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Tour de Brew – Part III

This entry is part 3 of 6 in the series Tour de Brew

Yes, updates are few and far between. My apologies.

For those keeping track, I’m still working on documenting our trip to Vermont for “Tour de Brew 2011.” Check out the rest of the story here.

I left off talking about our hike up Mt. Mansfield, and our encounter with momma moose and her baby. I realized I had failed to mention our Friday night dinner at The Shed, where we had a decent meal, and their ‘ski of beer’ – a sampler of six of their own beers served on an old wooden ski. Pretty cool!

Ski of Beer

Ski of Beer* Not my photo - thanks to HomeBrew Guru for this shot

We were not super impressed with the beer itself, although they seemed to get better the further down the ski we got. I’m not sure if the later beers were actually better beers, or if our judgement was perhaps clouded? The stout was quite nice, as was their seasonal which I believe was an Irish Red. Either way, this was the least impressive Vermont beer we had the whole trip.

Saturday was to be a big day. We were going to meet up with Luke and Allan (Luke’s brother-in-law) for a ride up the Appalachian Gap. I was a bit worried, but after our success on Smuggler’s Notch, I was no longer scared of the big mountains. I knew it was all doable!  We drove to Richmond, were we met Luke and Allan. Luke had driven all night to arrive at his sister’s place, and was now ready to join us for some rides (and beer!)

The ride out of Richmond was painful. It was nothing compared to the Notch, but still a big climb for us! The first 3.2 km gained 95m, averaging 6% with a max of 10%,.  The legs were not used to this kind of effort, especially after what they had been through the day before, and were protesting the ride this morning! Luckily, the next 2km was downhill, and gave us a bit of a rest and recovery so the legs could warm up. This was good, as I started to feel strong again, and was all I needed to be ready for the climb! Of course, the climb came soon enough, as km 6 to km 29 was all uphill!

Oddly enough, we started meeting folks on the side of the road who were cheering for us:

“Good job guys!”

“Way to go, keep it up!”

We thought that perhaps the locals were just really friendly to cyclists here…however, we then started to see signs along the road:  “Bike race Saturday.” Hmm…  Soon, we rolled past a feed zone – people ready to hand us bottles and everything. Gee.. I wonder. Could we be on the course during The Green Mountain Stage Race? Turns out that yes, yes we were. Shortly after the feed zone, I heard Luke announce “Riders back” – we were about to be passed by some racers! Two riders came by us. Slowly. One guy was clearly banged up from a crash, and we were certain they were off the back of the group. Good–we didn’t really want to be on the road when the peloton came by!

Despite our painfully slow pace, the guys that passed us didn’t get too far ahead. In fact, they were catching another lone rider, and we then passed two of them again. At this point, I had to stop, as I thought my cleat was coming loose. We stopped and I checked my cleat (it was fine…weird…) and the racers passed us again. However, we saddled back up, and very shortly were caught up to them again. Wow.. these guys must be shattered, since we were only averaging 27km/hr or so, and there were racing even slower than that.

We got to the main turnoff where the ‘real climb’ begins, (about 24km from Richmond) and the racers went right, while we went left. The racers didn’t seem sure where to go, and almost followed us. I guess it looked like we knew what we were doing! I loudly announced “We are not in the race, and do not know where the course goes. Please follow us at your own risk.” I hope they went the right way!

I say that the ‘real climb’ started at km 24, which is true. However, kilometers 6 through 24 gain 234m, with an average grade of 3% and a max of 8%. Not exactly flat!

The “real climb’ up Appalachian Gap begins at Gore Rd. and 17, and from there climbs a total of 340m in 4.34km. This gives an average of 8%, with a max of 18% near the top. Yes, 18%! Oh, and there’s no reprieve. The total downhill in this whole stretch? Zero (yes, 0) meters. None.

