The few days leading up to the race were a little nerve-wracking. For two days I sat here in Maine watching it rain, and rain. and when they called for the skies to start clearing, it kept raining. So I could only guess what the mountain biking in Vermont would look like. There was also a little bit of confusion surrounding the race start time- originally scheduled for noon, it got changed to 8:00 AM a few days before. Not that big of a deal, but did change travel plans a bit. In the end I liked the 8:00 AM start, still later than the 6:30 start for the 100 milers I've been doing.
So Friday afternoon Jackie and I piled into the truck and headed over to the Green Mountains. There was camping on site at the race, but we knew with getting so much rain trying to set up a tent in the wet grass at 10:00 at night would be no fun, so we opted for crashing in the bed of the truck. Mocha was satisfied that there was plenty of room.
The race itself went off without a hitch. A short Le Mans start on the dirt road spread the field out a bit, which was pretty essential as we immediately started a single track climb. I was 6th or so heading into the trail, taking it easy trying to let my lungs recover from the 50 yds of running I just had to do (I'm not a fan of running, or getting off of my bike in general if you couldn't tell...) As we made our way to the top and into the technical single track I picked my way through riders as they dabbed, and soon found myself with the two lead riders- Jonathan Modig, who I was chasing for points in the series, and a 12 hour rider. I sat in and we rode pretty comfortably for the first lap. In the last technical section Jon looked back at me and said "hey Greg, this stuff is right up your alley!" and graciously allowed me to roll through.
We were told to expect the 12+ mile lap to take roughly an hour and forty minutes to complete. That seemed long to me, but did't seem completely unreasonable as the entire course was on trail. So Jon and I were surprised when we rolled onto the road at the start/finish in 1'10". Okay, well that definitely changes the nutrition thinking a bit! Being fueled for long laps, I rolled through the start finish without grabbing anything. Jon stopped to grab bottles, and that made him have to put in an effort to catch back on. At this point I decided that since we were doing a "quick little 6 hour race" I should attack sooner rather than later, so I rode a quick tempo up the first climb. Jon held on, but the elastic was stretched to its max by the top of the climb. So when I got into the technical singletrack the elastic snapped completely and I started to pull away.
The rest of the race went pretty much that way. Ride strong on climbs, stay smooth in the single track, and keep the speed rolling on the downhills. Doing this I was able to complete 5 laps in just over 6 hours. Enough to get the win over Jon, tie him for points leading the series (the rider placed 1st in the series didn't show up) and take the series win because I placed 2nd earlier this year in the Carrabassett Backcountry race.
While the race went well, the major focus of the day really was the trails. AMAZING. My concerns of the trails being wet? Not a problem. The director had emailed us that 'trails were drying out' which I assumed was being overly optimistic. No, he was spot on. All the singletrack was perfect- rooty, rocky old school New England single track on top of the mountain, I loved it.
The downhills were a hoot. They've been doing a TON of work on Fusters, making this crazy huge flow trail with rollers and rhythm bumps. A couple needed to be dialed in as I, and a few others, almost lawn darted ourselves on the first lap because they had a little too much "kick" for the speed we were carrying.
Most exciting for me was the climb up Noodles Revenge. Beautiful switch back climb that took almost 30 minutes to get from the bottom to the stone house on top of the hill.
I really appreciated the climb having just done a lot of reading on trail building- excellent gradient to not cause washout, grade reversals to let you pick you speed up, and well placed switch backs. If there's a place in the east you want to practice negotiating switch backs for climbing- this is it. Its amazing how much time and energy you can save or lose by being about to negotiate the switchback properly.
All in all, definitely a network to check out. They're doing great work on the Green Mountain Trails. I think the race has potential to take off as well. Peaks puts on a lot of events and they're eager to see this event grow as well. So in 2014 if you're looking for a good way to spend 6 hours on a bike, you can't go wrong with ripping this course for an afternoon!