Wednesday, August 15, 2012


Mark Cramer
I regret that it never occurred to me to bicycle to the races at Saratoga. I’m originally from the region and I’m no stranger to bicycling to race tracks. But the car was available and I had no idea that there were alternatives to the Northway and Route 9.
So until my next chance to go racing at Saratoga, I will enjoy this idea vicariously thanks to adventure cyclist Michael Ahrens. Michael bicycled to the races at Saratoga last year and will be reinventing the challenge once again during this year’s meet.
In last year’s journey, Michael did a 380-mile circuit, beginning at Schenectady (my home town), and taking a roundabout way through Lake Luzerne and the Adirondacks, in order to soak in the region. His itinerary was partly organized according to the geography of the bicycle routes and strategically located bike shops.  

Michael Ahrens upon reaching the track on his bike
“Soaking in” the region meant dealing with the effects of a hurricane. He lost a whole day, confined to a motel because of heavy rains and 30 mph winds, which meant he had to make up the time by later doing 89 miles in a single day!
Along the way, he was confronted with a big “handicapping” decision when he arrived at a collapsed bridge in the middle of nowhere. There were two possible plays: (1) turn around and end up on a route with traffic or (2) wade through the apparently shallow river carrying his bike and gear to get across. He chose number 2, “a potentially stupid decision”, he thought at the time. But it turned out to be a great overlay. He got across, and had the entire road to himself!

Michael did make one horrendous decision, by cycling near the International Paper Company mill in Ticonderoga. According to a USA Today investigative report, local schools are affected by the emission of acetaldehyde, chlorine, chlorine dioxide, lead and lead components and formaldehyde. Michael found the breathing quite difficult. But no one says we have to make it tough on ourselves in order to cycle to the Saratoga races. Michael points out that detailed maps are available at the “Adventure Cycling” website, including the locations of bike shops. A number of superb bicycle circuits in the region are available on line thanks to the Saratoga Healthy Transportation Network, including a map of Bike Routes to the Saratoga Race Course.

In Saratoga Springs you can find the high-end Serotta bicycle company plus a bike shop highly recommended by Michael: Blue Sky Bicycles. “They even arranged to ship my bicycle back home,” he says.
So the facilities and infrastructure are there. Saratoga race course is beautiful because of the quality racing it offers, the magnificent thoroughbreds, the historic grandstand and the festive atmosphere, but also thanks to the grand setting: a region well-worth exploring, with shimmering lakes and streams, deep forests, horse farms, steel arch and truss bridges, magnificent state parks, the mountainous Adirondack Park (larger than any of the 7 smallest states in the USA), and a rich historical background.   
If your superfecta finishes first, second, third and fifth, why not work off the frustration by cycling past nearby lakes with the scent of pine in the air?

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