The Hardest Ride You’ll Ever Love
Launching from the driveway of Peter Vollers’ home in Reading, the Vermont Overland is 44 miles and 5700 total ascent of Vermont gravel goodness. It’s one of the premier rides of the Vermont gravel season. It’s gotta also be the hardest.
It’s longer and steeper than Rasputitsa (although benefits from not being in the dicey weather season), shorter and steeper than Rooted, and this year had seven, count ‘em seven, technical sections called Pavé Sectors. Vermont pavé is a name for unmaintained roads. They can be as mild-mannered as a gravel or grassy path, or they can be chock-full of gullies, washouts, rocks and roots, sand, mud, and other gnar. Sometimes all together.
It’s what makes the Overland the Overland. It’s what makes it challenging—and what makes it fun.
And bikekitz was there in force. We had seven women riding in our kit, and we crushed it!
The course left Peter’s driveway and after a neutral start, began to climb pretty quickly, breaking up the field and starting to spread the riders out.
Barden and I rode together with our friend Dani. We were following the Mullet Protocol—business in the front, party in the back—and we were part of the long tail of people there just to enjoy the ride. The day was one of those perfect late summer days that hint of fall—clear blue sky, dry air, warm but not hot. We couldn’t have asked for better weather.
The ride was incredibly challenging. There were many long ascents, some quite steep, with little place for recovery. The pavé sectors added a technical component that can’t be underestimated. In the beginning, before the challenges of terrain and grade spread out the field, we were riding these technical sections in bunches of riders. This meant that if one rider didn’t send the line and fell or had to unclip, then like a row of dominoes, everyone downhill from the choke point had to unclip.
Barden and I love gravel riding and find that navigating the technical terrain is very challenging. We didn’t know how much or how little of the pavé we’d be able to ride. To be sure, there were spots we had to dismount for. But most of it we were able to manage, which left us feeling super proud of ourselves at the end of the day.
It became really clear over the course of the ride how important gearing is for a ride like this. I bought my Scott Addict Gravel 30 in March purposely with the Overland in mind. It was perfect for this event, and one of the great things about it is its 1:1 gearing (meaning the small ring in the front has the same number of teeth as the large gear in the back), which makes climbing a lot easier. Although only a few years old, Barden’s bike came before the current generation of gravel bikes and lacks that 1:1 gearing. She had to work much harder to conquer those hills than I did.
The support at the Overland is stellar. There were two great sag stops. At the first one we said hello to our friend Rob Walker of Claremont Cycle Depot. I don’t know what kind of magic they sprinkled over the PB&J sammies they had, but they were the best ever. The ice pops at the Rasputitsa sag stop really hit the spot. We got to say hi to Anthony Moccia and I got my water bottle filled by Anthony’s daughter. It was a family affair, with the Moccia and Meyers kids helping out. Special shout out to Anthony’s wife, Cija. She’s not a rider but is a huge supporter of Rasputitsa and gravel in general. She was there all day taking photographs.
Piloting Peter’s fleet of Land Rovers and other 4x4 vehicles were several drivers and co-drivers, shepherding the flock of riders until every last rider was across the line.
Upshot? It was a challenging day but a great one. Barden and I are really glad we did it, and really proud of ourselves for completing such a tough course, especially with all the technical pavé. For me, it was my first Overland but definitely not my last.
Are you a fan of technical gravel? Did you do the Overland this year? What was your experience like? Tell us in the comments!