Race to the Top of Vermont

Since we were in Northern Vermont for the 24 Hours of Waterbury, it was convenient to drive a little farther north to squeeze in a short but fun and painful bike race. Debbie had opted to only run 12 hours (rather than 24), so that left the option for me to ride in the third annual Race to the Top of Vermont. The race is a fundraiser for the Catamount Trail Association, a sister club to our beloved Green Mountain Club.

The race is a mini-epic up the toll road to the summit parking lot on Mt. Mansfield, Vermont’s highest peak. You don’t quite get all the way to the top of the mountain, but the finish line is still quite a ways up there, at 3,850 feet. This is the highest road in Vermont and the numerous switchbacks on the 4.3 mile road wereย difficult. My Garmin GPS captured the course, which I completed in 42:20, good for 9th place. I was bummed to only get 4th in my age group because the top three got a very nice mug and a pair of Darn Tough socks. Oh well, I should have trained harder!

New England hill climbs have become popular, particularly as fundraisers. The wild success of the Mt. Washington Road Race and Mt. Washington Bicycle Hill Climb has spawned many other copy cat races up peaks in New Hampshire and Vermont. The Mt. Mansfield race is unique for many reasons. Runners, cyclists, and hikers share the (dirt) road. The runners and hikers started at 9:00 A.M. and the mountain bikers started an hour later. The road is paved for 1/4 mile before turning to smooth gravel. Mountain bikes with minimum 2.0 inch tires are mandatory to level the playing field. To my knowledge, it is the only hill climb in New England that mandates mountain bikes, but it is also the only one mostly on dirt.

In the bike race, the men’s winner was Kip Roberts, who finished in a rapid 36:21. I heard it was done on a single speed, which makes me feel even worse about my time! Second place was Matt Mainer and third place was 15-year-old Tyler Berliner, which makes me feel old! The first woman biker was Marilyn Ruseckas in 43:26. She is going strong at 50+, which is inspiring and makes me want to take back my comment about the 15-year-old. She wasn’t far behind me! Audrey Huffman was second and another strong 50+ veteran rider, Donna Smyers, was third.

In the run, which drew more than 300 entrants, the course record was broken by Andrew Gardiner in 34:49. He bested last year’s winner and previous record holder, Jim Johnson. Eric Morse was third. For the women, first place went to Sara Facteau. Second was Natalia Severy and third was Vicky Jasparro.

The view from the top was spectacular. The weather was amazing and the sky was a deep blue that you can only get in the mountains in late August. I warmed up for the race by riding a legendary road. Route 108 through Smugglers’ Notch is a legendary stretch of road. I remember it from the days of the old school Stowe Road Race. I miss that race and I miss that road. I climbed up its famous switchbacks and snapped some photos. I vividly remember going up those steep cliffs on the Long Trail five years ago during our end-to-end hike.

Riding up through Smugglers’ Notch and then up to the Mt. Mansfield toll road on the same morning was a real treat. Debbie was a real sport, having just run 42 miles the day before at the 24 Hours of Waterbury. She returned to Mommy duty with no complaints and let me have a morning of fun. She hiked over from Stowe’s Midway Lodge to watch at the two-mile mark with our daughter.

The post-race bash was a lot of fun with a bluegrass band and lots of smiling folks reveling in the great weather. The hills of Vermont were alive this past weekend.

Race Results

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