If you can’t ski pow or shred singletrack, grind gravel.
Waterbury’s Gravel Grinder started in 2008 as the brain-child of George Wisell. As the owner of Five Hills Bikes, he recognized that April could be a pretty tough month for riders. Ski conditions get a bit rugged and there’s not a whole lot of dry, rideable singletrack just laying around looking to get shredded. So he came up with the idea of doing a long tour of the amazing gravel roads around Waterbury.
From the beginning it was a different event. Not really a race, not really a ‘gran fondo’-style timed group ride, the Gravel Grinder is more a giant social ride designed to kick out the cobwebs of winter.
The route has changed from year to year but you can be guaranteed that it’ll be 90% dirt and there’ll be a lot climbing. Waterbury is nestled down low on the banks of the Winooski River with the Green Mountains rising in stark relief from the valley floor. Everywhere you look is up, but the rewards are huge – great views abound from the top of every climb.
Gravel Grinder organizers know that an army marches on its stomach, so no effort is spared to make sure that the aid stations are well stocked along the way. Need traditional trail mix to fight that mile 15 bonk? No problem. Going totally Paleo? Don’t worry – bacon has always been on the menu. If you really need something to dull the pain of early season saddle-time, there’s usually a bottle (or three) of whiskey for any riders that need to take the edge off.
Speaking from experience I can say that a shot of whisky around mile 12 will make you faster. Or at least makes you feel faster. Well – it makes your ass hurt less.
Once you’re done trying to put the hurt on your friends, you’re rewarded with a post-ride feast served up by Josh Bard of Phoenix Table and Bar of Stowe. They’ve been doing it since the event started in 2008, so they know what the crowd wants.
The Gravel Grinder was originally started to raise money for the Perry Hill trail network. Over time the riding scene in Waterbury has grown – this past winter saw the creation of the Waterbury Area Trail Alliance (WATA), a new chapter of the Vermont Mountain Bike Association (VMBA). WATA will continue to steward the trails on Perry Hill, while actively looking for other trail building opportunities in the greater Waterbury area.
As a new organization, WATA needs help getting off the ground. One of the best ways to support them is come out for the Gravel Grinder on April 19th. Ride your bike, eat some bacon, and get rad!