The Vermont Ski and Snowboard Museum‘s Epic Summer Event was hosted at Craftsbury Outdoor Center this year instead of in Stowe as it was in previous years. It was also the last event of the EFTA New England Championship Series for 2014. Since Craftsbury is only about 45 minutes from my home, I really couldn’t come up with a good excuse not going.
The last time I did a full mountain bike race at Craftsbury was sometime around 1991. That was back in the days when NORBA ran the world of mountain bike racing and USA Cycling was just for the leg shaving, pavement-pounder crowd. I don’t really remember much of that race other than it being really cold (it snowed) and pedaling through very soggy, grass covered nordic ski trails. My experience this year was much better than the one I had 20+ years ago.
The course was a combination of traditional, technical single-track, grassy X-C ski trails and some newly cut machine made trails. The technical single-track made up the majority of the five mile loop that we rode with some bermed corners on the descents thrown in for extra fun. The climbing was definitely noticeable, but never steep enough that my 1×10 setup couldn’t handle it with ease. Normally, I hate grassy trails, but the grassy sections were fairly firm and generally made for some fast riding. The very few places where things were a little softer, my 3″ tires made the riding pretty easy. The thing that did stand out was the rooty sections. Since I was riding a fully rigid bike, this took its toll on me.
We started the race in the lower fields at the nordic center. This led to an immediate climb up a short grade covered with chipped wood – slow going. From there, we crossed another field before entering the woods and funneling into the first section of single-track. The first lap was pretty congested with the racers from the large expert field trying to establish position. By the end of the first lap, we seemed to have settled down into a more reasonably spaced out field.
For me, the race itself was relatively uneventful. I was really getting into the single-track sections by the second lap and was able to spin up the climbs without burning myself out – gears are great for that. I spent much of the second and third laps riding solo with only the occasional need to pass. I was really enjoying the twisty stuff in the woods. By the time the fourth lap rolled around, the technical terrain had really beaten up my arms and I was more than ready to be done. Usually my legs are the first to complain but that wasn’t the case with this race. Between my arm muscles and having to pass riders from the tail of the Sport field, I was drained. Thankfully, the final mile of the lap is a smooth downhill and an open climb. I kept my pace through to the end and was glad to get off the bike and rest.
While I didn’t manage to get a podium spot, I stuck around to watch the awards. My nephew did his first mountain bike race and managed to pull off a win in the junior novice category – and he did it wearing jeans. I did manage to come home with some loot by winning a t-shirt in the raffle. Overall, it was a great race and I had a good time. Brian and the folks at Craftsbury did an outstanding job organizing things for an excellent event. Hopefully, VSSM will return to Craftsbury for their Epic Event next year.