VT Fall Classic 2012

We had 40 riders start the VT Fall Classic last week. And, as a rider from Washington DC pointed out, it seems that it will not be a true ‘classic’ unless the weather offers up a challenge.

I rode the short course with friends, and in my haste as organizer I DNF’d before I even left the parking lot. My hot pink brevet card was sitting on the counter at the Old Spokes Home, where I was staging sign in and registration. Realizing this at the first control I accepted my fate but still enjoyed the ride. Any day on a bike is a good day, regardless of speed, time, and finishing status.

It has become harder and harder for me to write about this course and this ride. I developed the original route as a personal ‘birthday ride’ for myself over the course of 3 years, initially started during a time when my wife and I were adjusting to being new parents, and dealing with residual medical issues. There was alot of adjusting and pain (mental and physical) in those days, and my riding time plummeted from previous years. Getting on the bike was a gift, but one with the stark realization that my fitness was gone – and riding dirt roads with steep grades over long distances was something I was going to need to really work at – which continues to be an ongoing process.

After a few unofficial, non event scouting missions of both halves (there are almost 2 distinct north and south rides tucked within the long course) I launched the first official RUSA event in collaboration with the NERds to great weather and good roads in 2010. We’ve since grown the number of riders, tweaked the course and controls a bit, and have had rain and cold at some point during the rides ever since.

The 2012 edition proved promising from the start. A large contingent of riders converged on Burlington from ME, MA, VT, NH, NY, Washington DC. I ran into Lovely Bicycle! and her troupe on Saturday afternoon as they were exploring the Old Spokes Home (the start and finish of the ride), and I met up with more riders later that evening at a very crowded Farmhouse Taproom. Small groups were able to sit together and share food and drink, and eventually folks parted ways to rest for the late(r) (7am this year, instead of 6!) start.

Sign in went smoothly. We had quite a few folks who showed up ‘day of’. Hank Stokes volunteered at the start and finish (Huge Thanks to Hank!) and made sure everyone got off to a good start, and was at the finish with hot coffee and pizza. Bikes ranged from a few carbon racing machines, some classic and classy steel rigs, modern Indy Fabs (Ti and Steel), a couple of Rawlands, a pair of Velo Orange, and I think we had a mountain bike. We also had a rider complete the long route on a fixed gear.

At 7am I sent everyone off, and a small group of us left a few minutes later. The route rolls out of town, where eventually the road turns up, and we start to mix in dirt. I drifted between a few sets of riders near the back of the group, and enjoyed the morning fog and fall color, as well as the company of friends from Maine. I spent much of the day with Greg, who convinced a friend to ride – although he thought he signed up for our Cafe Cruise… a much different experience than the Classic.

For our little group, the rain held off until just afternoon, as we left our stop at the Village Cup. We covered the last ~22 miles in various stages of downpour and solid rain. At some point I got separated from Greg and others, and after soft pedaling and standing under an oak tree I just couldn’t wait any longer as I was getting cold – so I finished solo. I was about 7 minutes out of the time limit, had it mattered. I changed into dry clothes, wolfed down some hot coffee and pizza, then got picked up by the wife and girls, so I could snag our car. I made it back to Old Spokes, relieved Hank from volunteer duty, and waited and welcomed 200k riders in from the wet.

Despite the rain everyone returning was pleasant and had smiles on their faces, many excited that they finished, and offering compliments on the course. By about 7:15pm we had accounted for all riders, and for the first time ever running an event I was able to get home early.

40 starters (50, had all that preregistered been able to make it)
10 riders officially finished the 123k route within the time limits. Another 4 finished after the cutoff. And 3 of you finished on time but walked off with your brevet cards, or didn’t turn them in…

12 very wet riders finished the 200k route.

Be sure to check out the Old Spoke’s Blog, Dave’s report, Lily’s report, and Lovely Bicycle!’s (pending) report and photos.

