Cyclocross

Gravel Race: Vermont’s Rasputitsa Celebrates Cycling, Community, Charity … And Mud – Cyclocross Magazine

Northeast Vermont is a lovely place. Northeast Vermont in late April is a lovely, often muddy place.

When friends Heidi Myers and Anthony Moccia decided to start a gravel race in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom in 2014, they knew exactly where the inspiration for the name would come from.

Rasputitsa is Russian for ‘mud season,’” Myers said. “It was a time that was talked about a lot during World War II. When they were trying to move tanks and stuff on the battlefields.”

The 2019 edition of Rasputitsa lived up to its name. 2019 Rasputitsa Gravel Race, Vermont. © Nolan Myers

During its now six-year run, Rasputitsa the gravel race has lived up to its Russian name, with mud, snow and cold rain often being as much a part of the event as the festive after-party.

This year? It was no different.

“Officially, it was in the upper 30s, low 40s,” Myers said. “There was hail at the start. There was snow on the course. There was a downpour of rain. Pretty much all the shit you could possibly imagine. We don’t have a rain day. You get what you get.”

That Russia circa the 1940s carried through in how Myers described the conditions last Saturday. “If you were at the race this past weekend, the course pretty much felt like a battlefield. We probably had a little under 200 racers who did not finish, and we were picking them up at feed zones. They were cold and hypothermic. We had eight vehicles on course just picking up riders.”

The Three Cs

So, a mud march, possibly cold, possibly wet, probably both in late April sounds like a blast, doesn’t it?

Conditions aside—or perhaps because of the conditions—Rasputitsa and the team behind it are doing something right. The race started with a hair over 300 participants 6 years ago, and this year, registrations topped out at over 1,500.

As of mid-week, 600 people were already signed up for next year, even after, as we will see, a particularly brutal edition of the Vermont race.

Since its inception, Moccia and Myers have been guided by three principles they call the 3Cs: Cycling, Community and Charity.

Cycling is the easiest, and we will get to that in a bit.

Community is something you have to work to build. The sense of community that gravel fosters is an essential part of the discipline’s meteoric growth, but as we saw with another successful grassroots race in the Land Run 100, building and maintaining the sense of community takes a concerted effort.

In the case of Rasputitsa, it starts with the two founders and an impressive commitment to the race participants.

“Honestly, we have made a really big effort to know our racers by name,” Myers said. “I know this sounds ludicrous, but I’d say we can walk up to about half the people who attend and say ‘Hey Jen.’ We get to know them and get to know what they have going on in their lives.”

Another big part of growing the Rasputitsa community has been in encouraging the participation of women. If you scroll through the results of any of the gravel races we have covered, women’s participation is usually maybe 10-15% of the total number of participants.

Rasputitsa started that way but has grown since. “Over the past 6 years, we’ve grown our Women’s field from 10 percent to 21 percent this year. That we’ve done through pure encouragement,” Myers said.

Part of that encouragement is a non-race event called Bittersweet. “We run this little women’s event called Bittersweet, which combines pros and amateurs in a non-competitive way,” Myers described.

“Sometimes we make the pros do things out of their comfort levels. Like we have a Bittersweet event where there was skiing. You might be a professional cyclist, but you’ve never done Nordic skiing. We try to put everyone on the same level to make it encouraging. Those women’s events, it’s no rider left behind, and there’s a focus other than racing.”

Encouraging women’s participation is an essential part of Rasputitsa. 2019 Rasputitsa Gravel Race, Vermont. © Nolan Myers

Then there is charity. All of the money raised by Rasputitsa goes toward giving young women more opportunities to ride bikes via the Little Bellas organization.

Last year, the race donated $19,000 to Little Bellas. This year, organizers are hoping to do $21,000, in part via a raffle that is still open for entry.

A Northeast Kingdom Challenge

This year, Rasputitsa drew over 1,500 avid gravel enthusiasts as well as an impressive cast of professional racers from across the disciplines. One of those professionals summed up her experience rather succinctly.

“Lea Davison came across the finish line and was like, ‘That was the second hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. The only thing harder was La Ruta [in Costa Rica],’” Myers recounted.

