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Rasputitsa 2018

Team Bikeman - Race Reports

Photo credit Katie Busick

I enjoy spring. It’s not top on my list for seasons. I like it for the warmer and longer days, bundling up just requires wearing a sweatshirt, and the landscape turns from brown to green which is a sign of good things to come. If you're a cyclist, spring is also known for its “classics.” If you live in New England or anywhere close for that matter you probably have heard of the spring gravel race in Vermont known as the Rasputitsa. It’s not necessarily a “classic” just yet (in my opinion) but I’d say give it a few more years and we can put in that category.

There were a couple days left to register and I thought here’s a crazy idea, let’s do this race and do it on my single speed cross bike. I normally don't do any sort of racing in the spring. To be honest, I do very little in regards to training until mid summer. I primarily focus on cyclocross. Once registered, I did force myself to do some training. I just hoped muscle memory would push me through the pain of this race. They said it would be about 40 miles with 3500’ plus of climbing on Vermont’s muddy gravel roads.

Race day and the weather couldn’t have turned out any better. The day before, the forecast called for cloudy skies and highs in the 40s. We were actually treated to I’d say, mid 50s and partly to Sunny skies. The start of this race can be pretty chaotic. It’s just a mass of riders (1500 riders I believe) freewheeling it from the base of Burke mountain to the town. Once neutral start waves goodbye, you then turn onto the race course. It takes about 5 to 10 miles to sort out the group you my want to stick with during the race. There’s a good amount of climbing and I figured that’s where I needed to do a lot of my work, then rest on the flats/descents, also riding someone’s wheel really benefited in my recovery from the climbs. I was surprised by the condition of the gravel roads. I thought the roads would be a bit rougher. They were completely opposite, kudos to the town or state D.O.T. for smooth tarmac. Occasionally, you would have to avoid a pothole or two, maybe three. I felt good the whole race, muscling my way on the hills and doing the best I could on the flats and descents. It wasn’t until the last climb up to Burke Mountain where I started to cramp up pretty severely and I ended up walking a little bit until it somewhat leveled out. The last mile or so we were treated to a snowmobile trail with several inches of snow still on it. That was fun. It felt like a ride on an old wooden roller coaster. Your body getting thrashed around trying to find or hold a line then, your tires go one way, your body the other. Finally, you pop out of the woods and you hit the base area of Burke Mountain where the finish is. You cross the line and someone with a wide smile hands you a nice cold beverage for all your hard work and sacrifice.

I ended up finishing first in the single speed category and 32nd overall. Everything fell into place for me. I was having such a great time riding with people from all over New England and Canada. It helped get me out of the pain cave.

I think what makes this race special is that it’s really not about how well you finish or how fast you go up and down it’s that everyone suffers, everyone is in the hurt locker one way or another. In the end, it truly comes down to people having fun on their bikes.

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