Cyclists brave heat in Gran Fondo

MIDDLEBURY– On June 30, more than 470 cyclists gathered at Woodchuck Cider House in Middlebury for the third annual Vermont Gran Fondo. They faced blistering heat wih 90-plus degree temperatures, which race director Todd Warnock says was still an improvement over last year’s torrential rain and flash floods.
This year was the first year that Warnock served as the event’s director, taking over from Sue Hoxie. Warnock introduced timing to the technically non-competitive ride. “If you ask any serious cyclist, they’ll tell you every ride is a race,” said Warnock of the change.
This year, riders chose between four routes: a 114-mile Gran Fondo with 11,200-feet of elevation gain, a Medio Difficile with 67 miles and 7,000-feet of climbing, a Medio Facile with 62 miles and 4,600-feet of climbing and a Piccolo Fondo with 38 miles and 2,800-feet of climbing.
The ride starts in Middlebury and heads to Bristol and over App Gap, pictured below, on the way to Waitsfield. From there the route comes up the steep side of Lincoln Gap, then dirt and paved roads to Forest Dale and over Brandon Gap down to Route 100 in Rochester, then back north to climb the east side of Middlebury Gap from Hancock and back to the start at Woodchuck Cider in Middlebury. Photo by Sam Davies
This year’s Gran Fondo route traced the original LAMB ride, traversing Appalachian Gap, Lincoln Gap, Middlebury and Brandon Gaps. “It’s a bucket list ride,” said Warnock. “Most cyclists want to try it, and this event is a great way to do that in a supported setting.”
Every year, cyclists compete for the titles of King and Queen of the Mountain, awarded to the riders who earn the fastest time while climbing each major gap on the LAMB route. This year, the competition was restricted to the steepest continuous paved mile of Lincoln Gap, which has an average gradient of 15-percent and a maximum gradient of 24-percent, making it what the race calls the steepest paved mile in the country.
This year, the King of the Mountain was David Talbott of New Canaan, Conn, and the Queen of the Mountain was Tammy Payer of Bellevue, Idaho. Talbott had a time of 12 minutes 19 seconds and Payer had a time of 17 minutes, 18 seconds.
There was no cash purse for this year’s event. About 20 volunteers staffed water and aid stations and organized the event and its after party at Middlebury’s Woodchuck Cider facility, which served as the start and finish. Warnock reported that there was one bicycle crash this year, but there were no heat-related injuries.
Registration at this year’s event was up by 100 cyclists over last year’s numbers. Next year’s Vermont Gran Fondo will run in June 2019. “People are saying there will be hail, because that’s the only thing left,” joked Warnock. “We figure if we plan for the worst, any weather will be a pleasant surprise.”

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