Ansel Dickey’s race recap of the Rasputitsa Spring Classic, a gravel race in East Burke, Vermont.
“Rasputitsa” is Russian for mud season. Yes, “mud season” is a legit season in Vermont. It’s the awkward phase between winter and spring when the weather doesn’t really know what to do. The snow melts one day and it freezes again the next. This freeze-thaw cycle makes for some sloppy dirt road conditions. With over 8,000 miles of dirt roads in Vermont, locals are forced to embrace the season and adapt their lifestyle to cope. Hence the very true stereo type of dirty Subaru’s, much boots, Carharts and flannels. The course is 40 miles long with just over 4,800 ft of climbing. It exhibits the full-spectrum of Vermont gravel roads, some paved, some questionable and one or two un ridable. The climbs are short and steep, most averaging about 4-6 minutes at + 10%. Over the years the field has grown in size and deepened in skill. The event now draws over 1,300 riders from all over New England and beyond. Some notable headliners racing the 2018 edition were, Jeremy Powers, Ted King, Anthony Clark, Allison Tetrick, Lynne Bassette, Jeremy Martin and yours truly.
I was quite anxious anticipating the race this year. The deeper field, new course, sketchy conditions and external social pressure to do well rested on my shoulders like a wet and muddy cyclo-cross bike. I had won the race twice, once in 2016 and once in 2014 and wanted win again. At the end of 2017, I made the decision to not race on the road professionally, my previous life path for the last 5 years. I wanted to focus on real life work, my start up Vermont Social and contribute to society. This new agenda would also allow me to pursue my gravel racing ambitions. All of these factors added up and bread a swarm of angry butterflies on steriods in my stumach.
There was only seven of us out of the 1,300 rider field coming into the bottom of Pinkham Hill with about 4 km to go. I saved my legs (almost) all race to lay everything I had on the table going up this climb. By the top, it was just Magnus Sheffield and me. Thoughts of an uphill sprint after the short descent to the finish were streaming through my mind but Rasputitsa is never that basic. We entered what felt like a 5km snow-hike-a-bike-running race to the finish line due to a sign missing at a critical intersection. I came unglued. Ted King and I were walking up sections of the “run” with absolutely nothing left. At the end of the day I was 5th with a taste of VT dirt and disappointment in my mouth, knowing it would have been different if there was a real finish. Some much needed Vermont beer and a couple laughs with my friends helped to wash the taste out of my mouth. For equipment, my bike setup was flawless. I was riding a SuperX SE with a 11-42 in the rear and a 48t ring up front. Just enough for the climbs and the descents. I had a set of FSE.bike G40/30X carbon wheels set up tubeless with a 38C Shwalbe G-One tire. They rolled fast but also kept me upright in the snow/slush. A huge thanks to everyone who makes it possible for me to do this crazy sport.