by Michael Benson • April 27, 2019
This would be my 3rd year in a row racing in Burke, VT. Prior to this race I do so much research on weather and the conditions in the surrounding area. Even though they moved the race up a couple weeks in the calendar, this year was such a crap shoot because of how much snow we received during the winter. Do I use these tires? Do I wear these gloves? How do I keep my feet dry and warm? Much to my dismay, I had much of it wrong. It started spitting rain from the very beginning. I wore Showers Pass socks and gloves. The socks worked out okay, but my gloves failed miserably. Not only did they let the water in (note: I should haves taped the throat of the socks and gloves) but when it started snowing in the mountains, my fingers went numb. This was very bad because I could not even feel the brakes or shifters. I had to watch my hands to make sure i was doing it correctly. Another thing that went about 2/3rds into the race was my brake pads. I left my pads in from last year's cross season. This was my pit bike but still not enough left to make it 40ish miles in the rainy, snowy, and frigid mountains of Vermont.
The race starts so fast, that if you want to compete, you have to put in more 400 watt efforts than you'd expect from the very beginning (pro tip: warm up well before the whistle and stage near the front). As things settle in you start to take note of who you will be peddling with for the next 3 + hours. The roads are a mix of everything, but plan for primarily smoother gravel with a few gnarly class IV roads tossed in. I chose to run Vittoria Terrano Dry's in a 40 mm width. I'm sure I gave up some speed, but I know I was able to get it back in dodgy terrain. As we neared the end of the race, my body temp was declining rapidly which made me wonders why the hell I was doing this god-for-saken race again. When I crossed the finish line, I was so cold that I just dropped my bike at my son's feet and ran inside to the bathroom to run my fingers underneath the warm water. Ironically, this was a bad idea because the pain from the heat hitting my frozen hands was unbearable. I shook for like 30 minutes before indulging in libations and food. For the first two races, in prior years, I signed up within 10 days of the finish. Not this one. I am undeclared. This is a climathon. Granted, having a 40 tooth chainring and 11-36 gearing was spot on, if you want to do well here, be prepared to have to set all sorts of power records and deal with Vermont weather. After the race was over the promoters posted that they would be adding two longer routes for the next year. Not sure just yet if that type of suffering is for me. Maybe if the weather wasn't such a factor.