Early in 2020, we registered for the Race to the Top of Vermont. It’s Vermont’s most famous hill climb, which ascends to the summit of Mount Mansfield, the Green Mountain State’s highest peak. Alas, 2020 had other plans. Luckily, the folks behind the race, which benefits the Catamount Trail Association, came up with a clever and exciting alternative. Participants would ride on their own and log elevation gain. They would have 36 hours to log as much gain as they can. The most gain wins.

Challenge accepted.

This is a ride which tested every aspect of our abilities, both mentally and physically. It took us to the brink of our limits and tested the resilience of our friendship. We covered terrain that was challenging, bizarre, epic and simply a bad idea. And we loved every minute of it.

The only way to do this, for us, was to do it on gravel as much as possible, and to go places we’d never been. Vermont’s “gaps,” or mountain passes, were the obvious targets, but we’d have to hit the less popular ones, the ones that weren’t as easy as hopping on a carbon-fiber climbing bike, putting your head down and pushing watts. That meant our targets were Waitsfield Gap, Moretown Gap, Roxbury Gap and Braintree Gap. Waitsfield and Braintree in particular were “roads” only by the broadest definition of the term. Crossing them would present more challenges than any regular asphalt road could even think to conjure.

And then there were the unexpected challenges, which we never saw coming. The Class IV roads (a Vermont term — perhaps you know them more as “jeep trails” at best) which devolved into untamed forest. River crossings. Feral pigs. Road closures. The Northfield Pigman. Too much to fit in a video of any reasonable length.

We came out the other side. In what condition and with what success, you’ll need to watch these 12 minutes to find out. We appreciate you taking the time to share the experience with us. We hope you’ll stick around for more such adventures. There are always more on the way.

— Steve & Phil

Our Recap Video for the Race to the Top of Vermont