Admittedly, I’ve struggled to write this post as it was an event that I had not taken part in. I post press releases all the time here, some of them being events, but this one is different. It’s a race, but it’s not a race. I know one of the race organizers. All of the post-race stories I’ve read are gushing and many times personal accounts of how the race moved them emotionally.

So it’s something I’d love to attend myself and write about, considering gushing emotionally about bike stuff seems to be my style. But it makes posting other attendees accounts of their experience feel strange. Regardless, I like Heidi Meyers, the one-half of the Rasputitsa founders I know, and I want to promote the event. Or, at least, add to the growing accolades and anecdotes published about this one of a kind event.

NOTE: as of this post, there are still just under 100 50 spots still available for the 2017 edition of the Rasputitsa Gravel Road Race! REGISTER NOW ON BIKEREG!!

Jeremy Powers About the Rasputitsa Pre-Ride

The pre-ride is also an event in and of itself. In addition to showcasing the course, it’s larger function was as a benefit for Little Bellas and JAM Fund Cycling. I asked Jeremy Powers (a JAM Fund founder and supposedly fast on a bike) to collect some thoughts re: everything surrounding the day:

“Thoughts are Anthony and Heidi are amazing and we are really grateful for their time, energy and support. The event was a thoughtful way to get us all together to promote and grow our sport! I do a lot of traveling and through that I meet a lot of people from different walks of life. The cycling community is filled with a lot of great, like minded people, sometimes when things come out of thin air, like this partnership did,(they shot an email) it doesn’t take long to realize how awesome the group is. We rode in 20 degree weather, on dirt, just to make it happen for a day. That’s special in it’s own right! Not to mention the fund raising portion of the event, It was cooooolllldddd! For Rasputitsa to see our program, reach out to partner with us is so incredibly gracious and impactful – Al, Mukunda and I started JAM Fund as a project to hang out as friends and do something impactful with cycling in our community with our energy as a group. Rasputitsa seeing the passion Little Bella’s and JAM Fund have for development and helping us – Through our organizations, events and passion we’re all doing our part to keep growing the sport and changing lives.”

Tekné Cycle Club did a great write-up on the pre-ride. Well worth a read.

Rasputitsa Race Day From Those Who *Were* There

Matthew Vandivort + Team Health Warrior

Matthew Vandivort (: @photorhetoric) of Team Health Warrior wrote of he and his teammates’ experiences at the race. The term “mullet style racing” perfectly describes this event. Images are his own.

“Painfully numb legs aside this turned out to be a blessing as I was presented my first experience with what I coined mullet style racing. While things were undoubtedly business up front – miles ahead Ansel Dickey from Astellas Professional Cycling was on his way to victory – in the back I experienced a more jovial atmosphere (the “party in back”). I have been dropped in more road races than I care to count (#critsquad) but rarely have I had as much fun in the process.”

POST: Rasputitsa X Team Health Warrior

Ellen Noble of JAM Fund Cycling & Current U23 National CX Champ

“My experience at Rasputitsa was awesome! My friends on the JAM Fund and I went up the night before and we got to meet everyone at the pre-race event, and enjoy a night at a beautiful house in Vermont (Thank you again!!!)

In the morning everyone was cheery, even though it was cold and early! Throughout the day I got to experience a full range of people, as I started at the front, dropped to the back to help 3 people who had crashed, then worked my way through.

At the front of the race are a ton of people going as hard as they can — really racing and taking pulls. In the middle, there are a lot of people going fast, working together, but I noticed a lot of people were on teams together, or riding with their friends, and they would wait up if someone got dropped on a section. At the back, there are a lot of people just having a blast! I loved how many smiles I saw in this part of the filed. People on fat bikes, mountain bikes, tandems, etc. whatever they wanted to do it on, and just enjoying the ride. It was such a great experience, and the course was even more fun than I imagined! Siberia was epic and that section made the whole race for me.

The food and fun after the event was fantastic as well. The JAM van talked about how much fun we had the entire way home. It was such a great way to kick off our race season, and we will definitely come back and support you guys again next year!!!!!”

Matt Surch of Tekné Cycle Club

Matt posted his race experience as one of the main protagonists of the event, coming in second. The Cyberia nose wheelie moment alone is worth a click and your time. Below are some of his overall thoughts on the event that I asked to him to put together. I posted them all—they’re too good not to.

“A few things stand out when I think about what the Rasputitsa is. Every event is unique, but some are more unique than othes. The Rasputitsa falls into the latter group.

The concept – mud season – is genius. It sets the tone for the event, laying bare what its essence is: grit. It’s a gritty course, both literally and figuratively. In 2015 the climbing didn’t feel particularly hard, but this year, in a break-away of 5 it felt like it just piled on and on…. ‘There’s so much climbing!’ When it’s soggy it’s a true grind, a test of grit on grit.

The photography this year beautifully captured the ‘out-there-ness’ of the course, brilliantly tying into the Cold War theme, and conjuring parallels to Russian muskegs.

The vibe of the event has to be a huge part of what brings people back, even if they just rode the hardest 40 miles of their lives. The scale of community involvement, from the local lacrosse team to the Little Bellas girls and all the locals, is both incredible and truly heartening. There’s so much support out on the course, I can’t imagine anyone feeling they lacked sufficient food and drink. Heidi and Anthony pour so much into the event, they are truly impressive, and its clear that the riders appreciate their hard work.

Specific to the race this year, Cyberia stands out for all the right reasons. In 2015, due to a crazy winter, it was snow-covered and a real slog off the bike. But this time it was snow-free, and sort of perfect. The climb was the ideal setting for Ansel Dickey’s attack out of our break-away (which was 4 by this point), which was truly impressive. The descent encapsulated Vermont riding: physically demanding, exciting, and highly variable. Overnight the soft mud ruts 1/3rd of the way down froze into chunky mud turds fit for an 8″ travel downhill MTB. In a word: shocking. Like everyone else, I couldn’t tell what I was getting into until I was upon it at 60kph. Bonkers. I was as close to crashing in an epic nose wheelie as I’ve even come in my life, while Jake Wells, behind me, was less fortunate, crashing and breaking his collarbone. Ugh. Ansel nailed it, and a stupid crash later on dashed my chance at catching him. Cyberia was a fitting challenge on an otherwise very fast course, probably the fastest we’ll see for a long time.

The Rasputitsa traverses familiar ground to many, while for others, it’s an introduction to Vermont’s dirt roads and the wonderful Kingdom Trails locus, East Burke. The event is a catalyst, opening possibilities for riding in the area for anyone from a 5 year old to an elite racer. It’s fantastic to see riders come for the race, then stay to ride in the area the next day, exploring the endless array of dirt roads Vermont has to offer. For me, this is a ‘must-do’ event every spring, and it will remain that way for as long as I’m riding.”

POST: How The Race Was Won: Rasputitsa 2016

Images courtesy of Rasputitsa.