Rasputitsa in Review

After signing up for this race I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into. Naturally, I followed the Instagram page and perused through photos of previous races to see what it was all about. Quickly I found images of riders suffering through deep mud, snow, wet, and cold. The date April 20th was coming up fast, and with training wrapping up I felt as prepared as I could have been. “It’s a 4/20 race at Jay Peak, how bad could it be” were my thoughts before landing at the start gate.

With a 5 am wake up from Stowe, loading up the car, and sending it to the race I had mixed feelings being my first gravel grind. My expectations were skewed from years of racing mountain bikes and ultra-trail races. The ride north produced a mix of rain, sleet, and snow as I approached the mountain. On arrival the parking lot was buzzing with excitement despite the conditions with cool bikes everywhere, and cold but happy faces. I headed into hotel Jay to pick up my bib and be greeted by some of the best race organizers on the East.

With my bib in hand, I cruised back to the car and loaded up the bike with gear up for the start. For this race I rode a Factor LS with 38mm gravel tires, Mavic carbon hoops, and an xx1 cassette on the rear for more range on those big climbs. It’s a dream rig – especially with the MTBVT frame bag to hold all my goodies. As I looked around, many others were doing the same as I – anxiously waiting to hop on their bikes, freezing, hoping their time slot comes soon. At the registration table they highlighted how you can hop into any time slot despite what you chose when you signed up. I waited to let the 8:00am racers send off to let the real competitive riders duke it out while I stayed back in the comfort of my car.

Watching the first pack send off brought on more mixed feelings about what is ahead. More nerves, excitement, and shivers as myself and other spectators lined up on the railing of the parking garage enjoying the show. Around the time of the start gun, snow started to pick up in an angry fashion. It was just above freezing with steady wind blowing snow in sideways, making my 9am start time feel like an eternity away. After finishing prepping for the race 5 mins after the first group launched, I knew it was time to get on the bike and start riding around. I made my way down to the start corral and lapped in front of the hotel to try to kick the shivers and warm up. The 8:30 start block was about 3 times the size of the first group, where a lot of riders had the same idea – get on your damn bike!

After a few pedal strokes the clock was ticking scarily close to 8:30. I rolled up to the back of the pack, exchanged some excitement with fellow riders, and before we knew it the gun went off. The pack rolled off the line with an attempt at starting slow through the condos, picking up the pace as we looped through the golf course and onto class 4 roads. Within the first two miles of the race the entire pack was forced off their bikes for ankle/axle deep mud where a surfboard would have been the most efficient. Starting in the back of the pack forced a slow maneuver through the slop, following the leader until the tromping landed on a paved path. We dove back on our bikes and the race was officially on. The first 15 miles of the race pure excitement took over. Riders worked their way into a peloton and moved at a ludicrous pace of drafted gravel grinding. The neighborhoods and roads were beautifully polished and intersections meticulously staged to allow racers the right of way. I hung on to the peloton until the first aid station where many stopped for a refresher. I kept wheels rolling hoping to catch an edge but was slowed by the beauty around me.


The course meandered its way through the finest gravel in the North Country. It consisted of 55 miles and about 5500 vertical feet of climbing from start to finish. We worked our way out to North Troy, back south around the towns of Newport Center and Westfield wrapping up with an epic class 4 climb for 5 miles crawling back to Jay. While clinging onto the peloton with all my mite, I knew I needed to save some matches in the box to get over that climb. The pack caught me again carrying me through the middle of the race. Around mile 35 dropped to load up on calories missed earlier in the race. Through the excitement and energy it takes to hold onto the pack, I couldn’t hesitate for a second to eat some energy bars – but I knew it was going to catch up to me.

I dropped back and started to eat every morsal of energy I had in my frame bag. This included sour skittles, energy blocks, granola bars, maple syrup, and tons of water. I saved caffeinated chews and maple for the climb knowing I will need a punch. It was nice to break away and ride my own race for the last 10 or so miles before the climb. I could see the peloton ferociously moving in the distance and was calmed by my own pace. I hit the aid station at mile 42 or so to refill the bottles and take a shot of maple in anticipation of the climb. I ended up slamming the caffeine early and hauled my way to the ascent. Once the climb started it was on. Time to make up for time lost out of the peloton. I kept the cranks moving steady with decent power and managed to hang onto the bike for the entirety of the 1200-foot climb.

Competitors took to it in many different fashions and styles with walking, cussing, and keeling over next to their bikes. After thinking it was all over there were still 3 or so miles to get back to the finish line. As we worked our way closer, we approached oddly familiar woods and our favorite – axle deep mud. At this point it was time to burn all the matches, so attempted to CX and just run right through it. This method failed quickly as the mud lasted for a solid mile. Through many hop ons and hop offs the course finally landed back on the cart path of the golf course. Through navigating parking lots and climbing past the start gate the finish line felt so far. After working your way around the water park the sound of the crowd elevated and made crossing under the finish feel so good. The faces of fellow competitors were all similar. A mix of relief, fatigue, and sense of accomplishment as we lined up for the Zero Gravity tent.

Jay was an awesome venue for the race greeting finishers with beers, food, smoothies, and a bike wash to knock off the built-up mud from miles 1-5 and 53-55. I enjoyed my chicken and beer with a view of the mountain from an Adirondack to attempt to process what I had just put myself through. As competitors waited for the bike wash, they too were in the depths of processing. After walking through the crowd and chatting with riders, although beaten down

There was a collective consensus that the race was an absolute blast. Although we encountered conditions that were unrideable, it made it that much more special to get through it all.

Here’s to a great race of blood, sweat, shivers, and tears. Our hats are off the race organizers and competitors for making it all happen. The race was a total hoot and an awesome way to kick of the season with the involvement of the whole community. Thank you Rasputitsa for kicking my butt, and everyone else’s! We will see you next year.

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