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Aug 10, 2018

Episode links:

Rasputitsa Gravel Event 

Rasputitsa Instagram 

Craig Dalton: 00:00 This afternoon everyone, I've got Heidi Myers from the race name. I'm going to butcher, they have a great gravel event that's been going five years in Vermont. It's Raspustitsa How did I do Heidi?

Heidi Myers: 00:00 Pretty good!

Craig Dalton: 00:15 Well, I'm excited to talk to you. I love the state of Vermont and when you reached out and I looked into your event, it just looked really cool. I always like to start off the podcast by having our guests talk a little bit about what their journey was to becoming a cyclist and how they discovered gravel riding. So we'd love to learn a little bit more about you.

Heidi Myers: 00:33 Yeah, so I've worked in the cycling industry for 16 years. I work my full time job that feeds my family as I'm marketing strategist for a Garneau. I've worked with the CO founder of Raspustitsa for many years. He was an outside sales rep and it was actually his decision. His name is anthony. He wanted to put on some type of event and that was six years ago now when gravel is a lot more new to the scene than anything. So we were pretty inspired by like the Almonzo that was the first event that really inspired us. d

Craig Dalton: 01:16 And where was that one?

Heidi Myers: 01:18 That is in Minnesota, I believe, what they were doing. And so we, we took a gamble and we knew nothing about organizing an event or anything like that. So our first event brought like 250 people and now it sells out at 1500. So in five years we've experienced some tremendous growth.

Craig Dalton: 01:42 That's amazing. Tell us about that first event and what the course was like and going back six years, we're really talking about, you know, probably a lot of people riding on cross bikes and the early introduction of disc brakes into gravel bikes.

Heidi Myers: 01:58 Yeah, definitely the first events. I mean I'll be completely honest and transparent. We live in northern Vermont so many months out of the year the roads are snow covered, so a lot of people spend a lot of time indoors trainers or if you're brave enough on Fat bikes and and whatnot. We actually mapped the course during the winter months and then a few months before the actual race we got up there, we were riding it and we came to this section that the road no longer really was that visible. So I had called Anthony, I was on course and I said, Anthony, there is no road. And he's like, what do you mean there's no road? I'm like, it kind of goes into a snow field, just ends like. And so he looked at the map and what, what he had designed, had a class 4 section of road and that's a section in New England that is not plowed all winter is not maintained all winter. So there is a road there. It's just becomes a un-navigatable in the winter months. So at that point we had already released the course and actually became our biggest or greatest mistake, um, because we ended up calling that five K section Siberia. I'm so every year there's a section called Siberia, which is just that. It's a class four section. And the great thing about Vermont is freaking Vermont can be many different things. We've had 70 degree race days in spring. We've had 40 degree race days with snow. So what that, what the race brings each year evolved on its own. You'd never really know what to expect. Um, when racing tire choice really becomes super crucial. And up to the last minute decisions class four. Yeah, it's a class for road.

Craig Dalton: 04:09 And does that just mean like to the riders that it's a little bit of a mystery what they're gonna, what they're gonna encounter in that given year depending on the weather conditions.

Heidi Myers: 04:18 Yeah, I mean it typically is a hike a bike, again, it depends on your weapon of choice. So a lot of that by category and so those guys are able to cruise through. But I mean we have some riders like Ant doing it on, road slicks.

Craig Dalton: 04:39 And is that part of the course designed for you guys that you want to make it a very thoughtful choice for each individual rider as to what bike of choice is going to look like?

Heidi Myers: 04:49 Yeah, and I mean those are questions we refrain from answering because it just depends on what type of writer you are, depends on the conditions. It really comes down to the last minute. I mean, the weather last year was fine. The night before the race it snowed about two inches. So it's really, it's really a last minute, call it a personal choice and that, that makes it a race. I mean, it makes it a race for everybody regardless of your level because it really evens the playing field.

Craig Dalton: 05:23 Yeah. I think that's one of the really fun things about this idea that so many different people will have so many different types of equipment in their garage and can bring so many different weapons of choice to any given event. It just makes it a lot of fun. I think, you know, in the early days of mountain biking you saw that as well where there's just a ton of experimentation with equipment and whether it was different types of suspension or or different types of tires. It was all just who knows what's gonna work best, we just got to give it a try.

Heidi Myers: 06:00 Exactly.

Craig Dalton: 06:01 So that's great. So over the last five years you said obviously the race has grown tremendously in size 1500 person gravel event in for Vermont just seems like a huge event. What's it been like over that journey? Scaling Up the Organization of the event has become incredibly complicated for you and Anthony to pull off. Do you have a big team involved now?

