Vermont 50 MTB race

Has anyone ridden the Vermont 50? 50 miles 9000’ vertical MTB. Has a great reputation and I’d love to know why :). I just signed up and am unsure how I’ll survive it :rofl:

I just signed up tonight too, first time doing it or any race this long, and am now thinking, “uh oh what have I gotten myself into.” Wonder if 30-42 is enough :slight_smile:

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Hmm, I’m tempted. But Racing Leadville August 12th, will probably take most of the next 1-2 weeks off the bike, this might give me a little incentive to get myself back in gear, but at the same time I could be ready to take the fall off by then…

I’ve been training with a 10-52 Cassette and a 30T Chainring. Rode some REALLY steep stuff in NH recently as part of the Kearsage Klassic Course where I was glad to have every bit of that gearing, I’d bet this is similar.

@Lorichka6 Yes - I have done it 8 times and will ride it again this year. It is a great race - a mix of gravel roads, jeep roads and single track.

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Can you tell me more about it?

This kind of elevation in a day seems so crazy to me - but everyone raves about this race… How do they make 9000 vertical fun?!

I’m planning on sticking with the low volume plan (3 per week) + some longer easier rides on weekends on the trails. I have no real goals for the race besides to finish it - just trust the process, right?

@Lorichka6 I generally camp the night before. Reserve your spot with Mike Silverman if you are interested. The site is a mile or so from the start and camping allows you to avoid having to drive in the morning to get to the race parking lot. There are not many hotels nearby and plus the star gazing up there awesome.

It is generally cold and wet in the morning — lots of dew. However, I have raced on days where it warms up to to the 80Fs or 90Fs so make sure you can adapt your layering for different conditions as it is a long day. Humidity will matter too so experiment with your layers coming into the race.

Like many races, the start is in waves depending on your category. There will likely be a few ex-pros there. Ted King has raced VT50 a few times and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Ian Boswell there this year given how well he did in the Cape Epic and because he lives nearby.

Definitely select novice as this is your first time.

It starts downhill on the road so be prepared for the additional chill of going at speed.

Soon after the climbing starts - again on the road - and it gets steep quick.

The first 30 miles will switch between gravel, paved and single track. There will definitely be some mud. Hopefully it doesn’t rain as the downhill single track can turn into mud ski slopes and become very sketchy.

At just before the 1/2 way point (mile 20 I think) there is a big climb - Garvin Hill. It is pretty steep towards the top but with with an aid station, a great view and a very fast downhill following the peak.

Around mile 30 there is a significant amount of single track - really nice flowing trails - but it can get a bit bunched up as the runners are generally sharing the course with the bikers at that point so you need to work together to keep things safe. It i also at a point in the race when you probably will be fatigued so you need to stay focused.

Cramps can be an issue and generally I have had success avoiding them by doing longer rides with climbs on weekends in the months before the race to get my legs accumulated. Nutrition and hydration will also be key not only during the race but leading up to it as well.

I live in the Boston area and find that Blue Hills works great as a practice course for the VT50. The riding there is a bit more technical than what you will experience in the VT50 but the terrain does a good job emulating some of the climbs that you will encounter. I used a loop on Strava that is 10 miles long and would work on building up to successive laps - peaking at 3. You don’t need to ride 50 miles to prepare - 30 to 35 is fine for a practice distance:

I generally start my season with a short to medium distance MTB plan and then move to a marathon distance midway into the summer. I do a short track race every two weeks in June and July and some longer distance races after that. Other than the occasional gravel race the VT50 is my longest event for the season.

I have been using Scratch hydration and also their cluster dextrin mix to start the race to ensure I get calories early and then switch to bars and eat stuff like watermelon, stroopwafels and PB&J at a few of the stops. I don’t stop at every aid stop - generally only 3 or 4. They have other stuff at the aid stations but I stick to what I know my stomach will tolerate.

Last year I finished in 6 1/2 hours including about 20 minutes at the rest stops, nature breaks and taking photos. I averaged just under 8 mph with about 8k+ of elevation gain. I was in Z4 for about 60% of the race and Z3 for 20%.

I have raced on hard tail and full suspension bikes. Both work great but obviously will handle differently. My latest FS is lighter than my hard tail and I feel like it handles the climbs better. I used a 32T and 10-51 cassette and that combo provided all of the gearing that I needed. I had to hike a bike only once last year when I felt a cramp coming while going up a hill late in the race.

Hope that helps and good luck!


Thanks @JSampson ! Hugely helpful :slight_smile:

Last year was my first real season on a MTB. I did the Wilmington Whiteface race (100k, ~7000 vertical) last year and I’m doing it again next weekend. Doing more elevation in almost 20 miles less (the course is usually 68 is miles) is what I’m most nervous about. Would you say that training wise my focus should really be on elevation on my trail rides? We are about 30 miles west of Albany so the Berkshires and Taconics and ADKs are accessible to us. Is there value in trying to do 3-5000 ft in 30ish miles to get used to this amount of vertical/mile?