NERds VT Lake Champlain Brevet

We had a nice group of folks out riding around our almost great lake last weekend. We offered up a 200k route and a 300k route. Both included about 80 miles of as nearly flat as you can get for Vermont from Burlington up through the Champlain Islands and then south in New York state. Leaving Plattsburgh the terrain turned up and down – affording some lovely views, and some very fast descending.

As organizer, it makes my day when folks roll into the finish with a smile on their face. Even a 300k rider, who DNF’d due to a catastrophic derailer failure.

VT Fall Classic 114k and 200k

I rode the VT Fall Classic Populaire this past Saturday. It was cold. It rained. The temperature dropped. We were hit with a deluge as we took off up the Notch from our first control towards the mountains and one of my favorite roads. It was windy. Did I say it rained? Dirt was in fine shape, if not soggy towards the end. The mountains were hiding in the low clouds. Fall color will peak in another week or so, but was a wonderful contrast to the gray along the route.

I’ll let the numbers tell the story:

Pre registered: 11
Did not start: 4
Did not finish: 3
Finished: 4

Pre registered: 10
Registered day of: 3 (brave, to show up morning of!)
Did not start: 5
Did not finish: 5 (completed entire route, but well out of the time limit: 4)
Finished: 3

First 114k finishers in @ 7h20m. (I was lanterne rouge and finished in 7h30m)

First 200k finisher arrived in an amazing 9h30m, which was an incredible ride, under these conditions. A group of three riders made it in just under the time limits @ 13h25m.

I focused on keeping moving to generate heat, and forced myself to drink. Food went down easy. Liquids were tough. The camera stayed tucked away for most of the ride – impossible to operate in my overmitts, and tricky at best in my liner gloves.

I’ve done this ride, and similar loops, many many times, and am always reminded at just how beautiful my neighborhood can be.

VT 600k

We just received RUSA certification for the VT North Country 600k. More details over on the NERds site.

The North Country 600k is a challenging ride which will pass through the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, Northern New Hampshire & Western Maine. The exact route of this ride is still under development but it will include upwards of five major climbs. Several of the climbs will include “Gonzo Pass” (NH-118), Kancamagus Pass, Evans Notch and Dixville Notch. This ride travels through rural Northern New England and so riders will need to be prepared for limited or no services between controls. In addition, high quality lighting is important on this ride as close encounters with moose are a very real possibility. This ride will pass through many small, picturesque New England towns and will cross several covered bridges.

A Brevet of 400k

A week ago I rode the NERds VT 400k Brevet. I had planned on being in organizer mode, but when a solid group of folks pre-registered and I figured that day of registrations would be minimal – I decided to ride. The weather was going to be near perfect, and I’d be able to connect with old friends at our halfway stop.

Our ride started in Waterbury, VT and would circle the state clockwise, running east to Montpelier, then south to Roxbury, Woodstock, Springfield, and Putney. From Putney we would jog southwest to Newfane, and then turn north and climb to Grafton and Chester. From Chester west to Ludlow, then turn the wheels north on Rt. 100 to Waterbury. 258 miles, ~16,000′ of climbing. A big day.

I rode with a few of the starters to Montpelier, and then settled in as Lanterne Rouge. Wil, Tom, and I would leapfrog each other throughout the day, and eventually saddleup together for the home stretch through the night. Having not planned on riding anything longer than a 300k this year I made a worst case scenario plan based on the amount of climbing and my general fitness. My endurance base is there, but I’ve only just started working on speed and intensity, focusing on further weight loss and core strength. Wil vowed to stick with me if I committed…

We rolled into Roxbury ahead of schedule, topped off water and grabbed a snack. Our next control was 94 miles away, nearly a century, and we were just getting warmed up. Everything on Rt. 12a seemed to flow through to Randolph, where we stopped for a convenience store breakfast. We met up with Tom again, just as he was heading out on his Rivendell. Randolph to Bethel had choppy pavement and a fair amount of traffic for a Saturday morning. When we hit Bethel the road turned up for ~8 miles. I settled in to spin over the top, wherever it was. Wil stopped at the general store in Barnard and then later to shed layers – allowing me the rare chance of getting over the top first. The drop down into Woodstock was a blast – we spun along at 30-35 mph for what felt like an eternity.