Heidi Myers: 06:26 We don't have a big team involved. It's still primarily just that. I mean we have some great volunteers and some great sponsors. I behind the scenes and I think we've been able to pull it off consistently just because it is and we, we honed in on every single detail and we always put rider safety and happiness and we've really come to know like a lot of our riders, like 1500 riders lining up, so I can't tell you I know them all, but I probably know it gets 300 of them really well so it's really become like a family event.

Craig Dalton: 07:02 It's Kinda like coming out of hibernation, gravel cycling community and, and get back together and celebrate getting out on the road

Heidi Myers: 07:11 The community has been really great to come be in. This past year we had Ted King and Allison Tetrick and Jeremy Powers and Anthony Clark, you know, just to name a few and they're lining up at the mass start so everybody's lining up together and it was interesting. Jeremy powers like lined up mid field just to make it a social pace for him.

Craig Dalton: 07:37 Yeah, absolutely. What would you say from a percentage perspective, are the people who are really racing at the front versus people that are just out there for the adventure of it all?

Heidi Myers: 07:49 Of racers? It's a small crowd. I mean it's probably less than a hundred that are really full throttle out there. We respect those guys when they're essential to our age that we have to cater to the people out there braving the elements and just trying to get through. So we do a lot of quirky things on course. We serve maple syrup in ice shot glasses. I'm so all year long. We've made shot classes out of ice and we served maple syrup and then so the rider can take a shot of maple syrup and then toss the glass without any environmental destruction. And we've done like a Specialized sponsored this wheel of death on course last year. Where you've potentially had to like sing a David Bowie song or, or chug a beer. Many crazy things.

Craig Dalton: 08:44 Quick sidebar. How does one make an ice shot glass?

Heidi Myers: 08:48 Yeah. So we actually have silicone molds of, but it's an intense process, like pretty much right. Thanksgiving we have to start. We've had to purchase ice chest freezers to pull it off because uh, you know, 1500 shot glasses to make in advance. It's every night and every day we're, we're making it.

Craig Dalton: 09:12 I can only imagine. Well that will definitely be a special treat. Going back to what you were saying about the percentage of racers, I think that's, for me, that's one of the things I really enjoy right now about the time in which we are in the gravel racing scene as you go. When you line up with these well known x pros or current pros and it, you know, they're off the front and you're enjoying your race and at the end of the day you're all enjoying a beer afterwards and some food and there's just a great community around gravel cycling.

Heidi Myers: 09:43 The community is amazing in all aspects in, at all levels. And I, you know, been in the cycling industry for awhile and I think, I think in the gravel you see that more than any other segment of cycling.

Craig Dalton: 09:56 Yeah, I would agree. I mean, I know Vermont, for example, has a great history in the cyclocross scene and I imagine some of the gravel seen their draws from it, but gravel seems to have something special in particular about it. Maybe the length of the events or the, the uh, adventure orientation of the courses. I just think people tend to really gel and work together as a community to pull them off and enjoy the day.

Heidi Myers: 10:24 Yeah. And encourage each other. I mean we've grown our women's demographic and our demographic pretty extensively. So for the past few years, like the 23, the price to enter is, it's not free very, very minimal just to cover our costs because we saw that as a small portion of our demographic and we asked ourselves like, alright, if you were already why wouldn't you be doing this race? And the easiest answer was cost. So we've grown that a demographic hugely. Then the women's. So we have, um, it's great, really supportive women's community that has their own facebook group page and encourages other women riders and we have Olympia and Leah Davidson's mom, um, she comes out and she prints the list of all the women participating for the women by name, says like, you know, there's just huge enthusiasm there. The race itself donates all of its profits to Little Bella is the nonprofit founded by Leah and Saber Davidson. Um, so last year we, we cut them a check for $20,000,

Craig Dalton: 11:45 Going back to the race course. I'm super curious. I've done a little bit of mountain biking in Vermont previously, but, tell me a little bit more in detail about what riders would expect the types of roads or climbs or trails or the getting on single track in Vermont or is it more a gravel road riding?

Heidi Myers: 12:08 I think we can claim it's probably about 90 percent gravel roads. There's a few paved sections just to transition riders, but it says 90 percent grapples. It's really rural remote areas. There's about over 4,000 feet of climbing and 40 miles. Um, so it's, there's definitely kills and it's up and down the hallway and then there's that class 4 section a which was actually part of mountain bike trails this past year, but sometimes that changes year to year. That's just this really challenging section, which it almost ends up looking like a military because people are single file through that section just trying to get through. And I mean every year the course changes. So we've done a cyclocross finished one year, a Siberia section was changed to spend five k one year and one mile one year.

Craig Dalton: 13:11 Has it been the same style bike that's been winning the fast guys and girl category each year? Or has it varied in terms of what people are showing up with?

New Speaker: 13:22 I mean it varies of what people are showing up with for sure. Um, it's typically always a cross bike, but you know, we have single speeds, we have tandem, we have mountain bikers, we have fat bikes, we have roadies a way across like. So we pretty much run the full gamut. Like if you have a bike and you have the will to do the race,

Craig Dalton: 13:49 I noticed this year you've got a fall event as well. Is that new for this year?

