Thousands compete in eighth Tour of the Battenkill
In its brief history, the Tour of the Battenkill has drawn many of cycling's biggest names. At this year's race, YNN's Matt Hunter caught up with Tour de France winner Greg LeMond.
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CAMBRIDGE, N.Y. – "I think it's one of the best races in the country. What's great about it, it's not just for the elite cyclists, it's for everybody."
Greg LeMond has competed in cycling all over the world at the highest level. In 1990, the now 50-year-old from California won his third Tour de France title.
On Sunday, LeMond visited the northeast's biggest road race, the Tour of the Battenkill in Washington County.
"You had 3,000 people racing, I mean, I've never seen an event like this,” LeMond said. “I think it's the future of road racing in the U.S."
Now in its eighth year, the two day Tour of the Battenkill has grown into a marquee event on the cycling calendar.
The grueling 62 mile course, double for the 200 professionals who competed Sunday, takes more than 3,000 riders of every level and age group through the region's scenic, yet, treacherous terrain.
"It's known as kind of the Paris Roubaix of the United States, which is a big spring classic race in France,” said Zack Noonan, a pro rider who competes for Bikereg.com/Cannondale Cycling Team. “This race has a great reputation of being a hard man's race and the winner always deserves it."
"The one [ride] I did go on, it was quite steep but I made it,” said LeMond, who lead a group of junior cyclists through a portion of the course on Sunday. “I didn't have the right gear, I'll come back in much better shape next year.”
Putting amateur's and the world's past and present best riders on the same course was part of the plan all along. Organizers hope it will draw more young people into the always challenging sport and help the event grow even larger.
"There's no question pro racing is an example for young kids,” race director Dieter Drake said. “Kids aspire to be racing on a day like today."
"Battenkill was really one of my first big races as a junior and it really helped to get me excited about the sport and get me more into it,” Noonan said. “It's kind of a dream to now be able to do a pro race."
"It's really what cycling's all about, connecting people,” LeMond said. “It's a very good social sport."
For more information, visit the Tour of the Battenkill www.tourofthebattenkill.com'.