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Preview: US racing hits the dirt at the Tour of the Battenkill

The peloton tackles a section of dirt road in the 2009 Tour of the Battenkill.

The peloton tackles a section of dirt road in the 2009 Tour of the Battenkill.
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Organizers of the Tour of the Battenkill presented by Pepsi are grooming the dirt roads Upstate in preparation for its inaugural year as a UCI 1.2 sanctioned one-day event held on April 18 in Cambridge, New York. The classic-style race caters to the toughest of cyclists capable of taking on nearly 25 percent of dirt roads, steep climbs and notoriously strong cross winds.

"Since it's our first year on the UCI calendar this year we're focused on creating the best environment for professional competition that we can on the Sunday," said race director Dieter Drake. "Getting the details right is extremely important so that's where our interest lies this year. Last year was fun, but it's no match for what 2010 will be.

"I expect 2011 will be even better and it's because of the people that make it happen."

The Tour of Battenkill kicked off last weekend with the Pro-Am events that saw a record number of nearly 2000 participants. Last year, the Pro-Am and UCI events were held on the same weekend but increasing number of participants forced organizers to host the races separately.

"I think that the main reason that the race continues to grow at the rate that it does is because of the creativity and energy of a number of people involved on our organizing committee," said Drake. "These are world-class people and they all understand the mission of the event in creating something different and exciting year after year."

The men will complete two full laps of a 100-kilometre circuit. Each lap boasts nearly 25 per cent, eight sections, of dirt roads through the rolling and steep hillsides of the Battenkill Valley. This year's event will host a race expo with live web-cast of the race for spectators around the course and inside the expo area.

"Watching the race on video is no substitute for seeing this race up close and personal though," Drake said. "The course is designed for spectators. I'll be bouncing around the course myself again this year watching the race."

The nation's sole UCI-registered Professional Continental team BMC Racing and its defending champion Scott Nydam are not scheduled to participate in the race this year. The team had a successful weekend of racing last year having also won the Pro-Am race with Chad Beyer.

"It was great to have them as part of our 2009 event, but they have clearly decided that a European schedule is more important to them," Drake said. "I think that's unfortunate because we, like other races here in the US, have worked very hard to make our event successful.

"Getting on the international calendar takes an enormous amount of effort and resources and there is every reason for them to return in 2010. I am sure they have a legitimate reason for their decision, but it is sure a glaring omission on their schedule after a successful 2009 event here for them."

The Tour of Battenkill has drawn together 22 professional and amateur men's teams that include Fly V Australia, Team Type 1, Jamis-Sutter Home, SpiderTech, Bahati Foundation, Mountain Khakis, Kenda-Geargrinder, Kelly Benefit Strategies, MetLife, Jet Fuel,, AXA Advisors, Mazur Coaching, CCB, Hay Market Bicycles, Wheel House Racing, IF Racing, Ride with Rendall, Garneau, Rapha Condor Sharp, Club Chaussures and Champion System. The nation's top U23 teams Holowesko Partners and Trek-Livestrong are also registered to race.

"We have a great lineup with 22 international teams," Drake said. "I am extremely excited to have the U23 Trek Livestrong and Holowesko Partners U23 teams this year as they represent the growth of the sport at the professional ranks.

"Allocating resources to developmental squads takes a leap of faith for sponsors sometimes, but the folks that run these programs have communicated clear missions for the future so I am happy that they have chosen to come to the Tour of the Battenkill. They are bringing some really talented young riders. I think Team Type 1 and Spidertech are teams to watch also. I know Kenda is bringing a strong squad and will be near the front all day too."

This year, the Tour of the Battenkill is held on the same weekend as other popular national and international races that are attracting US-based teams including the Sunny King Criterium, Vuelta Mexico Telmex and the Tro-Bro Leon in France.

Continental teams not competing in the Tour of Battenkill include UnitedHealthcare p/b Maxxis and Jelly Belly. "UnitedHealthcare and Jelly Belly either chose not to come or had other commitments," Drake said.

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