We passed through Woodstock proper and made a stop at the South Woodstock General Store, and followed 106 to Springfield. We made a quick stop outside of Springfield to top off bottles and calories as I wanted to make the final stretch to the next control without venturing off route for supplies. I was starting to notice the heat – all 68 degrees of it. As we left Springfield the road turned up. It bordered on ridiculous as I cursed the organizer for sending us up 12-16-18% grades on our way to Saxton’s River. The climbing on this stretch seemed to go on forever, with Wil actually getting off to walk and talk to me as I grannied up the final pitch. Over the top and the rain let loose. At first we opted to ride it out, only to stop under the next set of trees to suit up into rain jackets. Aside from trying to bomb a descent in a sheet of water – the rain was welcome, and after the initial downpour it settled in as a pleasant drizzle that lasted until just south of Saxton’s River. The final push to the control was over Westminster West – another climb – passing washed out driveways and lots of downed branches and leaves in the road. We rolled into the West Hill Shop ahead of schedule – crossing paths with Tom again. We were just in time for lunch and a party – the shop was celebrating their 40th anniversary and at least a hundred people had just finished a long road or mountain bike ride to celebrate. Real food was consumed and I caught up (quickly) with familiar faces. Wil and I were easy conversation targets – wolfing down food, soaking wet and filthy, with odd luggage, lights, and cue sheets strapped to our bikes.

We rolled out ahead of schedule to tackle the terrain to the Dummerston Covered bridge. 15+ miles, and it hurt. I’ve done this stretch of road so many times when I lived in town – but with 125 miles in your legs the 18% kick at the end and the steep switchbacks hurt. Alot. I clawed my way over the top for the ripping descent, feeling completely spent. And we were just halfway.

The route then took a mild turn up Rt. 30 to Newfane and a grocery store / market. On the wide shoulder of Rt. 30 I pulled my feet out of my shoes and slipped off my socks in hopes of drying them before nightfall. When I pulled into the control there was no sign of Tom, but Wil was soundly asleep in the ditch.

The last few years has had me baffled by what to eat on long rides. Things that used to work have failed me, and GI issues were the cause of my DNF on a recent 400k out of Boston. This time out I couldn’t let stomach issues be a show stopper – so I stuck with foods that I’ve had previous success with – until I got to Newfane. I knew that I needed to get my electrolytes back in balance, and I know that sports drinks available at gas stations and convenience stores often send my stomach south – so after a bathroom break and face washing I popped 3 lactaids (to be sure!) and downed the most satisfying chocolate milk I’ve ever had. I chased that with some salty chips, reloaded the water bottles, and grabbed a ginger ale for good measure. Within 15 minutes I felt like a new person. Ready to roll I found Wil still asleep in the ditch. He started moving, got his card stamped and reloaded, and we were off again. I burned more time than I had wanted at this control – but I felt refreshed as we rolled out – and we were still ahead of schedule. Next up – 31 miles to Ludlow, via Grafton and Chester. With plenty more climbing, as day turned to dusk.

The route to Grafton is superb. I’ve always enjoyed the climb – and with 140 miles in my legs it still was some fine cycling. Roaring creek to your right, no traffic, smooth pavement, daylight fading but glowing on the tops of hills, and the peepers starting to peep. Up over the top and you are rewarded with a rolling 6-7 miles into town. A few quick turns and we were climbing our way up and out of town, for what felt like forever. Up and over the top we dropped into Chester in the dark. I really enjoyed watching Wil’s tail light twist and turn as he tucked into curves and was able to pick my line well ahead of time following his lead. We passed through Chester and turned up VT 103 for 12 miles to Ludlow. Wil took off ahead of me and we agreed to meet at the next control. I struggled for this section – it was one of those ‘longest 12 miles of my life’ portions of the ride. My feet were still wet, it was dark, nearing 10pm, I was calorie deficient, and what I remembered as a relatively flat road had several not so subtle climbs between me and a break. I moved pretty slowly, but rolled into Ludlow still ahead of my schedule – and found Wil and Tom stocking up for our final leg – 85 miles to the finish with no resupply save water at the 41 mile mark. My pictures fade away here. Lots of work to do in the darkness.

