At 44, Mike Barton is still beating pro racers half his age.
Name: Mike Barton Age: 44
Lives in: Hanover, N.H.
Family: Wife, Dorothea; twin 3 1⁄2 year old daughters, Evelyn and Emmanuela Occupation: Engineer Primary sports: Cycling, running, triathlon
When it comes to cycling, Mike Barton is a late bloomer. His main sport had been stock car racing but when he enrolled in college at age 25 he began to race mountain bikes. Sponsored by First Stop Bike and Ski Shop in Killington, Barton won the inaugural Vermont Overland Pavé Madness, a 23-mile gravel bike race this past July beating a number of pro riders, including 22-year-old Ansel Dickey.
VS: How crazy was the Overland Pavé Madness?
MB: We were traveling over four-wheel-drive jeep roads that were almost impossible to ride. There were boulders, wet terrain and steep ascents and descents. We had to travel though 500 yards of beaver bog; the water was waist-deep so you had to carry your bike over your head—but that was one of the easiest parts of the ride since it was such a hot day. We went down active flowing river beds, traversing back and forth, riding and running, and then there was a steep extend- ed climb. The last few miles were pleasant gravel roads that were more traditional.
VS: What kind of a bike do you use for that?
MB: It was the mountain bike version of cyclocross. I rode (and carried) my Cannondale Scalpel which is a dual suspension bike. It was perfect for the course with suspension lockout for the long, steep climbs, but plenty of cushion for the rocky, technical descents and stream crossings, but I still couldn’t ride everything.
VS: How did you go from car racing to bike racing?
MB: I was a stock car driver until I was 25, racing locally and regionally. Someone suggested I try mountain bike racing. I’d never raced on two wheels before but I jumped in and won my first race as a novice and moved up through the ranks. At 25 I went to college and raced with the University of New Hampshire team. That’s where I fell in love with road racing. I then got my masters at Dartmouth and raced my two years there. In 2003, Dartmouth won the national championship and in 2004, I won 9 out of 13 collegiate races and all five races at the national championship. I started working the day after graduation but I continued to race across New England and in New Mexico, California, Bermuda and Ireland. A lot of the folks I raced with ended up racing professionally like Ted King, Brent Bookwalter and Kevin Bouchard-Hall. Kevin recently got back into racing. I followed him into triathlons and now we do these gravel races together.
VS: What kind of racing do you like best?
MB: I like gravel best. It’s unpredictable and you need bike handling skills, power and aerobic ability. you’re rid- ing in a bit of a pack, unlike mountain bike racing. It’s an individual effort but you are racing with friends.
VS: How do you have time to train?
MB: Part of my training revolves around commuting. My most direct commute is seven miles on either mountain bike trails or roads but there are numerous other options that allow me to add to that commute. The long way home can be as much as 75 miles.
VS: What are some other races you did this year?
MB: I rode the Tour of the Battenkill which had a new format this year. Dave Zabriskie [retired professional bike racer] was there and I beat him by seven minutes and the race. I was part of a two-man breakaway for 70 miles of a 75-mile race. I did the Rasputista Spring Classic this year and came in third. Both of those are races I’d love to do again. I really like the Vermont 50. I won that three years in a row and have the course record but last year I had a mechanical problem. In 2016, I did the Green Mountain Stage Race as a Master and I try to fit that in when I can. I’ve done a number of Ironman Triathlons but I’ve decided to focus more on cycling because of the demands of my family and my job which is fairly high stress. I’m a research and revelopment engineer and I work on projects as diverse as cryogenics, lasers, high-temper- ature superconductors and electro-mechanical sys- tems. Because of work and family, I really have to pick and choose my events.
VS: Do you ride with your daughters?
MB: They’ve been riding in the chariot bike since they were born. Last year we did 1,300 miles together. They also have their own tricycles. Last year I got hit by a car and needed surgery to repair my thumb so I rode indoors and I made them both little stationary trainers so they could ride with me. Biking and being outdoors has become a way of life to them. They’d rather be in the bike chariot than the car.