Saturday morning, 5:15 am the tempeture hovered near 50 degrees as hardy randonneur enthusiasts from all over the northeast arrived at the shop for the annual Fall Classic ride. Actually two rides, a full 200k brevet highlighting some of the best dirt road riding in northern Vermont, and shorter 114k version of the same route. The route was imagined by a good friend and customer of ours and you can find more info including a map and cue sheet here : Littlecirclesvt.com. The ride started at 6am sharp, it was chilly, windy, and dark as we departed Burlington north/northeast for Jeffersonville. The first leg of the trip was pleasant as the sun rose so did the temperature and best of all the rain was holding off. We reached the first checkpoint- a general store in Jeffersonville around 8:15 about 2 hours of riding. It was chilly, but a little cold is no problem. I was excited because I was familiar with the few miles of road ahead, which happens to be one of my very favorite sections of dirt road riding in the area. We headed up 108 (Mountain Rd) as if to climb Smugglers Notch, but instead we took a quick left crossing a covered bridge and climb Canyon Rd.
This beautiful 16percent climb features streams and waterfalls on eitherside of the road as well as a switchback or two.
At this point we were very well covered, but the pitter-patter of rain was sounding clearer. We were also gaining elevation and the temperture was dropping. Canyon Rd takes you to West Farm Rd. which on a beautiful day is one of the most spectacular scenes you can imagine. On Caynon Rd. you feel like you are deep in the woods, then you climb a fairly steep although short incline emerging from the woods into a clearing literally at the foot of the mountains.
Now, I can't be sure, but it seemed that we timed hitting this clearing at the same time as the sky decided to open up and man...it was getting cold! The beauty of this area was enough to keep us content. West Farm Rd turns into a narrow almost "double-track" sort of dirt road.
Here you see Will (Fresh off the VT 50) entering this strech of road. The road narrows and is lined with stone walls on either side. If you get a chance on a nice day, while leaves are still in full effect, you must take a ride out here.
From here we crossed back across 108 and took a series of washed out, rough (but fun!) dirt roads down to Pleasant Valley Rd where we got a nice downhill section of smooth pavement to Irish Settlement Rd. I am a big fan of Irish Settlement as an alternative to Pleasant Valley. It is dirt, seems to have less car traffic, and this is up for debate but i believe the climbs and descents to be a bit more gentle. While the road and company was enjoyable the weather had taken a turn for the worse. The rain picked up and the temperature had plummeted low into the 40s. My gloves had become completely waterlogged and were doing more harm than good. I ditched them, and thankfully a fantastic co-rider lent me a dry, although not a water-proof pair. "No Problem", he said, "I have these plastic bags too!". Hmmm, might make braking a bit sketchy I worried. However I was with a smart bunch. I gripped my brake hoods and two of my fellow riders tied the bags around my hands and my brakes. Sure, if I crashed i would have been in trouble, since my hands were tied to the handlebars, but at least they were dry and warm.
Once Irish Settlement turns into a paved road you are on a final descent into underhill. Flying downhill in the freezing rain proved to be less relaxing than a typical descent on a nice smooth road. From Underhill to Jericho, a mere 5 or so miles on route 15, was oh so cold. A group of us just put our heads down and rode, at a pretty good clip, to the second checkpoint at The Village Cup in Jericho. Boy was I glad to to arrive at The VIllage Cup. I laughed to myself, because it was probably 30 miles and probably four hours earlier, in Westford, that I turned to a fellow rider and remarked, "man, I hope they are serving soup at the Village Cup". And they were! Best cup of cremy chicken soup I can remember.
At this point, I could feel the cold I was already fighting getting aggrevated so I decided to bow out here in Jericho. The other three at the table carried on and completed the 200k, eventually finishing it with 5 minutes to spare! Way to go guys!
Here you see Ferdinand giving his opinion on the ride.
Despite the conditions it was still a great time. And I must say that the company was fantastic. All the Participants I was fortunate enough to ride with were the most friendly, encouraging, and helpful folks you could imagine riding with. As the fellow at the Underhill General Store said to us as we passed through, "A miserable day on a bike is still better than a day at work".
All Pictures from Mike Beganyi at Littlecirclesvt.com