Above: A selection of brave(?) MTB souls from the Rasputitsa
Rasputitsa Dirt is one of the toughest, most legendary gravel races in Vermont. Each spring, riders from throughout the United States and Canada toe the start line. And every year the intensity of the route differs. Not due to the 57 miles and over 7K feet of climbing, but due to the mixed terrain of gravel, rocks, and mud which can change in a flash depending on Vermont’s wintery temperatures and amounts of rain and snowfall.
To welcome as many different types of riders as possible, Rasputitsa’s organizers offer three different race routes: a 40K, a 70K, and the “notorious BIG”, 100K. Most cyclists including pros like Ian Boswell, enter the 100K on their lightest gravel bike possible. This year, however, a small group of knuckleheads, I mean, adventurous riders dared to brave the 100K course on their mountain bikes.
We caught up with two of the MTB riders at the event, Ranch Camp & MTBVT co-owner Evan Chismark, and Ranch Camp lead bike shop mechanic, Scott Miller.
MTBVT: What bike did you ride at this year’s Rasputitsa 100K?
Evan Chismark: I rode my beloved, fully custom, Yeti Arc hardtail. I’ve got a 140mm Rock Shox Pike on the front, Bontrager Line Elite 30 wheels, and a Sram GX drivetrain. I ran a 2.4″ Maxxis Rekon front and a 2.35″ Rekon Race on the back.
Scott Miller: I also rode my Yeti Arc carbon hardtail but with a 130mm travel suspension fork. I swapped out the MTB tires for some gravel tires so they would roll faster and be lighter in weight.
MTBVT: Was this your first Rasputitsa? Would you do it again? What would you do differently?
Chismark: Yes, this was my first Rasputitsa. I’d do it again! As far as what I’d do differently, I’d train more so as not to come unglued on the last climb, but otherwise, it was an awesome experience. Maybe a gravel bike next time. Maybe. Well, probably not.
Miller: Yes, this was my first Rasputitsa. I would need to be convinced to enter it again. If I had a gravel bike, I probably would have ridden it, but I got talked into riding this with my mountain bike.
MTBVT: Were there points on the course when you felt glad to be on your mountain bike? If so, when?
Chismark: No doubt. There were a few sections when I gave the people on 40c tires and drop bars a lot of credit for taking this on at full race pace.
Miller: Not really, the course was mellow. The MTB is always a safe bet when you don’t know what to expect. I’ve done gravel events where no matter what kind of bike you ride, it’s going to be the wrong bike at some point during the course.
MTBVT: If you could ride any bike in the world next time you do Rasputitsa or a race like it, what would you like to ride?
Chismark: Riding an MTB at a race like this in some ways detracts from the true gravel experience. When the route gets rowdy on these courses it’s easy to mob right through on an MTB with big tires and a suspension fork. So, I’d like to try riding the same crazy pave and class IV sections on a gravel bike and see how different it is.
Miller: If I ever do Rasputitsa again, I will ride a gravel bike. It all depends on the course. I’ve done gravel races back home in PA, where you’d definitely have a better time riding a MTB.
MTBVT: Would you recommend other mountain bikers do gravel events? If so, why? If not, why not?
Chismark: Oh my god – yes! These events are more about testing personal limits and making friends with complete strangers. Whatever bike you’re on, sign up for one of these rides. Especially an event as steeped in tradition as Rasputitsa. It’s such an insanely good way to explore your backyard and experience Vermont.
Miller: Definitely – gravel events are fun! They usually have longer mileage than MTB races and a lot of elevation to challenge yourself. Show up with whatever bike you own and do the thing.
It’s a bike ride so, if you like riding, you should be good to go.
MTBVT: How were you feeling before the race? And after?
Chismark: Before the race, there was a beautiful vibe of human connection, anticipation, and caffeine, mixed with the nerves that come with knowing you’ve got a big effort ahead of you: there’s no better feeling.
Miller: Before the race, I was thinking I haven’t been on my bike for the last 6 months. So, I wasn’t sure if I could make it. But the group of friends I was doing the ride with said we would ride together, start off slow, and ride at a steady pace so we could all finish.
Chismark: I was feeling great until about mile 55. That’s about where my April fitness topped out. But emptying the tank like that is a feeling I relish so it was a good type of tired after the race.
Miller: After the race, it was confirmed that although we rode at a steady pace, it wasn’t the “slow and steady” pace we originally talked about when we convinced ourselves to do Rasputitsa. In the end, though, that’s what makes any ride a good ride.
The author, MTB Vermont, and Ranch Camp riders send their heartfelt sympathy and condolences to the friends and family of fellow cyclist and Rasputitsa 100K participant, Richard Wantall who never made it home.