Alex Getty on the 2022 Grand Depart (South Lobe)

Day 1 - Montpelier to Windham

The race started out in the rain and immediately it brought you to some steep paved hills. As you get farther out of Montpelier these hills turn to gravel and then eventually you hit some small trails/TH connecting roads. First general store was about 30 miles. Good place to stop for a second and grab a hot coffee. Continuing on that's when you start to get into some more rugged class 4 roads. At one came across what seemed to be a logging road that was actively being worked on had to wait for some large equipment to pass that was hauling fill and stone. Putting some music on at this point was great, got me moving quick again. A lot of beautiful rolling hills leading up to Woodstock. Caught up to Will right before Woodstock and we took a break at the general store in the center of town. We called in an order to Ramuntos about 8 miles up the road which was perfect. Ramuntos has some picnic tables outside to post up at. Also able to refill your water here. Carrying on you head towards the Coolidge forest preserve. This is a series of dirt roads, class 4 roads, and ATV trails. This goes on for a while but eventually you get spit out into Welchville in which there is a general store Watroba's waiting for you. Carrying on towards Chester is a stretch of paved road and some tricky trails. Chester has a few options for food and lodging, best to call ahead. Continuing forward the goal was Pete's Camp which was another 20 miles or so. I have a not great gps, and my phone didn't have service so I ended up missing Pete's Camp and went all the way down to Windham. Not wanting to bike back up the hill 4 miles to Pete's I found a spot behind a church and setup my bivy.

 

Day 2 - Windham to Stage coach

Tough start, GPS screwed me up a few times. Having only turn by turn directions is tough in this part. Eventually ran into Bob from NH. We biked together for a few and then I kept going as he paused to eat some packaged food that was found on the trail. We both met up at the Townshend diner and had a good chat and some real food. I finished my food and carried on towards the dam. Climbing up those stairs was both funny and frustrating as I was trying to keep my breakfast burrito down. The hills that follow the dam are endless. Took a while to get to the top, but once you did, the downhill on the other side was awesome and felt like it went on for 5 miles. From there head to Williamsville where there is construction happening on the bridge. Opted to take the alternate route around as this seems like pedestrians shouldn't cross. From there it's more series of steep gravel roads and eventually trails that my shitty gps couldn't handle. Having to use Gaia gps on my phone was key here. After this you get brought into Brattleboro right by the Vermont country store which is a perfect place to get food, rest up, and charge any devices. Met up with Bobby J for a few here and chatted. After this Rob and I biked together for a bit. You're immediately met with steep dirt roads again that seem to go on forever. On one steep section I was going up and a car zipped past me to the top of the hill. The person got out, opened up a gate to a field and the about 40 cows came out and started meandering down the hill towards me. They were all very friendly and curious, I took a minute off my bike to let them smell me as they surrounded me. Chatted with the driver at the top of the road and thanked him for that energizing experience. Continuing on with the Jacksonville store in my sights. Was met with an awesome trail magic stand as well as a decent general store. From here began the trek up and up through the ATV trails to eventually get to the stage coach road. I eventually found a flat spot to camp in the woods and setup my bivy and ate the left over Mac and Cheese and Pulled pork from the Vermont Country Deli.

 

Day 3 - Stage coach to Castleton

Got up around 4am and was moving by 430 or so. Knowing this section was going to be tough I wanted to give myself some extra time. There were some ridable parts at the beginning but eventually the mixture of mud bogs and loose rocks made me opt to walk many sections. Once I hit the top of stage coach I started to ride a little more, but realized that I had little to no stopping power in my brakes. I did some micro adjustments which seemed to help but it still was not great. I biked the easier, less steep and technical sections and walked the rest all the way down to stage coach to where the pavement to Bennington begins. In Bennington I got breakfast at a diner, and washed up in the bathroom. My brakes were still messed up at this point but I knew that the next part that goes to Poultney is not as technical I might be able to book it to Poultney to analog cycles. I started my push and was making good time. Some sections were tough with little brakes but I managed. Eventually many hours on a bike can get in your head and I was doubting if I would make it in time. I decided to dedicate  5 minutes off my bike to see if there was anything further I could do for my brakes. I got my fronts working almost 100% again, but my rear brakes were still non-existent. Not ideal, but at least better. Now it wasn't dire if I couldn't make it to analog, but it would still be great to get that awesome shop to help me out. I pushed and pushed, eventually getting to a long section of rail trail. This was exactly what was needed to get to Poultney before the shop closes at 4. I got there at 3:55 to another rider, Will, who had a tear in his tire that the shop was fixing up. I told the shop I knew they were closing, and they can say no, but if they had a second to look at my rear brake that would be awesome. They were more than happy to check it out. Turns out my rear pads were completely toast. They put in new pads and I was good to go. I chatted with Will for a bit and he offered my up space in an air BNB that he got only about 8 miles up the road. I gladly accepted that and we got an awesome dinner in town, stocked up on donuts, and crashed at the air BNB that was right on the route. Such a great turn of events.

 

Day 4 - Castleton to Montpelier

Will and I got moving by 6am and started the last leg back to Montpelier. The first 20 or so miles are nice rolling gravel hills. From here you pass through Brandon which is a great spot to refuel before you make the trek up and over the Brandon gap. We hit up a diner, got some real breakfast, and started moving. Brandon gap started with gradual paved climbs that slowly got steeper and steeper. I was able to pedal up maybe 75% of it before walking became more efficient, I just didn't have the right gear ratio for this kind of climb. Will and I thought that at one point one of us would start to move faster but we found that throughout the day our pace was pretty equal between the both of us so we just kept trucking together. The descent from Brandon gap is glorious and goes on forever. Eventually bringing you Rochester, which has a great general store with coffee and pastries. We fueled up here and continued on to Braintree gap. I was expecting this to be a gravel road, but instead it was a class 4 road that has been eroding away for years. Parts were bike-able up, but I found I was moving faster hike a biking. Going down was mostly rideable but a little technical with how wet everything was. This also provided an endless down hill. Eventually we were back to meandering gravel roads which eventually led us to Northfield. Only about 15 miles from there, but was told the last section before Montpelier was tough. Out of Northfield is a gentle climb up that lasts for about 5 miles. Eventually your brought back into the woods where there is a one mile section that is a big mud pit, luckily was able to get through this and once your on the other side you have a several mile downhill that brings you to river road which heads into Montpelier. At this point it decided to start pouring rain, but seeing the peak of the capital building in the distance made me not worry about this discomfort. Rolling into state street we coasted to the front of the capital. There I saw my partner Cait, sibling Liz, and pup Wade waving at me through the car window. So exciting to both finish the south lobe and have loved ones waiting for me.