At first glance, Davison’s feelings might be a bit unexpected. Rasputitsa checked in at only 41 miles this year, which is quite a bit shorter than the usual 100 km or 100 miles we see as a starting distance for challenging events.

However, those 41 miles included 4,900 feet of climbing and roads that were at times impassible by bike. With temperatures staying in the 30s with rain and sleet coming down, Rasputitsa’s 41 miles were more than challenging enough.

“The challenge is the road conditions,” Myers said. “The washboard back roads are exhausting on your upper body this time of year. Mentally, just having to deal with the weather, I saw people out there who just broke down mentally.”

The conditions can be quite rough as Rasputitsa. 2019 Rasputitsa Gravel Race, Vermont. © Nolan Myers

The seasonal carnage is particularly focused in one section of road aptly named Cyberia. Myers described that particular corner of gravel cycling hell:

“Those roads are not maintained at all. They’re not plowed, they don’t lay sand, they’re not salted. They are unmaintained roads. There is extensive snow cover in there. If you look at the pictures, you can see people literally walking their bikes through. They’re unrideable.”

Cyberia was again unrideable in spots this year. 2019 Rasputitsa Gravel Race, Vermont. © Nolan Myers

Although we recently saw neutral support at a gravel race, gravel is by and large for those are self-supported and not faint at heart. Getting the right gear, being prepared and persevering are all part of the experience. Snow? Sleet? Hail? It’s all in the game.

The way Rasputitsa team sees it, all of that is part of the fun. Type 2 fun, probably, but still fun.

“A lot of calls cannot be made until the last minute,” Myers explained. “That adds fun and is a popular topic of conversation up until race day. What are people riding for tires? What bike choice? Am I going to bring my fat bike? Should I bring my cyclocross bike?”

If you are still not sold on traveling to northeast Vermont for a 40-mile gravel race, the event does come with a money back guarantee. Not hard enough for you? Rasputitsa will return your entry fee.

Thus far, everyone has gone home happy. “I’ve never heard anyone say, ‘Oh, I wish it was harder,’” Myers demurred.

“I wish it was harder” is not something you hear at Rasputitsa. 2019 Rasputitsa Gravel Race, Vermont. © Nolan Myers

The 2019 Race

With its location in New England, Rasputitsa is within driving distance for the talented roster of racers based in the region. Not surprisingly, it brings out some big names from across cyclocross, mountain biking, road and gravel. There were national champions of all levels from the U.S. and Canada, and, this year, even a world champion.

The week before the race, word dropped that Lars Boom would be racing Rasputitsa as his first-ever gravel race. Boom approached the organizers, and together, they worked out a way to get the 2008 cyclocross world champion to the start line.

However, before Boom came, Rasputitsa called some friends.

“We’re always a bit leery of having pros come because of the community feel, but we’re good friends with Tim Johnson and Jeremy Powers. We reached out to them and asked, ‘What do you think about this Lars Boom character?’ and they were like, ‘He’s a class act.’ And he truly truly was,” Myers said.

Lars Boom was a special guest at this year’s race. 2019 Rasputitsa Gravel Race, Vermont. © Nolan Myers

While Boom chipped in his rainbow-clad stature, other pros chipped in in other ways. Like many gravel races, Rasputitsa does not offer prize money—that goes to the Little Bellas—so Maghalie Rochette offered up her woodworking skills and built trophies for the top three women and men’s finishers.

The other thing on the line? Bragging rights. Alison Tetrick and Kevin Bouchard-Hall returned to defend their respective titles. Plenty of champions, including Boom, Rochette and many others, were ready to knock them off.

The Women’s win went to one of the youngest riders in the field in Canada’s Magdeleine Vallieres. Rochette finished second and Tetrick third. Tyler Cohen and Ellen Tarquinio rounded out the wide-angle podium.

For the Men, Raphel Auclair made it a Quebec sweep. Magnus Sheffield finished second and Bruno Langlois third, with Marc-Andre Fortier and Bouchard-Hall rounding out the wide-angle podium.

Top 100 results for the Women and Men’s races are below.

