• NorCal’s Flanders

    by  • March 4, 2011 • norcal scene • 5 Comments

    This is for you non-Californians and weenies, like me, that never leave the coast.

    sanJo.jpgIn tn the shadow of Yosemite National Park sits NorCal’s equivalent of Flanders – the San Joaquin Valley. To many this fertile stretch of land is a necessary evil to be passed through on our way to Tahoe or LA. To NorCals faithful it is the home of the most treasured SPRING CLASSICS like this weekends events at Merco and other famous one word races like Snelling, Madera, Copperopolis, and Merced.

    In my imagination Flanders is still pocked by craters from WWI bombs, amusingly dressed belgian farmers, and cobbled roads. In reality it’s most likely a rust belt like where i grew up in Up State New York, riddled by slightly backwater creepy people. But unlike the hilly lands of my hometown Flanders created a culture of racing with some of the most prestigious races in the world running through their broken down towns and antiquated roman roads.

    sprint.jpgLike Flanders the towns and roads of San Joaquin Valley have seen better times. And yet these towns open their doors to promoters and racers every spring for some of the most prestigious races in the US regardless if they carry and NRC label or not. Racers who make the trek to the central valley are rewarded with European style road races and conditions that range from balmy summer fantasies to windswept gutter slug fests.

    Rider’s made the trek last week to Snelling and Merced, and this week even more of America’s pro’s and top amateurs have made their way out west for the Merco stage race. While Battenkill, in Upstate NY no less, has gotten top billing as the US equivalent of the Paris Roubaix, those of us in NorCal, know that God is found in the hills of Copperopolis where brother Levi teaches the gospel of racing to those willing to listen.



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    Former NorCal resident now residing in Madison,Wisconsin. I race cross, but I'm named after a velodrome. Support your local bike shop, NorCal race promoters, and go learn to race on a track. Hellyer Velodrome - http://www.ridethetrack.com


    5 Responses to NorCal’s Flanders

    1. bicoastal
      March 4, 2011 at

      The dirty little secret about Battenkill is that it isn’t even that great of a race. It just attracts the excitable New York City lower cat and masters racers who want something “epic”. Copperopolis is dramatically harder but lacks the pr.

    2. Eddy
      March 4, 2011 at

      I like the comparison between flanders and nor cal. Where Nor Cal races lack much of the “charming” physical attributes that make Flanders racing tough… grim weather, cobbles, narrow twisting farm roads, searingly steep but short climbs (often narrow and cobbled) the topography of races like Copperopolis make up for it with longer climbs attacked by packs of race-hungry riders. Still we have a great tradition here of early season races that build grit in our riders ala the continentals. One last note: Flanders is actually not an aging rust belt but a very prosperous farming and industrial region (though lots of the small towns can be very dreary). Northern France where Paris Roubaix runs is that aging rust belt… as is the Wallonian region of Belgium.

    3. Ken
      March 5, 2011 at

      bicoastal, have you ever raced Battekill? I’ve been there three times and it’s a fantastic race, attracting riders from all over the country. It’s every bit as hard as Copperopolis and can be windy, rainy, cold or hot. It’s a true race of attrition, superbly run and fabulously popular. A 63 to 82 mile loop, not laps. Rough roads, smooth roads, lots of climbs, hard packed dirt and very little flat. Lead and follow cars for every field. They have races running all day long (first race is off at 8 AM or so and the final race starts at about 3 PM) and every single race starts on time. Not too shabby for close to 2000 competitors in some 20 categories. Not to mention the fact that the race attracts the top Pro Continental teams. That’s why I make the trek every year that I can. Next time, check it out before you make disparaging comments.

    4. bicoastal
      March 5, 2011 at

      Yeah, actually I have done Battenkill and found it significantly easier that Copperopolis. It is a good race, but in my opinion isn’t worthy of the nearly mythical status many riders on the east coast attach to it. When I did it two years ago there were some serious issues with the pace vehicles and marshaling (likely because they were overextended due to the enormous number of racers). I’m sure Dieter has improved things since then, but he also raised the price to $100, which is absurd. You are entitled to your opinion, but mine didn’t come out of thin air.

    5. Paul D
      March 5, 2011 at

      All I’m saying is we gotta love the bone rattling rough road, mud in your face, hilly, windy, pulling your lungs out of your throat type races.

      Copper is the best race around these parts for these reasons, IMO.

      And heck yeah I’d love to try Battenkill, if only I hadn’t spent my last penny on new pedaling schwag this offseason, making travel to anywhere east of driving distance a financial impossibility.

      I was outta control. Just couldn’t resist.

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