I took some extra time grabbing calories and extra liquids, and snagged 2 plastic bags from the clerk. Returning to my bike I had a yard sale and reorganized my kit, then tucked my wet feet into the bags and then into my shoes. I donned my rainlegs to ward off the chill, and put my rain jacket on to keep in the heat. The rain legs would come off 5 miles up the road – too warm – but the jacket and the bags would stay on until just about the end. The three of us rolled out onto Rt. 100 for a night of riding what some folks think is one of the more scenic roads in the state.

The miles out of Ludlow ticked by predictably and I focused on how far I’d come, and what was left to do. I had a few goals in mind for the ride and was checking them off in my head – the biggest goal was to make it halfway in good time without burning out. That was surprisingly easier than I thought it was going to be. Following on that I knew that if I could get to Ludlow I knew I could finish. After Ludlow I had just two minor goals – get Killington behind me, and gracefully climb Granville Gulf with 230 miles in my legs.

Killington and River Rd. came and went with a quick stop in Bridgewater to regroup. We pressed north – sometimes riding together and chatting, sometimes drifting apart into our own tunnels of light and darkness. I think we had 6 cars pass us through the night – 2 of them some kids screaming nonsense out the windows. Near Stockbridge revelers at a bonfire cheered me on – which put some pep into my spin. I caught back up to Wil and Tom as we entered Rochester for a break on Green Mountain Bike’s front porch. We reloaded water at their fountain and I cleared out pretty much every calorie I had with me – everything I thought I’d want I didn’t – so my choices were limited, as were our options – all services north of Ludlow close at 10pm (and many do not open until 7) – so we were on our own until the finish. Feeling refreshed we headed for Granville.

We made good time to town and the road tipped up. This was the last speed bump to get over – the remaining route – while not flat, was relatively easy. I lost Tom and Wil to the grade, and somehow managed a strong climb, at 3:30am, with 230 miles in my legs. The terrain through the gulf closes in on both sides of the road as it twists upward, and a creek follows you. Before the top, from the south you pass a series of waterfalls – scenic in daylight – surreal after dark. Surrounded by trees and water and darkness the sound was what I remember most vividly. Unreal, and inspiring – the roaring of the water at times deafening and overpowering what little other senses I had available. Truly inspiring despite some oncoming pain and the fatigue I was fighting.

Over the top I passed Wil napping in the ditch and Tom raiding his handlebar bag. As I rode ahead I pulled out something I’d been saving all night – and enjoyed the most amazing Twix bar I’ve ever had. Simply delicious.

Somewhere on the flat(ish) top of the Gulf I saw what looked like mud on the road, then heard something very large splash into one of the ponds to my left. I circled back just as my companions arrived and we scanned the woods for moose. Our lights turned up nothing – but the thought of dodging a 1200 pound animal had me riding cautiously on the descent into Warren.

From Warren to the finish everything is a blur. Wil and Tom were having trouble staying awake – so I shared some caffeinated gel with them. I also tried to engage Wil in chit chat – which derailed into me sing songing nursery rhymes and finally querying him math problems. He apparently had enough and he sprinted off the front in an effort to wake up. I’d see him again up the road cat napping on a bench as I rode by. The last 20 miles were tough. They didn’t make it into ‘death march’ category – but fatigue, lack of sleep over 30+ hours, some saddle pain, my stomach complaining about anything I’d eat, and being calorie deficient all compiled to make for a long slog. I spent a fair amount of time standing on this stretch, and at one point I got off and walked for about a half mile. I knew I had plenty of time to finish the ride – so I just geared way down and crawled along at 6-8 mph. Those last 10 miles were mental agony looking at my computer. Moving so slow… and so close to being done.

Wil and Tom rode on ahead, and I proudly carried the Lanterne Rouge to the finish for a 25.5 hour time.

