Battle of the Gats (BOTG) has always been weird, but that's why we love it! What other event is a 20km uphill race on fixed gear bikes?
Organized by Mike Norton and Mike Bowley, BOTG takes place every year in Gatineau Park, Quebec. There's no officials, and registration consists of sending Mike a DM to let him know you're coming. On race day you can expect to see a diverse (socially distanced) crowd of cyclists: couriers, roadies, men in Speedos, and all walks of track bike life enthusiasts.
Adding fuel to the fire, I had the opportunity to debut the new Shadow X Cannondale CAADTrack at the race. Needless to say, it turned heads when I rolled up to the lot– but wasn't out of place among several gorgeous track builds.
After checking out each other's bikes and sizing up the competition, it was time to start lining up. The race this year was slightly different due to the highest point in the park, Champlain Lookout, being closed for repairs after a landslide– so the finish was held at the Étienne Brûlé Lookout for the first time since the race's inception, which was a bit of a curveball.
The womxn’s race had a decent turnout, including two riders from Shadow Elite: myself and Isabelle (Izzy) Bryenton. The field stayed together until the first "named" climb to Pink Lake, after which Izzy and I broke off for a long game of cat and mouse as we rolled our way up the park. With neither of us able to make an attack stick by the end of the King Mountain climb, it was anyone's race. As we progressed, the pace slowed to a match sprint during one flat section because neither of us wanted to lead.
Exhausted, but still together, it came down to the final corner. I managed to take a better line, and even with Izzy taking the final segment QOM, she wasn't able to close the gap– but it was damn close and she was able to secure a second place finish. Caro followed our team lead shortly after to take the third step.
As for the men's race, it was a blowout by Theo Kincaid taking the first step, followed by Nikolas Caimi in second, with third place (and heaviest bike award) going to one of the men in Speedos: Matt Hyde.
Battle of Gats is always a highlight of the season, because it’s actually a fun race that celebrates the community. While competitive, there’s lots of camaraderie between the post-race hangs at the lookout and riding back down the mountain together– which always garners some priceless looks from onlookers as they spot a pack of track bikes spinning down the park.
Overall this weekend was a success, and looking forward to the next Battle of the Gats!
Photos by Mike Bowley