Heidi Myers: 13:54 Yeah. So it's somewhat new. So the first event we actually ever did was called the30 40 and had we did that in 2013 and this is kind of a comeback to that event and the new version. So we changed the name but, it's pretty exciting. There's 8,000 feet of climbing and there's a 100 miles. And there's a 50 mile route. So there's two courses. There's camp overnight camping available and Specialized in sponsoring this outdoor movie theater at the camp camp site. It's at this really cool to stay in Bradenton, Vermont called the Old Stone House, which was a boarding school built by the first African American college graduate. Um, so it, it's really like back to like Vermont's vintage roots and it's got that kind of feel and um, it's a little bit inspired by Johnny cash and we're working a zero waste policy for that. So every rider, when they cross the finish line will get a custom pie plate and a custom insulated milk bottle that they can go through the food line with. So there's no paper products being used because that's just one thing that we've tried to focus on as we've grown.

Craig Dalton: 15:13 Yeah. I think all these, all these little things add up to make special and memorable. And the Nice thing about you guys been working on this for five, six years now as you're developing a reputation that every year people can show up and they're gonna have a good time. The flavor will be slightly different, but they know and trust that you've got it dialed. So if they're looking for a place to travel to race, I imagine this is a good event to target.

Heidi Myers: 15:42 Yeah, definitely. Um, and there's live music at all our events. So that's of theme every year. Last year the theme was David Bowie. For 2019, the theme will be Prince. So you can expect to see some purple.

Craig Dalton: 16:01 That's great.

Heidi Myers: 16:03 Yeah. We actually had last year we had a David Bowie cover band, which was phenomenal the night before the race and then this year there'll be a Prince cover band. So, there's like a concert

Craig Dalton: 16:20 Now for people coming from outside the region. What's going to be the best way to, to get into that neck of the woods?

Heidi Myers: 16:29 Yeah. They would probably fly into Burlington, Vermont or Manchester, New Hampshire and probably have to read the car. We've worked with Bike Flights every year to get, you know, your bikes in and arrived safely and with, there's multiple shops in East Burke because they're home to kingdom trails, so they're really used to the culture and the bike traffic. Um, so there's multiple bike shops there that can receive your bike and get it, get it all ready for you. Um, but it is a little bit in the middle of nowhere, so it's like an hour and a half from the airport.

Craig Dalton: 17:03 Right. So you better be ready for an adventure.

Heidi Myers: 17:07 Yeah, it's an adventure for sure.

Craig Dalton: 17:10 Well, I'm excited about that. I love learning about new events in different parts of the parts of the country. I think that's really going to be a fun part of the next few years in gravel riding, using events as a way of discovering new parts of the country and new communities. One thing we know, and it's been obvious to you that you know if I drop it in there or someone from the west coast drops in there, it's just going to be like the communities we have out here. It's going to be very embracing and fun and you'll find that the guys and girls that you're going to be riding with whatever section of the race you're going to be in and everybody's going to be helpful and fun and have a laugh and really looking forward to getting to the finish line and just celebrating the achievement of a good hard day out.

Heidi Myers: 17:53 Definitely. Definitely this year. So we're actually planning on traveling to Dirty Kanza . So we've renovated an old school bus and set up totally wrapped in the outside. We're redoing the inside right now as we speak, so that should be our Gravel Travel machine coming through.

Craig Dalton: 18:18 I hope you'll come to California. I'd love to see it.

Heidi Myers: 18:20 Yeah, definitely.

Craig Dalton: 18:22 It reminds me of a national mountain bike racing scene in the early days and a company called a Retrotec, had a school bus and I remember thinking that was great. You would see riders just basically hitch a ride to the national on that bus in an ad hoc fashion.

Heidi Myers: 18:42 That's awesome.

Craig Dalton: 18:43 Yeah. Yeah. Again, I can't. For me, it's so amazing to to remind myself of those days and I'm so reminded and invigorated in the gravel scene right now from those days because as I said before, it was so nice being part of the early days of the mountain bike community and I'm feeling those same sensations, which for me as a, you know, as a father and a husband who struggles to find time to ride my bike as much as I'd like. It's just little things like that to reinvigorate me to get out there and get back on my bike and put events on my calendar to get out there and stay fit.

Heidi Myers: 19:21 Yeah,

Craig Dalton: 19:24 yeah, absolutely. Well, I appreciate the time, Heidi today. It was great to get to know you and get to know the event. Hopefully some of my listeners from around the country can put it on their calendars for next year and get out there. I, for one, would be eager to try some of those ice shot glasses with maple syrup in it. It sounds spectacular.

Heidi Myers: 19:46 Yeah. Cheers.