Sue Lucek and Dave Fluckiger:
Sue asked me on a recent lunch ride if I’d be willing to take a ride to NH to pre ride the Bike for Bovines race course with her. I jumped at the opportunity. Last year was the first for the event and I enjoyed it immensely. It is a true mountain biking event with climbs over 2 mountains, challenging terrain throughout, with a fast downhill which leads to a rail bed finish. Sue met me at my house at 8:30 where we packed the bikes and gear into her minivan (that has ice cold air conditioning) and headed north. The weather forecast was hot, hazy, humid, and chance of showers or thunder showers by 1:00. Traffic was light for a Friday morning and we had a nice ride north while we ate and drank water in preparation for the tropical climbing we would be doing. We arrived at Stonewall Farm which is a farming museum/teaching center just west of Keene.
It’s a beautiful place and great venue for a race. We chatted with a couple of local club members who built the course and maintain it for the race to get intell on this year’s course and find out if it was marked. They said that from the beaver ponds (at the top of the mountain) on down were marked but we would have to find the route to the ponds on our own. Sue took pictures at the van and we headed off. The start heads out the back of the farm to a paved road which brings you to a dirt road that starts climbing right away. The climb is very long with smooth roads at the start that give way to technical logging roads. I told Sue to go ahead and I would meet up with her at the top but she was nice and waited for me here and there. Constantly up and usually wet, last year we climbed the logging roads which were really small streams. They had dried out nicely and I hope they stay dry for Sue on Sunday. We missed the first right hand turn but caught the mistake when the terrain flattened out. I knew we should still be climbing so we went back a short way and found the correct trail. That was thankfully the only wrong turn we took. The climb finally leveled out and led into a fast downhill section that only lasted a half mile or so before once again climbing. We found the logging skidder and loggers where the guy at the farm said they would be and took another right so we could….you guessed it…..climb some more. This section had actually improved from last year because of the logging operation. I remember walking some of this climb last year because of the jumble of rocks that were unrideable. The skidders had smoothed it out and packed it somewhat so we rode this whole section. This is the climb that eventually brings you to the fire tower where we paused for pictures and to drink some water. The humidity was brutal and the air in the woods was stagnant. We took another right past the fire tower and started in on the single track that was cut in for the race last year. This trail traverses the south side of Hyland Hill which has beautiful views to the distant mountains. A short way in there is a nasty section which again was improved over last year but is like a piece of pro downhill course. I walked this section without guilt. The rest of this trail was rideable and improved over last year as well. The trail eventually leads back over the top of the hill to a tricky downhill section and eventually into fast downhill logging road. At the bottom is a small brook then a short uphill to a field. I flew through the brook and hit a really sharp rock square with my front tire and put a hole in it. I took off the tubeless valve and threw a tube in to get going again. After the field there is a very technical uphill that leads to a paved road. A quick left and right and guess what? You climb again! This climb is very steep and nasty. I think on my very best day at the beginning of a ride I could ride this climb. But not today, not in this heat, and certainly not after all the previous climbing at race pace. This climb is shorter though so once it’s over you know you have the race licked. When you see the beaver ponds it’s time to let it all hang out. The trails on the top of the mountain and sweet downhill after are worth every foot of climbing. When you pop out onto the rail bed it’s a road race back to the finish. When we got back to the farm there was a hose with ice cold water that we used to bath our bikes and overheated bodies before packing up and heading home.
This was a fun ride and a most challenging race course. I’m good for one 12 mile lap but can’t imagine doing two with all that climbing. We were bummed that we didn’t see any wildlife with the many moose, deer, and turkey tracks hat we saw. I’m wondering if we’re in for a hard winter with the heavy mast crops of beach nuts and acorns that were falling. Thank you Sue for your home made raspberry and peanut butter sandwiches. Good luck Sunday.