258 miles
~16k of climbing
Rain, sun, twisty descending, steep climbing.

What worked – chocolate milk, real food, Twix bar, Sport Beans, Nunn tablets

What needs work – saddle interface after 200 miles started to hurt, and while my endurance base is strong – I need to push for speed and intensity – climbing well is the only way to ride fast in this terrain


The VT 400k is this Saturday. We’ll have 9+ starters for a 258 mile loop around VT, taking in some of the nicest roads from Waterbury to Putney and back. I’ve been in prep mode – bike, route, cues, brevet cards, etc. The route is spectacular – scenic, hilly, twisty fun descents (after twisty climbs) and following some of my favorite roads in northern and southern Vermont. Our halfway point is the West Hill Shop, in my old stomping grounds of Putney. The shop is celebrating their 40th anniversary – so we’ll be able to drop in on good food and cheer as we pass the 200k mark.

I’m in fast (relative!) touring mode for this ride so I mounted up the Ortlieb bags on the IF.

Also had to recoat the Showers Pass jacket! So much rain here this spring…

Been tweaking the Fargo and using it for errands and early morning rides. Loving the ride so far, need to find a sweet spot on position for singletrack and gravel / dirt roads.

Greg’s 300k

Greg has a great post up about his first 300k… he took a ton of photos too (and I snagged these two from him).

Water water everywhere. This was Greg’s first 300k. He did his first 200k on last year’s Lake Champlain ride – pedaling his old converted mountain bike 130 miles in 95 degree temps. The reward for finishing that ride – his new Surly Pacer, which he used to complete the 300k.

VT 300k Underway

The VT Lake Champlain 300k is underway… and I’m a DNF.

My ideal Friday plan of working, wrenching, and prepping for the ride turned into a marathon session wearing my organizer hat. Due to our almost great lake being well over record flood levels (and still rising) I had to do an emergency recon of the course yesterday. This meant a bike ride to the airport to grab a car rental followed by a 188 mile drive around the course + about 40 bonus miles added on to scout alternates. The first half of the course was easy to re-work, but 140 miles into the ride we had significant potentials to strand / trap riders with flooded roads – and no easy way to either rescue folks and sag them back or provide realistic, dry, and safe alternates. After consulting the NY DOT and VT AOT and not being assured 2 key roads and a ferry would be 100% operational if water levels continued to rise – we worked up a solution to continue the ride on a modified out and back course. This is a bit sad as some of the more challenging (and scenic) terrain had to be left out – but it is a great compromise to keep everyone safe, allow us to continue the event, and take advantage of the great weather today.

Once we had a solution I needed to make it happen. Multiple course changes to avoid flooding had me creating new cue sheets and brevet cards from scratch to account for the flood detours. And I re-cabled the IF on Thursday – so I still needed to wrap the bars. My Friday went from modest and relaxed to frenzied and stressed. I think I finally turned out the lights at midnight. The alarm rang at 3:15 so I could be at the start by 4:15.

I signed 9 riders in, handed out updated cues and cards, and sent everyone off. I tagged along at the back hoping to make it about 30 miles in to one of my favorite cafe stops where I could eat, get some coffee, and have a clear(er) head to decide how to proceed. I made it to the first minor uphill, maybe 4 miles into the course, and my elevated heart rate was very noticeable. I then went into a wheezing asthma attack.

So, I rolled it back to the start and hung out in case any stragglers arrived, then made my way home to rest. Greg has since called in that he was just leaving our planned breakfast stop – and aside from the wind (it will be a tailwind in 15 more miles) – he was having a great blue sky day. Wil is a bit further up the course at the first control and he’s annoyed with the wind – taking longer to cover the 51 miles than he thought. The wind will likely keep blowing this morning which will mean a tail wind to the turn around control. Hopefully it will die down this afternoon.

I’m envious and a bit sad that I’m not out on the course – but very thankful I was able to make this go for everyone who put in effort to get here and ride our VT events. As I learned last season – riding and organizing doesn’t seem to mix very well…