Women Top 100: 2019 Rasputitsa Gravel Race

Place Name Home Time Avg. Speed
1 Magdeleine Vallieres Sherbrooke QC CAN 2:36:10 15.4mph
2 Maghalie Rochette Ste-Adele QC CAN 2:37:15 15.3mph
3 Alison Tetrick Petaluma CA USA 2:38:25 15.2mph
4 Tyler Cohen Jericho VT USA 2:42:28 14.8mph
5 Ellen Tarquinio Washington DC USA 2:43:30 14.7mph
6 Lea Davison Sunderland VT USA 2:44:31 14.6mph
7 Taylor Kuyk-White Philadelphia PA USA 2:46:57 14.4mph
8 Amber Ferreira Concord NH USA 2:48:26 14.3mph
9 Sarah Bergeron-Larouche Quebec QC CAN 2:56:14 13.6mph
10 Gabrielle Carriere Montreal QC CAN 2:57:03 13.6mph
11 Justine Martel Québec QC CAN 2:58:23 13.5mph
12 Katrina Niez Woodbury CT USA 2:59:02 13.4mph
13 Kelly Paduch Harrisonburg VA USA 3:00:27 13.3mph
14 Cynthia Frazier Lexington VA USA 3:00:27 13.3mph
15 Jasmine Aspirot Sherbrooke QC CAN 3:02:01 13.2mph
16 Danielle Power Walpole MA USA 3:04:52 13.0mph
17 Leslie Robinson Hanover NH USA 3:05:17 13.0mph
18 Joanne Grogan Hinesburg VT USA 3:07:07 12.8mph
19 Rachel Rubino Philadelphia PA USA 3:07:29 12.8mph
20 Georgia Gould East Burke VT USA 3:07:58 12.8mph
21 Heidi Rentz Tucson AZ USA 3:08:46 12.7mph
22 Lentine Alexis Boulder CO USA 3:08:59 12.7mph
23 Kathy Ventura Falmouth ME USA 3:10:42 12.6mph
24 Laurence Baril Quebec QC CAN 3:11:11 12.6mph
25 Megan Pennington Old Saybrook CT USA 3:13:27 12.4mph
26 Raphaele Lemieux Montreal QC CAN 3:15:12 12.3mph
27 Melissa Lalonde Boucherville QC CAN 3:16:11 12.2mph
28 Laurence Bourque Boucherville QC CAN 3:18:32 12.1mph
29 Danielle Baron Concord NH USA 3:21:04 11.9mph
30 Corinne Prevot Burlington VT USA 3:21:44 11.9mph
31 Robin Kay Erin ON CAN 3:25:45 11.7mph
32 Alix Norris Lebanon NH USA 3:27:41 11.6mph
33 Jessie Donavan Middlebury VT USA 3:28:36 11.5mph
34 Arley Kemmerer Palmerton PA USA 3:29:45 11.4mph
35 Lindsey Wolfe Somerville MA USA 3:31:31 11.3mph
36 Jules Gorham Vaudreuil-Dorion QC CAN 3:31:56 11.3mph
37 Ines Viens QC CAN 3:33:01 11.3mph
38 Elsie Torresan Lachine QC CAN 3:33:20 11.3mph
39 Kayla Brannen Thetford VT USA 3:33:47 11.2mph
40 Cindy Copley Clarks Green PA USA 3:33:51 11.2mph
41 Catherine Schutz Stratham NH USA 3:34:27 11.2mph
42 Callie Ewald Richmond VT USA 3:34:28 11.2mph
43 Jennifer Minery Salem MA USA 3:34:43 11.2mph
44 Alaina Dietz North Abington Twn PA USA 3:34:48 11.2mph
45 Kristin Motley Waterbury VT USA 3:35:49 11.1mph
46 Anna Laloe Middle Grove NY USA 3:37:32 11.0mph
47 Hllie Grossman Craftsbury VT USA 3:37:36 11.0mph
48 Kendra Pinard Concord NH USA 3:39:20 10.9mph
49 Johanne Lavoie Prévost QC CAN 3:40:13 10.9mph
