Rob Janelli's 2021 Individual Time Trial
Rob finished the South Lobe of the Vermont Super 8 in the 2020 Grand Depart. Since then, he's wanted to get give it another go, but he's a school teacher, so the summer months work best for him. Rob took on an individual time trial (ITT) of the full 640-mile Vermont Super 8 in August 2021, and he had a very strong ride, finished in 5 days, 9 hours, and 45 minutes -- the second fastest known time. He generally kept moving and slept only as needed after putting in hundred mile + days.
Below, Rob answers questions from fellow bikepackers about his ride, mostly on facebook.
Daniel Jordan: Congrats on your finish! How did it go?
RJ: Really such a great ride. I actually ended up liking the north lobe a bit better than the south lobe. There was one section on the north lobe, getting into Newport, that was a bit slow going, just weedy and rocky and unrideable for me - but the rest of the riding was great. I think the roads south of Newport were the best ones of the whole ride. I loved it when the class IV roads were just the right bit of challenging but you could still have a smooth flowy ride.
RJ: Hello all. Still recovering on sleep and soreness but overall it was such an amazing ride. Thanks for all of the support.
To answer some questions posted - I did sleep for a bit at Eden Rec Campground on night 4 but not for too long. I actually lost my sleeping pad on day 2 so I didn't get the best sleep. I would sleep for a couple of hours and then keep going. I also ended up taking really small naps on some days and that helped.
As far as the motivation goes - I was shooting for under 6 days so I had that as a bit of a push. But with the weather being so good it wasn't hard to put in the long days. I was surprised, I thought the roads would be way more wet than they were but they weren't that bad. Sure, there were definitely a few sections that were either huge puddles that were tough to navigate around, or the class IV road that turned into a mini stream bed, but those sections were where I would probably would have been walking anyway. [...]
Thanks again for all the support and to the organizers of the race. Also thank you to the great people of Vermont that were so nice along the way. Special shout out also to the Brattleboro Bike shop that quickly aligned a bent derailleur hanger for me even though they had a lot of repairs. It was luckily my only mechanical the whole ride!
Jeff Mullen: Some questions for Rob off the top of my head - What was your exact time?
RJ: Hello Jeff! Thanks for the interest and the questions. I think unofficial time is 5 days, 9 hours, and 41 minutes. Overall I'm really happy with that because I wanted to get under 6 days.
JM: You mentioned the derailleur issue and I noticed that you missed a few turns on days 1 and 2 (something I tend to do too!) - do you think you were capable of a faster time?
RJ: I learned a lot from doing this route on a rigid gravel bike with 47mm tires. Doable, but I think with all of the varied terrain I just got so beat up by the end. Definitely ideal would be a hardtail mountain bike with 2.0 - 2.3 tires and 100 - 120mm in front suspension. I do think I could have gone faster (I always do), but I think with the first time doing the full 8 I just wanted to see what it was like tackling that terrain over those 5-6 days. I also tell myself before doing the ride that all eating will be on the bike, don't sleep as much, resupply only at quick convenience stores, etc., however after riding for a few days some of those things change - I tried my best to listen to what my body was telling me. If I needed to walk up a steep hill - I did, If I needed to stop and eat a warm meal, I did. So while I think I could have gone faster, I also did want to enjoy the ride as well. Again though, I was going pretty slow towards the end because I was pretty beat up. I didn't get too lost on the ride - there were a couple of times I needed to resupply so I went off course. This was the first time I was using a sinewave beacon and son dynamo so I had to get used to that. There was one night where my wahoo roam died and I ended up getting lost south of Northfield. I ended up on some guy's property but he was real nice about it. I felt bad about bothering him at night because his property was way out there!
JM: Your day 3 was a huge one (Bennington to Montpelier) but you were back on the bike after only a few hours sleep to tackle the northern lobe - did you have a car there for a place to rest and resupply and were you at all tempted to end the ride there?
