My brother Brian has been after me for several years to do this gravel ride in Vermont, the “Vermont Overland”. It has become so popular that within 1 hour on January 1st it is completely sold out, 700 registrants! Brian has told me multiple times that this ride/race is perhaps one of the best and premier events in the country, 43 miles with 6000′ of climbing, that more than meets his criteria for a “good ride”. This year the venue was right in Peter Voeller’s back yard. It was quite a set up, the entire weekend was well planned and went off without a hitch. On Saturday the day before the ride, there was an opportunity for folks to ride 18-20 miles of the race course with the pros, including Ted King Ansel Dickey, Tinker Juarez and Tim Johnson to name a few. It was an excellent opportunity to preview the route and gain valuable insights and tips on how to survive the descents and infamous pave sections.
I only wish I would have better prepared myself with early and frequent hydration, nutrition and rest… you see on or around mile 36-38 I’m quite sure I bonked! Yup, that’s right…I’ve been riding bikes for over 18 years and you would think I should have known better…But NO!! On one of those last, long arduous climbs I’m quite sure if someone would have offered me a lift in their car or truck that I would have jumped at the chance. But no such luck on that day, the last 5-6 miles felt like 50.
Andrew Bouchard(Bouey) and I began our weekend foray Friday traveling to my brothers house in New Hampshire from northern Maine. Brian is my younger brother by 10 1/2 months and is an excellent bike mechanic and a great cyclist whose done many events such as the Vermont Overland. The next morning Bouey and I contemplated doing the Mount Kearsarge hill climb, but quickly came to our senses and decided on a nice 20 mile gravel warm up ride with Brian in and around Hopkinton. Shortly after our ride in NH as we drove to VT to the venue we realized that we better get something to eat before our 20 mile 2:00 pm ride with the pros… we stopped at Subway…did I ever mention that I HATE Subway? That was bad decision #1. Mistake # 2 was not drinking enough water all weekend in very hot and humid conditions. We did the 20 mile pre ride with temperatures hovering near 90 degrees and then drank a few cold beers, ate some delicious tacos and then had a late dinner and more beer, (especially Bouey)! I didn’t really sleep that well as Brian and I shared a bed at the resort, (Brian farts a lot and apparently I snore and talk in my sleep). The day of the ride, Sunday I awoke to realize that I had forgotten to buy groceries and our resort didn’t have any stores or early am restaurants that were open. I did spot a package of fig Newtons by Brian’s side of the bed. As I tried to snag 1 or 2 Brian exclaimed; “hey those are mine, don’t touch them.” No problem, I knew that they were serving egg, cheese and bacon sandwiches over at the venue. For future reference, 1 egg sandwich alone will NOT be enough to take you to the first rest stop.
SIBLING RIVALARY …IS ALIVE AND WELL
As you may or may not know the Vermont Overland is both a ride and a race and that’s what makes it such a unique and great event. Andrew had decided a while ago that he intended to race it …and race it he did! Bouey is one of the toughest riders and guys I know, a true cycling hard man and competitor. At 35 years old he is primed to do some great things in the sport of racing bikes. If he loses 10-12 pounds and gets serious about his training…watch out! Brian and I had decided not to race the Overland for many good reasons. However don’t kid yourself, there was a race Sunday on the gravel roads and hills of Vermont, a race between two very competitive brothers. Andrew was within 12-18 minutes of the lead pack of pros including Ted King. Apparently he began to feel better as the race wore on. Lucky him! Bouey finish in 2 hours 41 mins, good for 54th place, impressive as hell for his first Overland.
I remember at mile 30 or 35 Brian and I were doing really well, staying together for most of the climbs, I falling a bit behind on the descents. Brian would wait up and was always in my sights. Then I pushed one of those long 10-12 minute climbs and looked behind and couldn’t spot Brian, he seemed to be struggling. As he caught up to me I remember him saying; “don’t burn all your matches there bud”. Shortly thereafter it hit me, I could no longer keep up with Brian or other BIG guys…and what’s more Brian was no longer waiting up for me. The final rest stop was helpful, I lingered there too long, they were offering maple syrup and cans of Coors beer, it was too little too late. I was officially BONKING! As I finally crossed the finish line apparently Bouey all changed up in his regular clothes with a beer in hand was yelling/cheering me on; “Marky Boy!”. I was oblivious or delirious, I never heard him. I was only fixated on finding my brother and learning how far ahead of me he finished. I spotted him with other fellow riders and he looked surprisingly fresh. “Hey Brian” as we looked up at the electronic scoreboard of the list of race finishers, “what place did you come in and what was your time?” His response was classic Brian, “It doesn’t matter, as long as I was ahead of just one guy…You!” It turns out he got me by 6 minutes or so…..Ha ha what a ride, I mean race. Next year WE are really gonna race the Vermont Overland, no excuses.
Thanks Brian and Bouey for truly an memorable experience, I loved ALMOST every minute of it.