50 Halina Torresan Montréal QC CAN 3:40:26 10.9mph
51 Olivia Lord Kittery Point ME USA 3:41:37 10.8mph
52 Hannah Rossi Concord MA USA 3:42:52 10.8mph
53 Christina Buettel West Hartford CT USA 3:43:08 10.8mph
54 Cari Talbot Brookline NH USA 3:47:18 10.6mph
55 Kenya Perry Bethlehem NH USA 3:47:53 10.5mph
56 Janelle Price Lunenburg NS CAN 3:50:01 10.4mph
57 Melissa Kellstrom Alexandria VA USA 3:50:09 10.4mph
58 Cristina Price Huntington VT USA 3:51:36 10.4mph
59 Mary Hull Arlington MA USA 3:52:39 10.3mph
60 Andrea Bowker Toronto ON CAN 3:53:20 10.3mph
61 Sarah Schoenfeldt Somerville MA USA 3:53:22 10.3mph
62 Andrea Gerardi Glenville NY USA 3:54:05 10.3mph
63 Melanie Ryals Newton MA USA 3:55:39 10.2mph
64 Barbara Tardiff Waitsfield VT USA 3:56:27 10.2mph
65 Jenn O’Connor Burlington VT USA 3:56:50 10.1mph
66 Megan Cater Lexington MA USA 3:57:53 10.1mph
67 Veronique Duranleau Montreal QC CAN 3:58:36 10.1mph
68 Inge Aiken East Greenbush NY USA 3:59:03 10.0mph
69 Jennifer Schoenberg Harvard MA USA 3:59:04 10.0mph
70 Jess Kates Galatro Providence RI USA 3:59:43 10.0mph
71 Jennifer MacDougall Nottingham NH USA 4:04:25 9.82mph
72 Jill Nugent Ashford CT USA 4:04:39 9.81mph
73 Sandra Purington Ipswich MA USA 4:05:18 9.78mph
74 Patricia Konantz Chelsea QC CAN 4:06:27 9.74mph
75 Maria Dumoulin Middlebury CT USA 4:06:55 9.72mph
76 Patricia Budil Simsbury CT USA 4:07:33 9.70mph
77 Sophie St-Jacques Minneapolis MN USA 4:08:18 9.67mph
78 Josephine Brinda Minneapolis MN USA 4:08:21 9.66mph
79 Sarah Weiskittel Deerfield MA USA 4:11:16 9.55mph
80 Marcia Baker Portsmouth NH USA 4:11:26 9.55mph
81 Ashley Stanton Niehoff South Portland ME USA 4:14:50 9.42mph
82 Aeryn Northway Cheshire CT USA 4:15:40 9.39mph
83 Courtney Kaup Richmond VT USA 4:16:23 9.36mph
84 Erin Chahley Calgary AB CAN 4:17:18 9.33mph
85 Deana Vonschantz Chester NH USA 4:17:25 9.32mph
86 Kelly Foss Rehoboth MA USA 4:19:40 9.24mph
87 Kylee Hitz Rehoboth MA USA 4:20:08 9.23mph
88 Theresa Curry Newburyport MA USA 4:20:19 9.22mph
89 Stephanie Burch Burlington VT USA 4:23:29 9.11mph
90 Marcia Baldwin Liverpool NY USA 4:25:25 9.04mph
91 Alison Clode Portmsouth NH USA 4:26:00 9.02mph
92 Patty Irwin Calgary AB CAN 4:26:22 9.01mph
93 Adelle Condon Maynard MA USA 4:27:30 8.97mph
94 Lauren Coscia Danvers MA USA 4:34:41 8.74mph
95 Marijulie Lavigne Les Cedres QC CAN 4:34:48 8.73mph
96 Kate Leppanen Arlington MA USA 4:37:14 8.66mph
97 Kate Williams Somerville MA USA 4:37:20 8.65mph
98 Amy Thornton N Syracuse NY USA 4:37:43 8.64mph
99 Margi McGandy Lyndonville VT USA 4:39:04 8.60mph
100 Trish Welsh Syracuse NY USA 4:41:30

