Written by David Keppler Sunday, 05 August 2018 00:00
One of my favorite races of the season is the Stonewall Farm Bike for Bovines cross country race in Keene, New Hampshire. Fortunately, I’ve moved a bit closer to the venue and was able to fit the race into my somewhat hectic summer schedule.
Stonewall Farm is a certified organic farm that offers classes (from farming to homesteading), events (weddings and the like), and has a farm store that sells their organic vegetables and home-made ice cream. They also own a fair amount of land that has some great mountain bike trails on it. The race covers a 5+ mile loop that is surprisingly challenging with a couple of serious climbs that bracket both ends of each lap. I signed up for the Sport 40+ class and made the short drive up to check out the race.
It rained hard the morning of the race so I was prepared for a wet, slippery race and had assumed we’d get rained on as well. Fortunately the rain stopped in the morning but left in its wake some dense humidity and more heat than I had expected. This also kept the woods damp and made for some fun (read ‘challenging’) root infested corners on the course.
17 of us started hard at the noon whistle and worked our way across the cow pasture into the woods. The initial part of the race is on a carriage path for a couple tenths of a mile so the pecking order is settled quite early and we were in a good line moving into the single track. The substrate at Stonewall is mostly soft, loamy soil with a lot of rocks and roots. The switchbacks are tight and with the slippery roots made for a challenging course. The wet roots made for a bit of extra effort and caused me to dab more than once in spots that I normally would have no problem navigating. Frustrating but it was all part of the race so I tried to make the best of what I had to work with. I did my best to settle into a sustainable pace and put my head down to ride.
The course is a good mix of up and down giving a small respite just when it seems like you’ll be climbing for the rest of the day. As I mentioned earlier, there are two substantial climbs that seemed to define each lap for me as we rode. The first hill comes about 1/3 of the way into the lap and is a slow, steep slog with a sharp right turn at the top. Surprisingly, it felt like I made it up that particular hill a little faster on the second of our 2 laps. The second climb occurs another third of the way through the lap and is, if anything, a little steeper and quite a bit longer than the first, at least in my mind.
One thing that I really enjoy about Stonewall is how they’ve utilized the space that they have to work with. There are many points on the course where you can see people that are ahead of you as well as coming up to challenge you from behind. This keeps the race exciting and gives you a chance to keep track of where you are in the action. It also helps me to keep pushing when I know a challenger is just behind me. There are a few open, hammer sections on the course but for the most part it is full of switchbacks, short, punchy climbs, some well bermed downhill sections, as well as the long, head-down and pedal type climbs.
My Kona Hei-Hei DL was again a great choice for the obstacles and terrain that were encountered throughout the race. My new Verge Bikeman.com shorts were super comfortable as were my new Bikeman.com wool socks. Special thanks to Alan and Bikeman.com for helping to ensure that we have the best equipment available so that we can always race at our best.
The race at Stonewall is well organized, well attended, and overall a load of fun. They make it a very family friendly event and make sure that everyone has a good day. I was able to ride the course a bit faster this year than last which is always good and overall it turned out to be a great day of racing. Chris and Jill (from Root66 racing fame) always put on a professional and exciting event. If you get a chance to attend, I’m sure you won’t be disappointed. And besides, they sell home-made ice cream so it’s your own fault if you leave there without a smile on your face. Thanks for reading and keep the rubber side down.