Stratton to Manchester

Day one in my adventure in Vermont started on Stratton Mountain, a place with which I am ver familiar. I’ve been here dozens of times with my family for ski trips, but never in the summer. My group, Dan T., Dan B., Keith and I decided to stay in a condo In Stratton, and we wound up being assigned the very same unit my family stayed in back in February when we were here to ski. We were here for the inaugural edition of the Vermont Challenge, a four day point-to-point cycling tour in the Green Mountains. We got checked in to our condo easily enough. We then wandered the area of the Stratton Village, searching for signs of life and the registration area for the event. Finally, we located it in a building near the gondola. Looking up the mountain, the ski runs look very different, covered in green grass and surrounded by leafed-out trees. We signed in and were given a strap to be worn around our wrist the duration of the event, like the ones used at multi-day concerts. We got a large bag with a Vermont Challenge cycling jersey, very attractive, although Dan T. thought it was “hideous”. It also contained a bunch of Hammer gels, several tourist pamphlets, printed cue sheets, and a name badge. Upstairs in the bar, they had dinner waiting for us, buffet-style burgers, salad and brownies, plus we were given two tickets for beers from the bar. A live band of slightly past-their-prime rockers was playing, including one odd song “Take it like a man”. I wasn’t sure what kind of bar this was… Anyway, this was the send off party for the group, and we sat out on the deck, enjoyed the view of the mountain, and just relaxed. We got a speech by the director of the event, thanking all those who helped, naming all the sponsors, and giving instructions on how to proceed the next day.

The next morning we got up early, got our suitcases to the drop-off point, and got a barely adequate breakfast of raisin bran, yoghurt, bagels and coffee. After the obligatory speech, again thanking the sponsors, about fifty riders headed out for the first day’s ride. This number would grow with each day, as many more riders would be joining us for the three, two and one day options. The first part of the ride was a long, screaming downhill, part of which was through a road construction zone. The flag girl held traffic for us as our group rode through. Then the ride started into rolling hills, and a couple more long down hills before we got to the valley where Manchester is. This ride was a pretty benign ride, mostly down hill, with a long loop around Manchester, before winding up in a beautiful park outside of Manchester. The total miles for the day was 56. They had a catered lunch waiting for us under a large tent, music playing from speakers set up by our combination DJ and photographer, and we sat out enjoying the warm sun.

We checked into our inn, a very quaint old victorian house called Sutton’s Place, run by Frank Sutton for over thirty years. He’s a tall gent who lives with his wife in the inn, charges very reasonable rates, and is very accommodating. The inn is close to Northshire Bookstore, which I feel is the best independent bookstore in the country. We spent an hour browsing, and each of us buying a book or three. I bought “This is a book” by Demetri Martin. Very funny. After that, I had to get in a run. I did a five mile run out Barnumville Road 2.5 miles then back. I was able to manage an 8:50 average, with some significant hills in the run. I’m thinking of laying off the running the rest of the tour since the serious climbing is coming. Dinner was at “Ye Old Tavern” (for real) and it was delicious. Then it was back to the inn to get rested for the next day.

Frank

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