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Tour de Brew – Part I

“Tour de Brew” has been over for more than a week, and I’m writing down my thoughts to ease the withdrawal…

Before I jump into the story, let me back up a few steps. “Tour de Brew” is the name given to our own little cycling and micro-brew sampling trip to the lovely state of Vermont. It’s not an official tour, and, unless you’re on the shortlist (or your name starts with Jens and ends with Voigt,) you won’t get invited next year. However, the beauty of “Tour de Brew” is that anyone can do it themselves.

It all started with an email from Shawn:

I got thinking earlier (never a good thing) about how great a bike tour would be. Say a three day tour (a long weekend perhaps) through the hills of Vermont. The kicker is that instead of the typical ride through wine country, we design the route around breweries.

and a link to this map.

It was followed shortly after by emails from Trent:

Very interested.  Would be a great tradition to start.


Oh, just for the record..I’m in :)

and Matt:

Count this guy in too!

From there, plans were sketched out in Trent’s basement over beers. Everything from full century routes to “I really just want to drink beer and sit on the porch” were discussed. In the end, a compromise was reached, and tentative plans were laid. Luke joined in on the trip (and thus the planning) at the last minute, but brought to the table a very valuable resource; his sister and brother-in-law live in Vermont, and are both avid cyclists.  Local knowledge of the roads? Perfect!

The week before our trip, Hurricane Irene managed to make a mess of Vermont.  The lead up to our departure consisted of constant checking of weather and road closure maps. Things looked not too bad, and a call to Luke’s sis and bro-in-law confirmed that things were messy, but not a show stopper. With that news, it was on!

First Beers of the Trip

First Beers of the Trip

Thursday afternoon after work, we headed straight to Trent’s house, and loaded the Rav4 with all our gear, and four bikes on the hitch-mount rack. Luke was to join us in Vermont later, so was driving separately. We had a relatively uneventful trip down, except for when TomTom chirped “Turn Right” almost immediately after crossing the border into the US, taking us directly into a trailer park.  Really TomTom? Some kind of twisted initiation joke? However, once TomTom got straightened out, we made our way to our home base for the weekend; Sterling Ridge Resort. Oh, and I forgot to mention a quick stop at a gas station to pick up our first beer of the trip; a Samuel Adams mixer pack, and some Blue Moon Belgian White to enjoy upon reaching our cabin. No, they aren’t Vermont beers, but it was late, and we took what we could get :)

Friday dawned hot, and the daylight provided our first real look at the mountains. Beautiful, but a bit scary! The plan for the day was to ride Smuggler’s Notch, then hike up Mount Mansfield. It would be the first real test of the legs, and also the first real climbs ever for our group of Lanark County flat-landers. First on tap was ‘just a little climb’ up Smuggler’s Notch from Jeffersonville. We drove the Rav4 down to the parking lot at the end of the gravel road to the resort, and then rode down to Jeffersonville just to say we did the entire climb.  We started easy, with much nervous chatter coming from Matt and I (according to Trent at least). The climb was pretty easy to start, but right away we knew it would be unlike any climb we had done before. It. Just. Kept. Going. Up. The first 8km of the climb average 4%–by itself a decent climb for those that don’t live in the mountains! From there, the remaining 5km averages 5%, with the top portion of the climb reaching 13%.  By the last part of the climb, there was little nervous chatter; just deep breathing and lots of sweat. I made it up with some work, but not a full-on redline effort, and felt fantastic at the top. Mountain #1 down! One for the books!

The descent down the other side was insane! Easily the craziest thing I’ve done, with one switchback near the top being so tight and sharp that I didn’t think I could possibly make it! I know one thing for sure though–I need more practice descending!  Part-way down, Shawn (who was in front of me) pulled over. We all stopped, and it turns out he had a major ‘burr’ on his big ring, and the chain was getting caught on it causing some funny business–not good on that kind of descent! We finished the descent down to Stowe, and stopped at a bike/ski rental shop to borrow a file and get it cleaned up. Luckily it caused no more problems for the rest of the trip. After a short break, we turned back to face the steep, twisty ascent of Smuggler’s Notch from the Stowe side, despite Luke’s sister telling us not to because it was just too steep to be fun!

The climb up Smuggler’s Notch from Stowe was tough, with a total distance of 8.8km, and average grade of 6%. The nasty part is the end though, which goes up to 13%, then 19%, then down to 15 or 16% to give you a break! ha! At this point, my legs were sore but relatively fresh, so I was able to fight my way up. Ouch! This climb is, by far, the hardest climb I’ve done anywhere. And I loved it!

Steep Hills!

Yes, the hills are steep. The signs don't lie!

We regrouped at the top, then flew down the other side back to the car. Top speeds were 80+km/hr for some of the guys, but my tentative descending saw only a 74km/hr max speed. With a couple more goes, I think I could gain enough confidence to really fly too :) If only I had a climb/descent like that close to home to practice on!

Back at the lodge, we rested and fueled ourselves for our afternoon ascent of Mount Mansfield…on foot. That’ll be coming up in Part II – stay tuned!

Smuggler's Notch Profile

Smuggler's Notch Profile


Pingback from DARREN COPE » Tour de Brew – Part II
Time September 29, 2011 at 7:17 pm

[…] is part 2 of 2 in the series Tour de BrewAfter our morning spend riding Smuggler’s Notch (See Part I), we took a bit of a break before heading out for a hike up Mt. Mansfield. Mt. Mansfield is the […]

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