Our little group got smashed apart pretty quickly. Soon it was Allan and I, with Matt just behind me. Then, Allan opened a gap on me, and I couldn’t close it. I settled into my own pace, rather than trying to match Allan tapping away on his compact crank. At one point, the road leveled off a bit, and I actually went sur la plaque (see here) just to mix it up. It actually felt good. Oh boy. “I think I like these big climbs” I thought to myself, as I powered up 100m or so in the big ring. Then, back to the 39, and keep on trucking. I noticed that as I approached the top (where it was exactly, I wasn’t sure, I just knew it couldn’t go up forever…) I was closing in on Allan again. We then hit the last 600m or so; what Allan had called “The Wall” in our chats about the ride. This last 600m averages 11%, and is where that fun little 18% pitch I told you about also resides. Lovely! It took me (literally) 3 minutes to go 600m. Three minutes!  That’s an average speed of 12.3km/hr. Ouch. However, I made it! And I had closed the gap to Allan down to only 10 or 20m by the line. Nice!

The Gang at the top of the Appalachian Gap

At the top of "App Gap" (l-r: Allan, Shawn, Me, Trent, Matt, Luke)

The rest of the guys had their own epic battles on the way up. Matty, followed by Trent, followed by Shawn. We took some photos, then decided to split. Allan, Trent and Shawn went back the way we came up, and Matt, Luke and I headed for a bit of a longer ride, descending down the opposite side of the Gap. This was super fun, but again made my poor descending skills evident.  Max speed was 73.47km/hr for me, while the others were much faster, opening a huge gap on me on the descent. The descent itself was about 14km long (!), and dropped 507m with an average grade of -5%, and a max (minimum?) of -13%. Some of the switchbacks were super fun, and on one the left hand shoulder was a full lane wide, with lots of visibility. I took the whole thing, and ended up on on the left side edge of the left shoulder–basically 3 full lanes from the right side of the road, and just flying! I do not recommend this of course, but…it’s a calculated risk! Obviously this is insane if there is no visibility!

Yes, we came from down there

Yes, we came from down there!

Our route back to Richmond took us from 17, onto the 100 into Waterbury. Our original plan (pre-flooding) was to make The Alchemist a starring role in the brew portion of Tour de Brew. However, the flooding hit it hard, and it was closed for business during our trip. Riding through Waterbury was an experience. Matt flatted just before we got out of town (no doubt on some of the debris from the flooding) so we had a chance to see the damage in some detail.  It looked like a war zone! Dumpsters lining the streets, the entire community out pitching in to clean up… entire houses full of drywall, insulation, and worldly possessions piled up in moldy heaps at the ends of driveways. People wearing dust masks while walking down the street. Not a good scene! However, it was great to see people pitching in and working together to clean up the community! And good news for beer lovers–it looks like The Alchemist is rebuilding to be bigger and better than ever, so perhaps it will have a starring role in Tour de Brew 2012!

The Alchemist cleaning up post-Irene

The Alchemist cleaning up post-Irene

The remainder of our ride took us on 2 back to Richmond, where we met the guys at On The Rise Bakery for some great grub and yes, even beer. Epic mountain passes, and beer on tap at the bakery?!? Am I in heaven? I had a half-pint of Switchback Ale, which I enjoyed greatly! Although, even a Bug Light probably would have tasted good after the ride we’d just finished! While at the bakery, we firmed up plans for our afternoon–a tour of the Magic Hat Brewery. Oh ya! That will be Part IV of the story!

Our epic Appalachian Gap ride ended up with 83.58km in a total of 3:06:04 for an average speed of 26.95km/hr. Our total climb over the entire ride was 1134m, with an average grade of 4% and a max of 18%! Nice!

Elevation/Speed/HR Graph

Elevation/Speed/HR Graph (click for full image)

Stay tuned for Part IV, where I’ll talk about Magic Hat! That reminds me… I think I still have a #9 in the fridge!

Series NavigationTour de Brew – Part IITour de Brew – Part IV

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Pingback from DARREN COPE » Tour de Brew – Part IV
Time October 20, 2011 at 6:31 pm

[…] de Brew – Part IV This entry is part 4 of 4 in the series Tour de BrewMy last post talked about our awesome ride up the Appalachian Gap on Saturday. You can read that here, and […]

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