Andrew Currier on the North Lobe of the Vermont Super 8

2022 Grand Depart

I rolled into Montpellier especially early for a race starting the next morning. After a ten mile shakedown ride with all the gear on my bike the day prior, I was happy to cruise around and explore this new capital on a fun, bouncy, and unloaded singlespeed.

I had been debating so hard whether or not to do this race. I had been wanting to do a bikepacking race for some years now and this was the closest I have been to doing one. At the same time I was thinking I could be on some of Vermont's fun MTB trails jumping around having a blast, on a bike not loaded down with a bunch of ridiculous gear. After I sent in my letter of intent I found out that the spot tracker rental was almost 90 dollars. Completely lost motivation to participate. Until I found out Jeff Mullen was offering up his personal spot tracker. Back on track.

My training for this event consisted of intense mountain bike rides, picking sweet potatoes, and putting off loading the gear onto my bike until the last minute. But many repeated attempts packing the goofy bikepacking bags. After rolling around Montpellier for a while and talking to Kyle at ORO (who got this awesome photo)...

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...I went back to the subie to pre game the pizza party with a bagelwich and some chocolate. It was there I met Will Savitri trying to back this cute little camper into one the parking spots. I helped him get it parked as tight as possible and we talked about the race. He offered me the extra bunk in his camper, and I gladly took him up on that offer to avoid tenting in the rain that night.

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...I went back to the subie to pre game the pizza party with a bagelwich and some chocolate. It was there I met Will Savitri trying to back this cute little camper into one the parking spots. I helped him get it parked as tight as possible and we talked about the race. He offered me the extra bunk in his camper, and I gladly took him up on that offer to avoid tenting in the rain that night.

I hung around Onion River outdoors for as long as possible, eating as many slices of pizza that I could. Thank you ORO and VMBA! After I met up with Will and cozied up in this little bunk where I would sleep... I mean lay down and listen to the rain all night. I was very relieved when dawn rolled around so I could book it to the coffee shop and get some breakfast sandwiches.

I was COLD waiting for the race to start, all my layers were on. I quickly shed them on the first climb and dropped most of the other racers, I didn't think that would be my last time seeing them. I rode with Ryan Sarka, a fellow Buffalonian, for a bit then bridged the gap to Arthur and passed him on a rougher section. We spent the next 40 or 50 miles leapfrogging each other. I stopped at some store on route to fill up water bottles and try a Red Bull (my first one ever), Arthur passed by me. I quickly grew caffeinated wings and dropped him again. Right before the Kingdom Trails section my rear break started pissing mineral oil at the lever, at least it wasn't the front brake. I stopped in Burke to resupply before the 90 miles of wilderness.

Arthur and Jeff Sires passed me. I had talked to Jeff before the race while he installed some aero bars. I remember thinking out of all the people I had met pre race he was the least of my concern.  I caught up to them both right at the start of the climb up Burke mountain. While I walked up the entire mountain and watched them slowly inch away, I was thinking how they might have more in them than I thought.

I stopped at one of the shelters up top to roast one down and then ripped down the mountain. I was surprised at how beautiful and remote this section of the route was. I asked a guy in the one truck I saw if he had seen any cyclists. He said "About ten minutes ago,  you guys know your going out into the middle of nowhere?". Ahh yes I was definitely not nervous at all riding into the night in the middle of nowhere.

My goal for the day was the West Mountain campsite at mile 122. The furthest I had ever ridden in one day, on a singlespeed MTB, on dirt. I felt mildly accomplished when I got there, but I was actually kinda pissed. There was an RV parked in the flattest spot, with an obnoxiously loud heater. I set up my tent and slept until another racer came through, after that i pretty much just laid there until about 2:30. I really didn't want to ride in the dark anymore (I didn't have a really great light setup) but I couldn't help thinking if I just got up now I could finish before it got dark again and make podium.

Only 40 miles more than what I did yesterday. Just easy, no problem, a walk in the park is what I kept telling myself. I shook the dew off my tent as quietly as possible and started rolling. Descending those steep loose power line roads in the dark was sketch. When I got to the bottom I met Tennille. She had ridden through the night and her derailleur had sheared off. My heart went out to her, and I wished her luck on the rest of her hike.

It was very motivating when the sun finally came up. By then I only had 120 miles to go, I knew I could finish before dark. I stopped at some little country store for some breakfast and talked to some Canadian cyclists who were touring around northern Vermont. They had just shared breakfast with a church group across the street and gave me a piece of ham. I was grateful.

