Written by Rick Harbison Wednesday, 04 October 2017 18:47
Happy to have done the Vermont 50 for the third year in a row! 50 miles of catered mountain biking through beautiful southern Vermont is about as good as it gets for me, except for the 8,000 feet of climbing, maybe…
In previous years it’s been brisk on race day with temps in the 30’s and 40's, but this year it was unseasonably warm with temps in the 60’s (always appreciated when the race starts at 6 am). Since it starts so early, the first half hour is a surreal experience as you’re biking in a huge pack through the dark, following glow sticks placed periodically along the course, just doing your best to be in the front to avoid getting clogged up in the singletrack. Eventually, it gets light enough to truly get your bearings and then it’s time to dig in.
This was my first race on the new Kona Hei Hei. After riding a hardtail for years I’m loving the comfort of a well-tuned full suspension, especially for longer races. Ultimately I feel faster on it since I’m not getting bumped out of the saddle so much, and I can get away with sitting -- and resting -- on some of the non-technical downhills. The 1 x 12 is awesome! It keeps everything simple and not once did I find myself wishing for a gear I didn’t have. Another great feature of the Hei Hei is the new Rock Shox reverb lever. It functions exactly like an under-the-bar shifter and is so smooth it’s becoming second nature for me to drop the seat post on even the shortest downhills.
I was really hoping to have a sub 5-hour race this year, but it wasn’t to be. I had an off-the-bike cramping episode around mile 35, then did my best to keep it together after that. As I neared the finish I burned a few more matches and let fly on the final downhill. Apparently, I really wanted to be done because on Strava I was in the top 10 overall for the final downhill segment. Despite the last minute heroics, I came in about the same time as last year at 5 hours and 11 minutes, and 6th for my age division (35-44) in Sport.
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