It has nearly been one year since I did the NEK (North East Kingdom, VT) Tour de Kingdom and there were so many good experiences I had during the 5 day event and so many photos. I will give you the shortened version and a flickr gallery within this blog so you don’t get too bored. First off, I won the 107mile Day 1 and…spoiler alert….I got 2nd overall 211mi 2 day event by…..10 seconds! Yes, 10 seconds. I won the first day with a break away at 59mi soloing up Jay Peak and down the back side staying away from the group winning by 25 minutes. So quick math, I was leading by 25 minutes going into the flatter 107 mile day 2 and lost the overall by 10 seconds.
I flew into Laguardia in NYC in wich I had to leave the main terminal to get on a smaller propeller driven plane that I took to Burlington, VT. I was greeted by my friends Anthony Moccia and Matt Farney. Naturally we had to hit the Original Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream! Yum. Down the road from there we hit up a micro brewery and all was right with the world. After a 2 hour drive to Newport, VT and a long day of traveling I found my room at Farney’s in the finished attic in the turn-of-the-century farm house with chickens and a resident Hedghog.
The Tour de Kingdom is really a 5 century rides around NE Vermont starting Wednesday and concluding with the timed Gran Fondo events on Saturday and Sunday recognizing the top 3 each day and Overall 2 day top 3. Since I traveled on Wednesday I was starting off on the Thursday tour to Canaan and back which ended up about 95 miles. The day was dark with drizzle and temps in the 40’s…a little tough for a sundrentched fella like myself coming from 115degree temps in Arizona this time of year. As I rode through the driving rain at 7am, I kept thinking that this was a good character builder for me and I needed this. The sun finally came out around lunch time and once again…all was right in the world.
That evening was relatively uneventful and the real racing started on Saturday. It was great getting to the IROC Community Center early and hanging out with other riders and meeting the teammates of my friends. The group of riders are really genuine and good folks and made me feel right at home. The day started with several hundred rolling out in a neutral way till the grade started pitching up. The front group separation was about 25 of us that stayed together to the top of Jay Peak. We all agreed on a pit-stop at the top and descended down to the turn around point. At mile 57 there were some rollers and I tested out the group a little and nobody really came after me. I applied a little pressure on the pedals and subtly grew my gap till mile 59 where I really put the pressure on. I knew that I could climb back up Jay Peak faster by myself and everyone seemed pretty disorganized, too much to get things together to chase me down after the descent. My move paid off and I rolled in solo, winning the day with a 25 min gap.
The day was followed by a birthday party, Vermont style with tables on the front lawn, beer, cake…and YARD DARTS! Apparently, Vermont is the only state that’s cool with drinking a beer and tossing around big heavy Jarts which were banned for sale in the US in December 1988.
The final day, 104 miles, was a flatter day and the group was going to stay together till the end. As I throughly enjoyed the party the evening before, I stayed with the group through 40mi. It was nice to chill with the HammerHeads (local VT team) and socialize at the aid stations….but at some point I got bored and a couple of the riders were feeling sluggish. At 76mi, I hit the gas and chased the lead group. I soloed till the finish with shere determination to make up some time but I wasn’t sure how much.
When I crossed the finish line, Phil White the Director was there smiling and shaking his head. The awards for the event were that afternoon so I started to get cleaned up and Phil came up with a big grin and asked me how close I thought the 2 day Overall winner was to the second place finisher. I new I had made up some time but the socializing at the comfort stations had to have taken time off the lead I had. 10 seconds. Phil said ” you got 2nd overall 211 miles by 10 seconds!” Huh. Crap. You have to be kidding me! I really layed it on the line the first day and felt good about the win and was ok to have the previous years winner take the Overall win, good on the local guy.
I love regional awards. I won 2 gallons of Maple Syrup, 1lb of beef jerky, 2 hand made medals and a leader jersey that I will cherish forever. I throughly enjoyed my time in the NEK and the Tour de Kingdom. Every volunteer and persons involved with the Tour were amazing. Traveling across the country for an event that allowed me to ride more than 300 miles and race 211 of it is amazing. I urge anyone that loves to tour the world to look in our own back yard in the US. We have such a diverse Country and is worthy of any cyclist / racer.