Written by Kevin Ryan Friday, 23 November 2018 00:00
This year was my second time doing the Circumburke Mountain Bike Challenge. My first effort was in 2014, and the race has clearly gained in popularity as there were many more racers this year than four years ago. This year’s crop of racers was particularly dedicated as it was a cold, wet day with a few short periods of rain during the race. This year I attended with fellow Bikeman racers Warren Gerow, and Rick Nelson. Bikeman allies Brett Morgan, Terry Urquhart, and Jeff Galvin raced as well.
The race began at the Burke Mountain ski lodge, and as the name implies, circumnavigates Burke Mountain. Most racers ride either a 27-mile course, but those who truly wished to suffer can do the Circumberzerk, which consist of two laps. For those who are not down with pedaling, there was also a running race.
Just about any mountain biker in New England knows and loves East Burke for the unparalleled single track of Kingdom Trails. The Circumburke Challenge was partially a psychological challenge in that we were so close to that fabulous KT singletrack but the race featured little of it. The course contained several long, long, muddy stretches of double track with endless water bars and, being Vermont, no shortage of climbs. The course did contain several sections of fantastic KT-style singletrack, and fortunately more than there were four years ago.
In 2014, all the 27-mile racers started at the same time, so riders of all abilities were mixed. This year, racers were let go in stages by class. As 2018 has not been my best autumn for riding (life keeps getting in the way), I entered the Sport/Intermediate class as opposed to Expert/Advanced. I strategically positioned myself a quarter of the way from the front, figuring I would not have to battle past too many people, nor would be getting in anyone’s way. My plan was a good one, and riders were pretty well sorted out after the first climb with little carnage. Like I said, I did not think my fitness was all that great starting out, but seeing 100+ people behind me in the open field on the Shire trail boosted my confidence a bit.
The entire race went great. It got a bit cold and wet at times but I watched my heart rate carefully and made sure I did not burn all my matches early in the race (yes, it’s only 27 miles but to me at least, it feels like more.) I had no crashes, and no mechanicals, and was very happy with my decision to leave my Schwalbe Nobby Nic tires on as opposed to swapping them out for Racing Ralphs. I did better than expected, ending up 12th out of 148 racers in my category. Rick, Warren, and Brett did well in the expert class, coming in 4th, 5th, and 6th, respectively. I definitely look forward to doing this race again next year, hopefully with the same crew.
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