Monday, July 25, 2011

Riding Smuggler's Notch (on a road bike)

I was hoping to get another bigger road ride in this year after our Gonzo/Kinsman ride earlier this year and Shaun and I decided our Thanxmas planning trip to VT was a good time to put a loop together.  I was looking for some NH100 training miles and Shaun was looking for his first big mileage/gap climb ride.

I randomly spec'd a loop leaving from Jake and Tara's house heading north and east on mostly state routes and then heading back south up and over Smuggler's Notch down to Waterbury and back over to Williston.  Ended up being a great loop just shy of 70 miles.  And I stuck with our now new tradition of accidentally picking a road with a short dirt section without realizing it.

We left early to try and beat the heat.  It was the correct strategy.  Things were quite manageable early and we were more than halfway done before things started to get a bit oppressive.  The climb was perfectly located in almost the exact middle of the loop so we had a nice 20ish mile warmup before the right hand turn onto route 108.  The climb sort of starts right at the turn in Jeffersonville.  Somewhat mild at first and a bit rolly but gets more aggressive as you get closer to the ski resort.  To be honest I thought the climb was going to be harder.  This climb actually was the type that suits me fairly well.  Pitches were decent but nothing too crazy with a few areas where the slope shallowed out a bit so you could recover a tad.  The terrain was really cool.  The actual gap was completely overgrown like a jungle with some exposed rock faces and small waterfalls.  The road is closed in winter and narrows down to about a lane and a half (if that) as youre going up and over.

We stopped at the top for a quick gel and then got to descending.  This is where things got a bit loose.  I did enough recon and research to know there were steep switchbacks on the Stowe side and with the narrow roads you had to be really cautious but I of course wasn't quite sure just how technical it was going to be.  I have done some fast descending in the past but I have never done anything quite like this.  There were several places where I really wanted to be in more control of what I was doing and it just wasn't happening.  Brakes were maxed and starting to chatter and skid a bit.  Very exhilarating.  I made it through the switchback section unscathed, Shaun was not so lucky.

He laid it down in the 3rd or 4th switchback after a few Hail Mary recoveries it finally came undone for him.  All things considered his crash went fairly well.  Bike escaped relatively fine, minus a bunch of pedal scuffing.  And he picked up some rash on his elbow and ass and ripped his brand new race kit.  We're devising ways to appropriately patch them.

Luckily the rest of the ride was a bunch more descending and then just rollers and flats.  So it was mostly a cruise home from that point on.  We traded short pulls a bit on Route 2 so we wouldn't bonk with the headwind and heat.  Struggled up the last little Cat 5 climb right before home and snuck in with a time around 4hrs for the day with an average speed of 17mph.  Not blazing, but decent for the ride that it was with a crash in the middle.  I'm sure Shaun is now ready to start racking up all the major New England climbs.

Next up (pending some testing of gear configurations) is a massive ride up into the nose bleed section of NH and Maine...stay tuned.

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