I had heard great things about the Vermont Overland Gran Pix. My good friend Michele gave it high marks. Michele is a trail ninja. If she likes an adventure ride it is going to be a good one. It is dubbed a "race" but coined an adventure ride. Basically a mullet. Business at the front and party at the back. My blog posts rarely if ever include the drive to the event but sometimes as they say just showing up is 90% of being successful. This late in the summer an overnighter away from family was not an option. So the plan was 4 am wake up call and drive 2.5 hours to VT. Not totally crazy even though I am NOT a morning person. Wheels were up at 5 am. To say I was tired was an understatement. On a good night the cat wakes me up twice and the dog once. Worrying I would sleep through my 4 am on top of all the usual nocturnal goings on and I got about an hour of sleep. It was drizzly. Then rainy. But by the time I got to NH it was nice out. My friend Derek Griggs chopped me so hard as he came onto the highway at Portsmouth, NH! This is one of the weird coincidences about bike racing I love. How many times have you randomly bumped into best friends while driving to a race? Or pulled into the lot at the EXACT time as a teammate? Happens all the time. After Derek chopped me I won't like that I dropped him. My strategy was simple. Use the fog as a tactical advantage. We had some ground fog on the drive up. Like next level. I honestly thought we might die. Whether it was driving off the road or being gunned down by a semi-truck. We somehow lived. Not exactly sure what angel was watching over us.
The five people who read this know my ADD gets the better of me some times. I was so excited to use the new Bikereg app on my stupor phone that instead of doing what I usually do for races (print out the reg page. Yes I know I am a dinosaur) I used the Bikereg app for directions. It worked GREAT! Until I pulled into Peter Vollers driveway. Ooopsies. I pulled back out onto Main street and started stalking for cars with rook racks. Saw one and chased after and rerouted to the Suicide Six Ski Resort! With a name like that you could tell we were in for a good day of adventure! It was so nice seeing a parking lot full of bike racers and riders. As I pulled into my spot boom my new teammate John pulled in right next to me. Like clockwork. We said hello, exchanged high fives and I went off to get my number. On the way over I saw THEWILCOX!!! My good friend David took a job with Rapha a while back. This meant of course he moved from Boston to Portland. He has been so missed. He is such a part of the #NECX. And now all of bike riding thanks to Rapha and his new job! He is so awesome. I gave him a big hug and we caught up. He handed me a welcome double (triple?) cap...so good.
Registration was hilarious. A mix of nervous riders who clearly were here to race and a party crowd. Saw so many familiar faces. The plan going in was to ride with a loose group of friends. The lead up to VOGP was a hilarious faux freak out about equipment selection. At some point it stopped being pretend and might have hit full freak out mode. I don't think so though. The main issue was we kept getting different intel from different riders. Most riders were committed to CX bikes with file treads. But people were texting me advice to go 29er. I have used the 29er on some of the adventure rides we have here in Boston. But those were more mountain bike rides that we do on CX bikes. I have been happy with that choice. But a 29er is not ideal with lots of dirt roads and climbing. My friend Todd won the bike choice chicken though. He opted for his sweet Zanconato steel 29er. He put 40 C tires on and destroyed us all.
My choice was simple. I resurrected my Rock Lobster recently do to some unforeseeable n -5 bike issues of late. The RL was given new life and has become a bit of a Franken bike. Fork from one bike, wheels from another. Its how CX used to be before everyone showed up with matching out of the box carbon wonder bikes. I went with Clement MXP tires instead of file treads. I have some very bad history with file treads and wet rocks. I think I still have the scars on my internal organs from the last time I crashed on file treads. The adventure ride/race began ala JAM Fundo. New readers who are unfamiliar with the JAM Fundo the start of the ride was staged in a parking lot. A very wide parking lot. With one "exit" And we were going to all be turning right. Yeah you know how this goes. We strider biked along with a horde or human powered machines to the eventual road. Then joined the congo line. It has been a while since I have been in a group this big. It was fine. Unlike some big group rides this ride with probably comprised of 90% cross riders. Cross riders are my peeps. We survive the first road sector and then take a sharp left onto the first dirt road. Of course its a climb. My heart rate goes through the roof. I guess waking up at 4 am, driving 2.5 hours and pounding cappuccinos is not ideal for warming up to pedal the bike.
