Tour of the Battenkill returns to Washington County

North America’s largest Pro/Am road cycling race returns to Washington County on April 5 and 6, when the 10th Annual Tour of the Battenkill takes place in Cambridge.

Around 3,000 cyclists are expected to compete in the race, which drew participants from 45 states and 15 countries in 2013.

Styled after spring classics like the century-old Tour of Flanders in Europe, the Tour of the Battenkill features several dirt road sections and challenging climbs. Category racers and Open Race gran fondo participants will compete on a 65-mile course through the Washington County countryside that starts and finishes in Cambridge.

Founded in 2005 by cyclist Dieter Drake, the race drew 225 competitors the first year. It has grown exponentially ever since.

“We wanted a race to emulate the European style of racing,” said Drake. “It’s a typical Spring Classic style bicycle race; we don’t have a lot of them in the U.S.”

Drake attributes the Washington County landscape and its “great people” to the success of the race and its rapid growth.

“There are so many roads to choose from, and our highway departments take good care of them,” he said. “Washington County has the best environment for cycling.”

He noted that organizers did a test ride on March 30 to check on the condition of the dirt roads after the long, hard winter. Depending on conditions this weekend, some route changes may have to be made, he said. However, he added, challenging road conditions don’t worry participants. “That’s why people come,” said Drake.

This, year, former U.S. professional racer Scott Nydam of New Mexico will participate in the weekend, racing in the Tour of the Battenkill Open Race on Sunday, April 6. Nydam is the winner of the Mountains Classification at the 2008 Tour of California, and won the 2009 Tour of the Battenkill Professional Invitational.

“Some of my best and challenging moments on bike took place at Battenkill,” said Nydam. “Few races in North America offer these kinds of roads and a sense of what it’s like to race in Europe.”

This year’s commemorative race poster, by artist and former professional cyclist Doug Dale of Gill, Mass., is entitled “Cyclocows.” It is a charming depiction of Tour of the Battenkill riders and cows traveling over the Eagleville covered bridge.

The posters will be on sale at the event’s Outdoor Expo throughout the weekend. All proceeds from the posters and Dale’s original artwork will directly benefit the Cambridge Valley Rescue Squad. Dale credits the squad with providing life-saving care after a fall in the 2011 race.

On Friday April 4, the Outdoor Expo will be open from noon to 6 p.m. at Varak Park on West Main Street in Cambridge. The Expo will also be open starting at 8 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Live entertainment will be ongoing throughout the weekend.

On Saturday, the Pro/Am race starts at 8 a.m. Sunday brings the Pro/Am races at 8 a.m., the Open Race gran fondo 22-mile at 10 a.m. and the 65-mile at 10:15 a.m., Champions finals at 9:30 a.m., Men’s Pro at 11:30 a.m. and Women’s Pro at 11:40 a.m. Kids races for 12 and under take place at 2 p.m. on Broad Street.

New this year, participants and volunteers will be able to fundraise for the Wounded Warrior Project, an organization that serves the needs of service members wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan.

More information about the event is available at www.tourofthebattenkill.com.

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