Men Top 100: 2019 Rasputitsa Gravel Race

Place Name Home Time Avg. Speed
1 Raphael Auclair Quebec QC CAN 2:12:20 18.1mph
2 Magnus Sheffield Pittsford NY USA 2:12:37 18.1mph
3 Bruno Langlois Québec QC CAN 2:13:49 17.9mph
4 Marc-Andre Fortier Victoriaville QC CAN 2:13:52 17.9mph
5 Kevin Bouchard-Hall Wadhams NY USA 2:13:55 17.9mph
6 Lars Boom Vlijmen UNK NLD 2:13:56 17.9mph
7 Lane Maher Ashland MA USA 2:15:30 17.7mph
8 Kevin Girkins San Marcos TX USA 2:15:31 17.7mph
9 Mike Barton Hanover NH USA 2:16:23 17.6mph
10 Marc-André Daigle Montreal QC CAN 2:16:27 17.6mph
11 Mathieu Bélanger-Barrette Quebec QC CAN 2:16:31 17.6mph
12 Sam Noel Shelburne VT USA 2:18:38 17.3mph
13 Matthew Curbeau Millis MA USA 2:19:47 17.2mph
14 Jeremiah Bishop Harrisonburg VA USA 2:22:21 16.9mph
15 Jordan Fields White River Jct. VT USA 2:22:26 16.9mph
16 Frederic Francoeur Sherbrooke QC CAN 2:26:51 16.3mph
17 Matt Surch Ottawa ON CAN 2:27:35 16.3mph
18 Ansel Dickey Woodstock VT USA 2:27:39 16.3mph
19 Noah Tautfest Waterbury VT USA 2:27:50 16.2mph
20 Hunter Pronovost Cheshire CT USA 2:27:56 16.2mph
21 Scott Myers Yarmouth Port MA USA 2:28:10 16.2mph
22 George Piepgras Swampscott MA USA 2:28:17 16.2mph
23 Dylan McNicholas Stratham NH USA 2:28:24 16.2mph
24 Stephane Vallieres Sherbrooke QC CAN 2:28:31 16.2mph
25 Jean Sebastien Roby St-Denis-de-brompton QC CAN 2:28:34 16.2mph
26 Jean-Sebastien Plante Québec QC CAN 2:28:46 16.1mph
27 Mike Dietrich Boston MA USA 2:28:46 16.1mph
28 Tyler Pearce Bass Lake CA USA 2:28:46 16.1mph
29 Justin Scott East Lyme CT USA 2:29:28 16.1mph
30 Arno Turk Ottawa ON CAN 2:30:00 16.0mph
31 Jake Hollenbach Richmond VT USA 2:31:38 15.8mph
32 Joel Plamondon Montreal QC CAN 2:32:01 15.8mph
33 Jean-Francois Blais Knowlton QC CAN 2:32:41 15.7mph
34 William Hafferty Somerville MA USA 2:33:19 15.7mph
35 Jp Leclerc Lachine QC CAN 2:34:01 15.6mph
36 Jeremie Baron Quebec QC CAN 2:34:11 15.6mph
37 Eric Magnuson Manchester MA USA 2:36:27 15.3mph
38 Chris Strempel Chester CT USA 2:36:30 15.3mph
39 Jarrod Forrest Calabogie ON CAN 2:36:34 15.3mph
40 Todd Davis Boston MA USA 2:36:42 15.3mph
41 Kyle Messier Kitchener ON CAN 2:36:44 15.3mph
42 Nicolas Taillefer St-Denis-de-brompton QC CAN 2:37:03 15.3mph
43 Zachary Brunelle Sherbrooke QC CAN 2:37:11 15.3mph
44 Sean Burn Medford MA USA 2:37:31 15.2mph
45 Martin Dutil Sherbrooke QC CAN 2:37:47 15.2mph
46 Louis Michel Menard Shefford QC CAN 2:37:59 15.2mph
47 Keith Beausoleil Manchester NH USA 2:38:07 15.2mph
48 Marc Sexton Auburn NH USA 2:38:08 15.2mph
49 Gregory Shea Shelburne Falls MA USA 2:38:21 15.2mph