RJ: The Bennington to Montpelier ride I was definitely in the groove. I think that leg of the route is one of the best for the bike I was on as well so I tried to push a bit. I'm also pretty familiar with those roads. I also wanted to finish the southern lobe in less than 3 days (I think unofficial time was 2 days 23 hours and 11 minutes!). I ended up napping on the Montpelier high school bleachers that morning! It was early and the sun was coming up so I thought it was ok. I didn't have a car supply but had a nice breakfast at the Capitol Cafe. I tried not to stay too long in Montpelier because it was easy to get sucked in and stay for a while!
JM: Any cool stories of people that you met or things you saw on the route?
RJ: The coolest part of the ride was going through Eden at midnight. It was a clear quiet night and the stars were reflected off the lake. I actually ended up walking my bike through the residential road because I didn't want to wake anyone, it was that quiet! I also thought that the roads between Burke and Derby Line up in the Northeast Kingdom were really cool. It didn't seem like I was in Vermont! I don't think any cars passed me for hours. The Heartwelville to Bennington part was also much much better this year. It was still slow going, but it's amazing how much easier the ride is when you know what is coming.
JM: Why an ITT instead of the September GD? It would have been great to see you in September. I'm struggling with motivation - one day I think I want to ride the GD again, the next day I think I don't, the next day I think maybe I'll just do the northern lobe. Around and around... Your ride was inspiring so that helps!
RJ: I did an ITT because I don't think I could get the time off to do the full route in September! I'm an elementary teacher so taking 5 days off at the beginning of the school year would be tough. Also, while I like riding with everyone at the grand depart, doing an ITT eased the pressure off of competing with others. I'm pretty competitive, but I really just wanted to go at my own pace and not be pushed by others for this ride. I'm still planning on doing the northern lobe again for this years grand depart. I think I'll just tour it though. I think I got the time I wanted for this round. Thanks for all the questions. Also thanks again for letting me borrow your spot tracker last year!
JM: Thanks Rob! Great info and a fun read. It sounds like you had a perfect approach to the ride and congratulations again on meeting your goal! And it sounds like it was an amazing adventure. I think we're up to 9-10 riders having completed the full 8 at this point and I bet each would say the same thing. And I totally agree on the Eden area and section after Burke. I first rode that section (tour with a friend) while the sun was setting and it felt like we were in the Alaska wilderness or something. Glad things worked out south of Northfield! I'll have to look at trackleaders again to see if/where it shows you off track. Hope you're fully recovered and that we get to chat at the GD!
Brian Oley: Thanks for all this info! I'm having a wheel built up currently with a son dynamo, would you recommend the sinewave beacon?
RJ: Hello Brian. It's my first and only dynamo powered light so I can't really compare it to anything else. I do really like it but it does have some limitations that I'm not sure could be remedied with another light. This was also my first multi day trip with it so I learned to develop a routine along the way. Some pros: the light beam and lumens were great and worked well for the back roads, even at pretty low speeds. I liked not having to worry about my light. I did have a niterider helmet light to help when I was walking up hills though as the beacon would flicker at a slow walking pace. The beacon also charged my wahoo elemnt roam quickly during the day. Cons: it had a real hard time charging my external anker battery, even at high speeds during the day. To be fair, this external battery takes a long time to charge anyway even when plugged into the wall. Charging my wahoo gps wasn't a problem but my phone (and other devices) didn't like the intermittent charge output that was coming out of the dynamo. Doable, but not ideal. Additionally when I found that I needed to charge something and use the light, both the light output and the charge output weren't ideal. It's best to do one or the other. Because of bad planning there was one moment where I found myself on back roads south of Northfield at night with all of my devices dead and I didn't know which way to go. I still needed my light on as well so the power output was low. I managed to turn my phone on for 30 seconds to see the route and then coasted on down to Northfield. Overall I really like it and would recommend it, however it took more planning around charging the devices than I thought. In my opinion I don't believe you can be entirely energy independent just on your bike without some meticulous planning. Especially if you have a lot of devices to charge. Long answer, I hope this helps!