Cold Day, Warm Community
October 13, 2018
The grass is wet from the previous night’s rain and gray clouds hang low in the sky when we step out of the car the morning of the first ever Peacham Fall Fondo in Peacham, Vermont. It’s not quite drizzling, but the air is damp and cold. Despite the chill, and lots of deliberation on exactly how many layers we’ll need, we’re excited for the ride. Just the drive up through Vermont has shown us spectacular fall colors, and we anticipate that the views from the bike will be even better -- because they always are.
And true enough, once we are dressed and checked in, and our numbers zip-tied to our handlebars, we start rolling and Vermont puts on her best display for us. We haven’t been riding as much the last few weeks, so we’re not as strong as we’d like, but none of it matters. Not the cold or the periodic drizzle, and not the grind up these New England rollers. We’re on our bikes, we’re riding with friends and other like-minded cyclists, and it’s all good.
One thing that really stood out was the graciousness of hosts Ian Boswell and Gretchen Kaija.
Ian is a professional road cyclist with a Tour de France and a number of other Grand Tour races under his belt. He decided to put on the Fondo as a way to give back to the community of Peacham, where he and Gretchen make their home. Suffice it to say, Ian could crush every rider at the Fondo with ease. But after leading out the start of the ride, Ian drifted back to ride and chat with lots of riders, making a point of connecting with the regular riders who made the event a success.
With Ian away in Europe for much of the year, Gretchen stepped up to the task of being the point person to organize the event. She coordinated with local organizations and individuals who had experience hosting other local events, including the Peacham Acoustic Music Festival. At the finish, after what must have been the end of a long day and a long build-up to the event, Gretchen greeted finishers with enthusiasm and congratulations.
The third host of the event has to be the community of Peacham. It was evident that the Fondo was a true community event. Friends and neighbors offered tents, flags for course marshals, and other donations. Especially significant for the participants was the Pie Stop at the halfway point, hosted by the Peacham Library.
According to bikereg.com, the field limit for this event was capped at 300. 183 people registered: 138 men and 45 women. This means that almost ¼ of participants were women! These are actually some pretty good odds when compared to other gravel grinders. (Hopefully it signifies a shift…)
The cost to participate in this event was $65, a perfectly reasonable entry fee. Anything over this number can sometimes feel like “a lot,” particularly when the field limit is huge and you do the math. With 183 participants, it is likely they were able to cover their costs with money left over to serve their cause. For this fee, participants enjoyed some excellent swag, well-stocked sag stops, a raffle ticket, and a token for a free post-race drink. (And port-a-potties of course).
Peacham, Vermont, is a picturesque town whose residents were friendly and welcoming. The 44-mile route wound through drop-dead gorgeous scenery in and around Peacham. Total elevation gain was significant, with some steep sections. A rewarding effort, but definitely a ride you want to be in shape for.
The food was amazing, period. At the first SAG stop they had peanut butter oatmeal balls, homemade with love (and precision! They were perfectly round!) by Gretchen and her mom, Lisa. Plus, bananas and Ginger Mapleaid and Maple Waffles from Untapped.
The Peacham Library hosted the middle SAG stop and had homemade pies. Barden had peach yogurt raspberry (with whipped cream) and Duby had apple. Both amazing.
The Peacham Cafe was open for business until 2PM, with hot coffee and fresh food on offer.
A very respectable swag bag contained one of a kind Peacham Fall Fondo socks by Ridge Supply, an 8-oz bottle of Alpecin Sport Caffeine Shampoo, a pair of tire levers, a Wahoo water bottle by Purist, a Wahoo cycling cap, a coupon for a free bottle of Drink Maple, and a beer cozy from Drink Maple.
Proceeds from the event will go to the town of Peacham to build a public four-season pavilion and repurpose the unused tennis court. “The proposed structure – a space that will be used to foster education and stewardship with activities, workshops, and events like the Peacham Acoustic Music Festival and future Peacham Fall Fondos – is symbolic of the community strength and unity that we aim to celebrate during this event,” according to Ian.
In short, organizers and volunteers knocked it out of the park for the first ever Peacham Fall Fondo. The overall feel of the event was relaxed, friendly, and welcoming. This was an all-inclusive event for riders of all levels. The route was beautiful and fun, the on-course noshes were plentiful and yummy, and the after-party had the makings of a total blast.