I pushed on until Newport where I was able to check Trackleaders and get more food. Jeff had a huge lead on me at this point, but there were 2 guys that I knew I could catch. Only 90 more miles. I pushed like those two guys were the finish line. I later found out that they were riding the full 8, but if it wasn't for them I don't know if I would've pushed as hard as I did. It was on one of those rougher roads that resembled a river that I encountered a conga line of off-roaders, at least 50 of them blocking the narrow path. A guy on an ATV in the back said he had just seen the other bikers 5 minutes ago. I kinda felt like an asshole scurrying past all of them. Some people seemed pissed, some got spooked, but the ones clutching Busch apples gave me a very motivating "GO GETUM!!". I passed the last one and then they started moving. I'm flying down this river road, getting my legs soaked, with the redneck go-carts hot on my tail. They caught up to me once we hit the dirt road and nearly cut me off when I was trying to make a left turn. I didn't care at this point. I came around a corner and there were those fellas I'd been chasing, hanging on the side of the road at the base of a decent hill. I did what any reasonable singlespeed racer would and went absolutely petal to the metal. They said "your not supposed to be going that fast!" I responded "I have no choice!" Which was very true. I either attacked every climb on this route or walked. There's a simple beauty when riding a bike with three speeds. Sit, stand, walk.

I enjoyed brunch and lunch on the bike before the next rough section. I got myself some whole chocolate milk and a banana at a store, I just wanted to get this done with. Looking at the elevation profile it looked like the last 40 miles weren't too bad. Boy was I wrong. There were some wicked steep climbs and the final rough section was brutal. I was dreaming of Mexican food and laying in the grass on the capital lawn. As I got closer to Montpellier I felt I should be descending . There were several small hills that filled me with rage. My feet were so swollen when I hit the final singletrack, and it was rather sketch with my rear brake out of order.

I was so relieved riding though town and finally to the capital lawn. Jeff had been waiting for about an hour and a half. I was very glad he waited, but we were both surprised there was no one else to see us finish. We both went to a Mexican restaurant and enjoyed some victory burritos and quesadillas. We hung around and talked in the parking lot. Will S had let me borrow some showers pass gloves for the race, I jammed them in the back of his pickup and hit the road back to Pawlet.

I was in a weird state of complete exhaustion but feeling totally wired from pushing further than I had ever before. I would have loved to stay and see my new friends finish, but there was an Epsom salt bath and coconut water only 2 hours away.

The next day I struggled to walk up stairs and sitting up hurt my abs a lot. It's not just leg day when you ride a SS. Part of the southern lobe passes very close to where I was living and I saw that Will was passing though. I went out with my lovely unloaded bike and waited for Will at the bike path in Granville. I was happy to motivate my new friend who helped me greatly. We rode together for a few miles in the rain before I turned around.

Bikepacking is weird. I didn't really want to go push my limits, but I knew I would regret not trying. The whole experience may not be enjoyable, but it stamps a memorable story in you, more memorable than a fun MTB ride.
 

 

What I learned:

  • Komoot voice navigation is the shit. I was worried while planning the race that I would struggle with navigation because I don't have a cycling computer. I got a Komoot membership and was really surprised at how well the voice navigation worked. I never went the wrong way or got lost, even on singletrack sections.

  • If you want to do well in any bikepacking event, good lights are important. I have a 20 dollar NiteRider which I've used trail riding at night before. It works, but when you're going 20+ mph down unknown terrain it gets scary and dangerous. Next time I'm going to invest in a better light with an external battery, until I get one of them fancy dynamo hubs.

  • Whole milk reinvigorates the legs like nothing else, the chocolate helps it go down.

  • My hands never went numb with my lovely swept back bars. I've had some wrist injuries and have struggled pushing 100+ mile days on a bike with drop bars. Contact points are very important for a endurance events. 


GEAR

 

 

BIKE!

  • Niner SIR 9 SS 32x19

  • Vittoria Mezcal 29x2.35 tires

  • Corvus Sweet 16 swept back carbon bars with the center wrapped in handlebar tape. Ergo grips with bar ends(essential for a SS)

  • Revelate Seat Pack:

    • 20⁰ sleeping bag

  • Revelate Frame Bag:

    • Food, water filter, Portable charger, safety meeting equipment, Tools

 

TOOLS:

  • spare tube, tire lever, small Allen key set, chain breaker, Stan's sealant, CO2 and inflator/w tire plugs, curved needles for sidewall repair and dollar bills, Tri-flow chain lube and small rag.

  • Blackburn Handlebar Roll:

    • Big Agnes Tent footprint, rain fly, poles, stakes. Nemo Sleeping pad and pillow

  • Revelate Stem and top tube bag:

    • FOOD, phone, wallet, trash, Kanberra chamois cream, headlamp

  • One water bottle on a Tailfin fork mount, one on the downtube

 

CLOTHING:

  • Pearl Izumi X-ALP elevate shoes

  • Alpaca and smart wool socks

  • Pearl Izumi padded shorts

  • Coalatree adventure pants

  • Polyester base layer

  • Burgeon Hoodie

  • Patagonia Rain jacket

  • Pearl Izumi gloves

  • Will Savrti's Showers Pass Gloves

  • Smartwool buff

  • Scott Helmet with NiteRider light