Winter team camps for northeastern teams are a mixed bag. Some chose to go someplace warm and sunny and log big training miles. Those people would not be us.
While we’d love to do a camp of this variety, the reality is that many of us are constrained travel-wise by kids, work or other obligations, so for the past couple of years we’ve stayed close to home and rolled the dice with a winter camp in southern Vermont. While the weather isn’t ideal for riding, the goal was to make this a team camp, rather than a training camp. A training camp with 20% of the team in attendance defeats the purpose.
Yes, March in Vermont can be anywhere from blizzard conditions to 70 degrees. Last year we lucked out and had one day with great conditions for road riding. The other day, well, things went a little sideways (see photo).
This year, however, that was not to be the case. 25-30 degrees both days, with a fresh 3-5″ of snow from two days prior.
Fortunately, after a day spent on the phone with every bike and ski shop northeast of Hartford, we were able to procure 10 fatbikes for the weekend, and our plan B was set. Big thanks to Fast:Splits MultiSport and Spark BRS for coming through for us in a pinch! Fun fact that we learned: the second problem you’ll have after procuring 10 fatbikes is transporting 10 fatbikes 200 miles. All of us have little economy cars optimized for gas mileage and smugness, not hauling capacity. So after a 3 day-long game of musical fatbikes (Preston took one home on the commuter rail!), we were off!
The Viking Nordic Center is right down the road from the house where we stay in Londonderry, VT , and they were generous enough to let us come ride their phenomenal XC trail system for the day on fatbikes. For whatever reason, fatbiking isn’t nearly as popular in southern VT as it is in northeastern VT, so this was apparently an unusual request.
On our way out, a quick poll of everyone’s ride time preferences revealed that people intended to ride anywhere from 3-5 hrs. To all of us who had never ridden fatbikes before, this seemed like a completely reasonable winter base ride length. The two of us who had were all “LOL ok let’s revisit this in 10 minutes.”
Fast forward 10 minutes and we are doing 500 watts (going 3mph) to chase new teammate and COLLOSAL JERK Jake Hollenbach up the first of seemingly infinite climbs, and I have mentally cut my estimated ride time by approximately 90%. I don’t think I can ride another 20 minutes at this pace. I really don’t know what else I expected to happen but this is just about the hardest thing I’ve done in the last 6 months.
We made it about 45 minutes before we finally split into two groups: the “perenially fit freakshow” group (Matt, Jake, Mike D.) and the “I thought this was going to be easier” group (Luke, Mike M., Preston and myself). Tucker got stuck with us due to a mechanical when the split happened and proceeded to make us wish he had better luck so we wouldn’t have to deal with his new-to-bikes zeal on Every. Damn. Climb.
Finally after 90 minutes, I decided I’d had enough and would go home to “help Tucker prepare lunch” (I did no such thing). I was one of the ones who’d said that morning that I wanted to get 4-5 hrs of riding in. What can I say, nailed it.
After staring at a wall for 2-3 hrs, I finally become verbal and we start handing out sponsor gear.
That evening, new teammate and team-camp MVP Tucker put his cooking chops on display and blew us way with a dinner featuring sous-vide filet mignon (he brought his own sous-vide machine) and his super-secret chocolate chip cookie recipe. But while he slaved away in the kitchen, the rest of us drank Lamplighter and launched fatbikes off of snow kickers. Thanks Tucker!
Finally, a bonfire was in order. I think we mostly talked about urban infrastructure and weddings (#NERDS), but it was a blast.
So that’s it. We rode all of 11 miles, zero of it on roads, but had a blast and got to know our new teammates Tucker & Jake far better than we would have if we’d stared at their calves for 5 hrs. Specifically, we know that Jake is a mean, mean jerk, phenomenal bike handler and dad-joke connoisseur, and that Tucker is a phenomenal chef and that he is not long for the Cat 3 field (spoiler alert). Fun was had, beer was drank, and most importantly we NEVER got Curbeau’s Jeep stuck in the woods (see first photo (still, don’t ask)).