Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Rasputitsa - dry edition

Maple syrup shot in Cyberia

Shane and I were up in Vermont yesterday for the Rasputitsa gravel road race. Short version of the race report - it was awesome. Kind of a cross between Battenkill and D2R2.

Long version:

Rasputitsa is Russian for mud season. The time in April when Vermont dirt roads turn to muck. With such a mild winter and the recent warm temps we encountered mostly dry roads. Quite a contrast from last year when the Cyberia section (more on that later) turned into a 2 mile hike a bike in the snow.

This was the third year for this race. Year one had 200 participants, year two around 300. This year there were 500 in the open men's field, 100 women, and separate sub-fields for single speed and yes fat bikes. Well over 600 racers. The course is 40 miles nearly all on dirt roads around Burke mountain. Over 4000 feet of elevation with two major climbing sections of around 20-30 minutes. The first of these was set up as the race's Strava KOM and the second has a final sector on the class IV Kirby Mountain road known as Cyberia.

With an open field containing multiple domestic and Canadian pros and many cat 1 and 2 types you know you are just looking for a solid finish. Shane and I decided we would ride hard together and keep an eye on one another. Turned out to be a great plan that maximized the fun in what was still a hard course. We lined up in the kind of middle or back of the first third of the field. Neutral start on pavement for a few short miles which was hilly enough to make me wish we had warmed up a bit. Turned on to the dirt and things started to sort out. At the same time people started having early mechanicals and bottles were being ejected everywhere on the potholed roads. Shane and I each lost one and agreed that we would share if either of us lost another. We got to the KOM climb around mile 13 and rode tempo to the top. These dirt climbs were hard and stiff enough that I was in my 34x32 much of the time. Took a bottle in the feed zone at the top and then blasted down a long descent to a flatter transition section between the two climbs. We pace-lined a bit with some passengers but also rode side by side at times to avoid spraying mud on each other in the damp sections of road. By this time we were around 25 miles in and I realized we were on a pretty good pace. Last year some solid guys we know took 4 hours to finish in the tougher conditions. With mostly dry roads we were looking at sub 3 hours. When we got to the final climb I told Shane not to wait on me at the top since we would be just 8 miles or so to the finish. I could see him passing riders up ahead for the full 27 minutes (!) of climbing. We climbed River Rd to Masten Rd to Kirby Mountain Road or "Cyberia". Last year it was covered in snow forcing riders to walk to the top and making some walk the descent as well as it is steep and rutted. This year the whole way up was dry and rideable. And they gave out shots of maple syrup in a frozen glass at the top. The descent was the wettest part of the course with deep tire tracks in slippery mud. It was the only descent where I couldn't let it all hang out. Had to unclip once when I started going sideways in the mud but kept it upright. Eventually it opened up on to another dry dirt road and I picked up speed. I could see Shane up ahead and thought I might catch back up but the road tilted up again. Rode hard to the finish while picking up spots and keeping the cramps at bay. Sprinted into the finish psyched on a fun, hard race with no mechanicals (bike or body) for either one of us. Really lucked out with the weather this year. I'd do it again in adverse conditions but definitely psyched it was dry and warm. 

All smiles at the finish

Submitted by Ken