60ish mile groomed gravel road ride starting in Stowe. Cool bikes, swimming holes, read on!
I drove up the night before, a bit of a stretch at 3.5 hours. I tried to get into one of the New Hampshire state parks to save hassle and expense. I couldn’t get in anywhere though, so I spent $120 to stay in at The Stowe Inn. I checked in smoothly, and went to dinner down the street at the lively The Vermont Ale House.
The next morning, upon arriving to start the Raid Lamoille, I found myself surrounded by the usual suspects. These dirt rides are organically forming a cycling club of their own. I presume it attracts a certain mindset of not-very-competitive, road-less-travelled seeking bike enthusiasts. The same ones. Over and over.
Some bring their touring bike, or cross bike, or just the one bike they have; and some invest a substantial sum in road-height bottom bracketed, big tire clearanced, lightweight Ti tubed, disc braked, carbon rimmed, chris-kinged, tubeless tired, purpose built bike for these rides. Vintage Bridgestone MB to spanking new Salsa Warbird, Sun-tour to Dura-ace build outs; we’re all here for the same things.
And those things are hard climbs, that dirt flavor in your mouth from pickup trucks driving by at high speeds over the dry country road, or that mud flavor from the rooster tail of road filth coming off the tire in front of you. See also, epic vistas, wonderful pastoral landscapes, quaint rural towns, and deep conversations about custom flame paint jobs versus metallic flake that last for miles.
Speaking of miles, the ride starts with a very steep climb at about mile 2. It is followed by a few more isolated climbs, and then you’re just pounding out a roller coaster of up and down hills at high speed. Big climb, more roller coaster. Get going fast and you might not have to pedal up the next hill at all. In that way, though it was allot of ascending feet, what there was seemed quite manageable.
The road surfaces were groomed gravel, no chunks. No pot holes or blemishes really. The only flat I got was from the paved section. I started losing air half way up a hill and stepped on it to get to the top before changing tires.
Lunch was in Craftsville while they had their farmers market going on. It was hard to pass up the smell of BBQ at the farmers market for a peanut butter sandwich at the local five-and-dime.
I know this statement would garner derision from whoever has been riding these roads since the dawn of time, but much of the course for Raid Lamoille were very low traffic as far as cycling goes as evidenced by the complete lack of previous strava riders. There weren’t many cars, either. In fact, if you took away the fences, I’m positive these roads would be most trafficked by cows.
As a not-comprehensive assessment of the area though, more than one climb had 30 something strava riders in the complete history for it, nearly all from the day the ride took place. Your’s truly came in 7th through 10th on a number of them, right behind or head of someone going by “Albi le cycliste” of Trois-Rivières, Québec, Canada. That I would come in 7th or 10th in anything is mindboggling and makes my point that not many people ride these roads.
On my favorite strava segment, I came in DFL, which in this case was 30th out of all strava riders to ever schlog up this 2.5 mile section of 4% average grade along the Sterling Brook. The only thing is, on this section, last place is actually first place. Because the only way you can beat me on this section is to pull over to the side of Sterling Valley Road just past the bridge for Dr Neal Road. Scramble down the goat trail, and jump in Sterling Brook.