Epic DIY Rides

This summer, Vermonters created epic one-day challenges that took them riding 250 miles or more in a day.

By Phyl Newbeck

Ever since races have been canceled due to Covid-19, people have been looking for new ways to challenge themselves. Last issue we wrote about Ted King’s 300-mile, one-day gravel ride from the northeast to southwest corners of Vermont (part of his #DIYGravel campaign) and his wife Laura’s solo 200-mile sprint from Richmond, Vt. to Portland, Me.

The Kings weren’t the only ones riding big miles. Kris Dennan did a repeat of Ted King’s ride—but south to north—and then added on to it. Jared Katz rode a 266-mile loop he dedicated to protesting racism. And Tor Dworshak rode to Bethel, Me., and back.

As Dworshak says “We were saying during the ride that riding a century is no longer a benchmark. It’s pretty regular to see 150-200 mile rides these days, maybe because there are no races taking place.”

Here’s what three of them had to say about their journeys.

Left to right: Tor Dworshak, Maxon Quas, Nolan Rogers, Max Munafo, Patrick Murphy Photo courtesy Tor Dworshak

Ride Date: June 21

Route: Burlington to Bethel, and back

Distance: 300.1 miles

Elevation gain: 15,351 feet

Moving Time: 16 hours, 52 minutes Total Time: Roughly 23 hours Average speed: 17.8 mph

Riders: Tor Dworshak, Patrick Murphy, Nolan Rogers, Maxwell Munafo, and Maxon Quas for the final 75 miles.

Tor Dworshak, 27, is a Cat 4 racer who won the green jersey as points leader in the 2019 Green Mountain Stage Race and took second in the Burlington Criterium. On June 21, he set out to ride from his home in Burlington to Bethel, Me., and back and had several friends join him along the way.

Why the ride?

I reached out to some of my buddies with the idea of a 200-mile ride to Dartmouth and back, but one suggested doing 300 miles instead. He sent me the link and titled it ‘Big and Dumb’ which was entirely fitting. I thought it was an unreasonable idea, but he convinced me, and we did a call to talk about logistics.

How did you get through it?

It was really nice having a group. As big and dumb as the ride was, having a wheel to follow and someone to talk to was integral to finishing. It was great when my cousin Max joined us. He put his hand on my back and pushed me for about five miles when I fell behind. None of us had any sort of mechanical or physical failures. That still blows my mind. How did we make it without major cramps, getting sick or having bike issues?

The hardest part of the ride:

The Class 4 road descent into Peacham at 2 a.m. Having previously broken my clavicle on App Gap, I’m a slow descender and my front light was more of a blinker than a light. We had a new moon and it was everything you’d expect on a Class 4 road including sand and washboards. I was feathering the brakes, the others were completely out of view, and I just had my front blinkie.

The best part of the ride:

Getting to Barker Mountain Bikes in Maine. Our friends who own the shop were waiting with a spread of food and drinks. We reset mentally, got air in our tires and had our chains lubed. It was a great psychological boost.

Beneficiary of the ride:

We wanted to raise $500 to $600 for United for a Fair Economy, an organization that “supports social movements working for a resilient, sustainable and equitable economy.”

We raised triple that. As we were riding it was always in my head that we weren’t just doing it for our own glory but for everyone who clicked the donate button which gave us extra motivation.

The route: strava.com/activities/3651789296

Katz, a former police officer rode to protest racism. Photo by Jared Katz.

Date: June 19

Route: Burlington to St. Albans, Montpelier, Newport, and back

Distance: 266.37 miles

Elevation gain: 12,575 feet

Moving time: 16 hours, 15 seconds

Total time: Almost 20 hours

Average speed: 16.6 mph

Rider: Jared Katz

A psychotherapist from Richmond and former Colchester police officer, Jared Katz, 53, has raced Cat 3 and 4 for over a decade. He dedicated his Juneteenth ride (June 19) to combatting racism.

Why the ride?

When COVID-19 happened, I decided to ride from Richmond to my hometown in Connecticut which is about 260 miles. Then the world completely turned upside down and caught on fire and George Floyd was murdered. I felt impotent and wanted to make some noise and maybe raise money for a good cause so I found a route of about the same length in Vermont. Before the ride I talked to an African-American cyclist who said that when he goes for a ride and his wife says “be careful,” it’s not just about the standard risks that every cyclist encounters. I knew that when I went on my ride, no matter where I went or what I encountered, I would encounter it as a white man. 

How did you get through it?

I started the ride at 11 p.m. listening to reggae, but mostly I was just watching the darkness get deeper. Coming up through Marshfield, I’ve never seen so many fireflies and riding into St. Johnsbury, the rail trail was full of Luna moths. It felt like riding through massive snowflakes.

The hardest part of the ride:

On the section between Charlotte and Huntington, I was beat. I remembered to bring a stocking that I had filled with ice three times, but it had completely melted. The sun was beating down on the fresh blacktop, my body was cooked and my back was starting to hurt. It was about the 230 mile mark and I still had a distance to go and I was realizing that I might come up short. I used Ride with GPS and it added tiny turns in places that weren’t necessary but I was losing mileage by not taking them. When I got to Beaudry’s in Huntington, I filled my bottles, dumped water over my head, and picked out a route that got me the mileage I needed.

The best part of the ride:

Dawn between Barton and Irasburg was absolutely magical. There was this whole stellar world that was visible as the sky turned purple and red and it got light and there was a mist down in the valley. I happened to be at some elevation and that period between pre-dawn and dawn was just fabulous.

Beneficiary of the ride:

Through Facebook I raised about $1,200 for the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund. Donations via other avenues will probably increase that to about $2,500.

The route: strava.app.link/LBr0t9rDh8

Dennan, still smiling after 300 miles. Photo by Kris Dennan

Ride: July 1

Route: Williamstown, Ma. to Canaan, Vt. (the XVTXL gravel ride)

Distance: 301 miles

Elevation gain: 30,000 feet

Moving time: 23 hours

Total time: 31 hours

Average speed: 13 mph

Rider: Kris Dennan

Kris Dennan, 46, operates Gravel Tours from his home in Manchester. He’s also one of the founders of the Super 8 bikepacking route and this past May, rode 2,000 miles to South Dakota in 10 days. In July, Dennan rode the newly- charted 301-mile VTXL gravel route, from Pownal, in southwest Vermont to Canaan in the northeast corner. He checked into a motel and the next day, rode another 100 miles to Montpelier to meet his wife. Then the two climbed Camel’s Hump.

Why the ride?

I’d heard about Ted King’s 301-mile gravel ride that [bikepacking guru] Joe Cruz had mapped. As a leader of Gravel Tours I thought I should explore it. I started from home in Manchester and rode south 40 miles to Williamtsown, Ma., the night before in a hellacious rainstorm. My goal was to ride the 300 miles in one day.

How did you get through it?

I average this distance each week. Before I left I stocked up on food so I wouldn’t have to go into stores. You just keep eating, you keep riding. 

Hardest part of the ride?

I got chased by dogs in Thetford. And at about two in the morning, I stopped to sleep on town bench but a raccoon kept waking me up as it attacked some garbage cans.

Best part of the ride

It was 90 degrees the day I rode but I knew a lot of the route so I stopped at swimming holes to filter water and swim 

The route: strava.com/activities/3708213719 

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