@Lorichka6 Having completed Wilmington-Whiteface I think you are going to be fine. You will have the needed endurance for the mileage and your legs will be able to handle a long ride up hill.

Yes - I do think getting some elevation on trail rides makes a lot of sense. The VT50 has a mix of sustained climbs as well as “hammer up that $hit” type stuff that the trail rides can help you dial in. Sounds like you have a lot of the sub-threshold training so maybe add in some neuromuscular and anaerobic work one day every other week either on the trainer or via drills outside to increase your 5 to 60 second power and also your ability to recover from those outputs.

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Anyone have any thoughts on tires for this this year? From the e-mails that have been sent out it is sounding like the course might be a little sloppy. I currently have a DHF on the front, and Nobby Nic on the rear, but I think even if the course is wet this might be a little more tire than optimal (although I’m a horrible bike handler).

@chris137 Even with the mud there are a lot of packed gravel road sections. The wet stuff stays wet even in dry years but there are some dirt single track downhill sections that can get sketchy with lots of rain. The issue will be whether there is enough mud to start caking on the bike frame. I rode one of those years (2009 I think) and was awful. I don’t think tire choice will do anything to prevent that.

For several years I used a Nobby Nic in front and a Racing Ralph in the rear. The past two years I ran Ardent Race in front and Recon Race in the rear and will probably do the same this year.

Thanks @JSampson, that is good info. I probably will change up my tires.

I’m wondering about tires too.
I did Aspen F/R last time, but I don’t think that will cut it this year.
Forekaster F/R is what I’m thinking.
There are going to be a LOT of riders out in front of me so I figure by the time I get there things will be sloppy as hell.

I have some 2.35 Barzos w/ TNT casing being delivered tomorrow. Will run with the Air-Liner Lights. I considered Forekaster but thought 2.4 rear will be too tight of a fit on my frame (2014 Scott Spark).

Weather forecast doesn’t look too bad after tomorrow, so maybe the course won’t be too wet? I am racing Novice, so yeah, a lot of people in front of me as well :slight_smile:

Just thought I’d add some notes here in case it helps someone for future years. I found it to be a really well organized event, with a great vibe, raising money for a great cause, and I’m glad I did it.

For background, this was my first time doing any sort of race like this, I’m 45 yrs old, 271 ftp and 175 lbs for about 3.4 w/kg. Riding a 2014 Scott Spark with 1x 30 / 10-42 gearing and Vittoria Barzo 2.35 and Air Liner Light inserts. I mainly stuck to a Marathon MTB Plan Builder plan, since the beginning of the year, but swapped some stuff out here and there (mainly less intensity and some longer trainer rides).

So, first off, I’ll say that all of @JSampson 's advice is great. I didn’t do any long mountain bike rides heading into this and if I were to do something like that again, that would be the biggest thing I would change. I really struggled with cramping in my legs and I think if I’d done some more long rides, and maybe some more focus on low cadence work on the trainer, that may have helped.

I also experienced a lot of back pain and tricep soreness, and might consider adding a 3rd day of strength training per week, focusing on core and arms.

Equipment wise, I think a 30-42 as my easiest ratio wasn’t quite enough for me. Being able to pedal at a higher cadence would have been easier on my legs. Next time I would do the largest rear cog I could accommodate.

I like the Barzos, I think they were appropriate given the fairly muddy conditions, and seemed to roll pretty fast with good grip. However, the rear did flat on me. A fairly large gash in the middle of the tread that took me nearly 15 mins to repair and pump back up. Probably not the tire’s fault, I probably did something stupid, but I very rarely had flats with my Nobby Nic that I had on there previously. It’ll be interesting to see how these tires hold up on my local trails which are far rockier than the VT50 course. The bike was still rideable with the insert and a tire that was pretty much completely flat. Felt sketchy/squirmy, but wasn’t rimming out.

In terms of logistics, it was easy, I stayed up in White River Junction, left the hotel at 4:45 AM and had plenty of time to park before the meeting (although the meeting did start a couple mins early and i missed a bit of it!) Getting my bike back on the bike rack and my shoes changed after the race was done was a challenge due to soreness, but driving 2.5 hrs home was fine, I was not otherwise feeling tired.

I ended up at 7.5 hrs, which is not fast (i’m truly amazed by some of the times others got), but I was totally fine with considering my flat and that I rode a very conservative pace (avg hr 129, my max is low 180s, 6h 49m moving time according to Strava). So other than the exception that I really should have gotten out more on some longer mtb rides, I do feel like TR prepared me well for this event.