Again this is reminding me a lot of the JAM Fundo. It is elbow to elbow on the climb. Riders are so close to one another. Luckily no one does anything stupid. Ok I do a few stupid things but it is in the futile attempt to stay in contact with my little group of friends. My main plan to be honest was to ride all day with Eric. Eric is pictured above eating a deep fried bacon doughy bit of goodness above. We have been trying to get together all summer for a ride. It just hadn't happened until the VOGP. So my main goal was don't lose Eric! The first couple of climbs were typical dirt road climbs. Punchy but not to bad. Then we hit the first sector of "pave" aka singletrack and things blew to pieces. Todd made a vicious attack on his 29er gravel bike and was gone. Never saw him again. Eli went into full chase mode and like Todd was gone. Eric and I regrouped and found a pace we could handle. We met one of Eric's friends Alix a bit down the rode and created a little group. Eric and Alix had ridden Raid Rockingham together and were a two person comedy act. They kept me laughing through all the suffering.
To say the course at VOGP was beautiful would be an understatement. It is in my top 10 of courses. Maybe top 5. It mixed all the elements I love in a mixed terrain ride. Killer dirt roads, cool towns, single track! Tech. Mud. Bourbon...wait bourbon? Ok that is not 100% confirmed but I am pretty sure we did either bourbon shots or shots of Sailor Jerry. The VOGP as stated earlier is a race. Make no mistake. JD was scoring it and he is as legit as it comes in the scoring game. And one of my fave people in the world! And Ned Overland errr Overend was in attendance! How crazy is that? Through in Tim Johnson, Crystal Anthony and her brother and you have some serious firepower. The rest of us weren't racing. Obviously. In the spirit of all good adventure rides the crew at VTOGP set out some great aid stations. Not just the usual random water stop with a Clif Bar and energy gel but a legit gourmet century type stops. There were two actually. The first one was stocked with the fried bacon donuts. Incredible. Next stop had all kinds of maple goodness and what was described as "maple water" When I downed the shot my throat burned. In a good way. I looked at my partners in grime Kat and Alix and was like what was that? What ever it was it gave me wings. The closest we could get to an answer was it was maple water soaked in old rum jugs. So good. It might have been bourbon....
Eric, Alix, Kat and I rode the entire course together. I can't thank them enough for one of the best days on the bike in a long time. I am hooked on the VOGP. Again its up there with the top ten rides I have done in my life. Yes the climbing at times was BRUTAL. The 3 of them knew the course and would have conversations in hushed tones about the spikes that would be coming up. I was thankfully totally oblivious! All I did was deal with what was in front of me. The climb at mile 40 though was something. We climbed, and climbed and climbed. But the company kept it light and we all were nicely suited to each other pace. The part I love the most though is the descending and singletrack. All four of us race CX and mountain bikes and ride dirt roads. So bombing down high speed descents was a non-issue. One thing I will say. If you see caution signs on an adventure ride pay attention. In general you should be paying attention but most riders get so stoked on the pure thrill of descending they can get themselves in trouble fast. We saw a few tire tracks leading off the road and saw one gentleman take a legit gravel nap. Eric almost had to bunny hop over him. Good times!
One of the highlights of the day though was when my friend Michele gave me this. Picture above is a brand new IF measuring tape. Somehow this summer I lost my 20 -year old IF measuring tape I picked up at Interbike one year. I loved that tape. Losing it bummed me out. It turned me into a bit of a mental case. I won't lie. I am weird with some stuff I won't sugar coat it. This was literally one of the nicest gestures a friend has ever given me. Michele is so awesome. Not only a great friend but a great teammate and leader of HUP United. So lucky to have her as my teammate and friend. Such a great day on the bike. And like that my friends my gravel season is over. Now time to focus a bit more on CX itself. Running starts today. Skills start this week. Yes I will still do adventure rides. I will put this out there now. I am doing Iron Cross this year. So the riding has to match up with the Mac Daddy of all adventure rides. HUGE thanks to Eric, Alix and Kat. Couldn't think of three cooler people to spend the day suffering and laughing with.