By Michelle Fields, Standard Correspondent
On Sunday, Aug. 24, over 250 bikers will depart Woodstock Village in a grueling yet beautiful 51-mile race with seven sections of class four roads and a total of 5,400 feet of vertical climb. The course ends with a loop in the Village which has great spectator views as racers go from Central to Mechanic Street, across the Kedron Foot Bridge to High Street, up Doubleday Hill to Slayton Terrace, Lincoln Street and back to Central for the finish at High Street.
Among the participants will be at least three top-ranked professionals (Seven-time national cyclocross champion Tim Johnson, female cyclocross champion and Dartmouth grad Elle Anderson and celebrated gravel rider and professional coach Al Donahue — the latter two will lead a tour of the last portion of the course on Saturday the 23rd at 2 p.m.) and, if race organizer Peter Vollers has his way, a number of local adventure seekers who jump on their mountain bikes and get at least as far as South Royalton (22 miles) where they can eat at Worthy Burger and take a Killington Mountain School shuttle back to the Village.
“What’s unique about this race is my cause is local Vermont businesses,” says Vollers. “Everyone is always trying to get them to give something. I am trying to get them (racers and their families) to town to spend money.” The race itself will also raise money for a scholarship fund for full time cycling students at the Killington Mountain School.
Of the 250 racers registered so far (some from as far away as Utah and California), the median age is 40. “These are people who are just into the adventure aspect but are also people who can afford to come to Woodstock to stay and eat out…For the first 100 (to finish) it is about the race, for the rest it is about finishing,” says Vollers.
The race will start at 9 a.m. on Central Street, have racers turn on Elm and head out past Billings Farm looping through Pomfret, Barnard, Bethel, and South Royalton on dirt and Class 4 roads before coming down Gabert Rd, over the Lincoln Covered Bridge and back into the Village along South Park Street for the final loop.
Central Street in the Village will be closed between Pleasant and Elm Streets from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. for the race with traffic diverted onto those side streets during that time.
Kids ages six-twelve can participate in free age group races on portions of the Village Loop beginning at 10 a.m. while the other racers are out on the course.
With the exception of police who will be at the paved roads to ensure the safety of the racers, and an EMT crew led by Bill Luth, who has provided first aid support to many bike races, it is the Vollers family who is running this event. Peter is the race director, his wife Kim is coordinating all of the food vendors at the end, son Peter Jr. will pre-run the course in his truck to make sure all of the direction signs are in place, and daughter Grace will help with registration and the food.
Vollers modeled the race after European off-road races that are just starting to come to the U.S. The Class 4 road sections are called pavé sections after the French word for cobblestones. While our gravel may not be cobblestone, the thrill of the adventure is similar, particularly with the starting and ending points being in the Village where there are plenty of opportunities for spectators to enjoy the thrill of the race.
The top racers should come in, in just over three hours according to Vollers, a former professional bike racer who said his best time on the course so far is three hours and forty minutes. “For most people we are looking at five-six hours in the saddle,” he says.
Some racers are doing a similar gravel race, the D2R2, the day before in Massachusetts and even sticking around for a week to do the Dirty 40 in Derby, Vermont (named for the 40 miles of gravel in the 60 mile race) the following weekend. “We’re actually calling it the Holy Week of Gravel,” Vollers jokes.
As racers go through the finish chute, those over 21 will be treated to a beer from sponsor Long Trail Brewery (the Brewery is also donating the $1,000 cash prizes for the top male and female finishers) as well as sample foods from the twenty local vendor/sponsors. Food will also be available for sale to the public. Many of the first racers may wish to head over to the beer tent on High Street after the race, which is a great venue for cheering later racers as they power or struggle up Double Day Hill.
“I really would like to get some more local people,” says Vollers as he gears up for race day. Potential racers can get more detail and registration information at www.vermontoverland. com.
“My best hope is to get 400 (racers) and have no serious crashes and have no one get lost,” says Vollers. If all goes well, once this race is over, Vollers will be beginning to plan the next as he hopes to make this an annual event.