50 Ed Momm Portsmouth NH USA 2:39:08 15.1mph
51 Stephen Cann Ottawa ON CAN 2:39:25 15.1mph
52 Julien De La Sablonnière Lévis QC CAN 2:40:50 14.9mph
53 Alexandre Saint-Jalm Montreal QC CAN 2:40:58 14.9mph
54 Benjamin Bruce Hamden CT USA 2:41:18 14.9mph
55 Steffen Huber Woodbridge CT USA 2:41:32 14.9mph
56 Josh Flanagan Alton NH USA 2:41:37 14.8mph
57 Philippe Deguire Bolton-Ouest QC CAN 2:41:51 14.8mph
58 Cody McKay Ottawa ON CAN 2:42:29 14.8mph
59 Joe Kubisek Southington CT USA 2:42:30 14.8mph
60 Matis Boyer Saint-Hyacinthe QC CAN 2:42:42 14.8mph
61 Matt Timmerman Fulton NY USA 2:43:07 14.7mph
62 Robert Lattanzi Ny NY USA 2:43:11 14.7mph
63 David Maltais Quebec City QC CAN 2:43:50 14.6mph
64 Antoine Jolicoeur Desroches Ste-Anne-des-lacs QC CAN 2:44:05 14.6mph
65 David Gagnon Ste-Adele QC CAN 2:44:21 14.6mph
66 Richard Crate Jr. Enfield NH USA 2:44:22 14.6mph
67 Anthony Eisley North Stonington CT USA 2:44:24 14.6mph
68 Christian Bernard Ottawa QC CAN 2:44:44 14.6mph
69 Michael Benson Pelham NH USA 2:44:47 14.6mph
70 Pierre-Olivier Grimard Montreal QC CAN 2:44:50 14.6mph
71 David Murray Hampton NH USA 2:44:56 14.6mph
72 Simon Petepiece Ottawa ON CAN 2:45:07 14.5mph
73 Ryan Fleming Exeter NH USA 2:45:47 14.5mph
74 Jérôme Couture Sherbrooke QC CAN 2:45:53 14.5mph
75 Chris Gagnon Newark Hollow VT USA 2:46:20 14.4mph
76 Nick Sterner Waterbury Center VT USA 2:46:30 14.4mph
77 Antoine Tremblay New Milford NJ USA 2:46:38 14.4mph
78 Don Seib Bryant Pond ME USA 2:46:59 14.4mph
79 Christian Surdquist White River Junction VT USA 2:47:15 14.3mph
80 Chuck Leach Lee MA USA 2:47:20 14.3mph
81 Paul Vogel Hampton NH USA 2:47:24 14.3mph
82 Benjamin Kramer Bow NH USA 2:47:28 14.3mph
83 Eric Nelson Intervale NH USA 2:47:28 14.3mph
84 David Bilodeau Pelchat Québec QC CAN 2:47:38 14.3mph
85 Guillermo Herrera Brunswick ME USA 2:47:49 14.3mph
86 Dane Mitchell Hyde Park VT USA 2:47:53 14.3mph
87 Ghislain Marcoux Gatineau QC CAN 2:48:12 14.3mph
88 Pete Buletza Ipswich MA USA 2:48:31 14.2mph
89 Tyler Chapman Washington DC USA 2:48:41 14.2mph
90 Rich Frisbie East Lyme CT USA 2:49:13 14.2mph
91 Charles Bourdages Kittery ME USA 2:49:20 14.2mph
92 Patrick O’Brien Stratton VT USA 2:49:31 14.2mph
93 Jeff Sangster Bedford NS CAN 2:49:34 14.2mph
94 John Meyerle Monroe CT USA 2:49:44 14.1mph
95 Addison Minott Jamaica Plain MA USA 2:49:47 14.1mph
96 Daniel Levesque Wilton NH USA 2:49:59 14.1mph
97 Tyler Merritt Richmond VT USA 2:50:00 14.1mph
98 Nick Cassotis Portsmouth NH USA 2:50:01 14.1mph
99 Karel Citroen South Glastonbury CT USA 2:50:05 14.1mph
100 Rob Lefebvre Williamstown ON CAN 2:50:12 14.1mph