 riders leading a lot of lone riders over the rolling mud slides. Riders were already suffering not even at the halfway point. For the second lap I got myself over to Swamp Road. On the way across lots of riders had pulled the chute and were heading back into town. Swamp Road and Stage Road is where the race happened. Landis and Fairley were already off the front and having a conversation on the way up, with Floyd saying, “I don’t know man….”, the question, I have no idea. Maybe Caleb was asking “How on earth do I get all this mud out Floyd?” In between them and what was left of the field, a few riders were burying themselves to try and get back to them.
This is a great race, on the way up. I can only think it is going to get more and more popular. It has a unique character unlike any other race in the US, and in fact, like any other race I have ever been to both here and in Europe. Spare a thought for the Rapha team who are now stranded due to volcano dust (no matter how many times you say that, it still sounds bizarre), and potentially could miss the start of their European campaign in Brittany next week. That is definitely not kosher…