Green Mountain Madness
Green Mountain Madness
Mt. Ascutney, Vermont
Mt. Ascutney is a small mountain on the border of Vermont and New Hamphshire. The mountain is a state park. There is a ski resort on the other side of the hill, and a small two traffic light town at the bottom. There is a small campground at the bottom of the road. And a $5 entrance fee to go up the road.
The road is a very steep road. The entire road is about 3 miles long, with a maximum 19% grade and an average of 12%. The course ended up being a half mile, incorporating the twistiest section of the road. With a drop of over 400 feet, the average grade of the course was 15%! The course started just above the "tombstones." There was a permanent toilet on the other side of the rocks. The course started fairly steep, by leveled off a bit between the first two turns. The pit area was off to the right. The course drops away and leads into a very long right hand sweeper. After the sweeper the road continues to drop away into a decreasing radius left hand hair pin. The longest straight builds up speed for the final right hand corkscrew like hairpin. Almost immediately after the hairpin was the finish line.
Friday, June 8
I had been checking the weather all week. The ten day forecast called for beautiful 70 degree weather for every day except Saturday. Saturday was showers! When I got to Boston Friday morning the weather was saying rain Friday night/Saturday morning and clearing up Saturday afternoon.
I met up with Jeff and we drove across the state of New Hampshire. After getting checked into our hotel in Claremont, a small town about 15 minutes from the hill, we went to go check out the hill. I knew it was steep, and with only a one day race I wanted to spend some time walking the course.
We ran into Neil, he was laying out where the hay bales would go. He pointed out the course. So we started out hiking the course. The bottom of the course was about a mile up the hill from the campsite. The finish line was just a few feet after a hairpin, because there was a small clearing one the side of the road. We parked the car and started heading up the road. Roland stopped and picked us up, as he also wanted to walk the course. The original course was 1 mile long, with the pit area at a parking lot about half way up. The course was fairly straight between the start and the half way point, with a few kinks. It was hard to say, but with the steepness they may have required braking.
The road was STEEP. The average grade of the course was about 15% I took a pic of Jeff at one point to try and show how steep it is, don't think it really shows it off. A freeway is rarely steeper than 5%. Most race courses are around 9%. 9% if a 500 foot vertical drop over one mile.
Saturday, June 9
We got up early, the plan was to get to the 8AM riders meeting. It was mildly sprinkling, and the road was glistening by the time we left the hotel. As we got closer to the hill, the roads seemed to get drier. I didn't want to get my hopes up, I think the roads were dry because cars were driving on them. Sure enough by the time we got to the course the road was very wet.
We got to the hill later than we meant to, but they were still in the middle of tech inspection. Things were running late, apparently the ranger showed up late to open the gate, and they had just finished placing the hay on the course. Neil jumped in and helped out in tech inspection. He found a hole in my leathers and helped me fix it. One nice thing about the late start was the road was drying out. We finally had our riders meeting, about two hours late.
I normally take the first run down a hill very conservatively, braking at least twice as often as I need to. This time was no exception, and with the road being mostly wet I ended up sitting up almost the entire way down. It was worse in that the road was slightly dry in some places. By the time we got started for the second run the road was mostly dry. One of the standup riders fell and dislocated his shoulder! We had a short break for the ambulance run.
On the next run Dave Auld tried to take the top two turns without braking, and ended up flying off the road after the second turn. This was a hard turn, it was one of those turns that it looks like it might be doable without braking. But at the speeds we were attaining it was very difficult. Dave ran off the road, with possibly a broken leg. He was whisked off to the hospital.
After Dave was taken to the hospital Tim held an impromptu riders meeting. It was decided to cut the course down even further. It was already late, so we would start right into racing once the course was reset.
The start line wasn't too far up the hill from the pit area. As the truck was still being used to deliver some hay further down on the course, we ended up walking from the pit area to the start line. The rookie luge class was the first to start racing.
Pro buttboard followed soon after. There was only three of us racing, and all three of us also had to race in the luge class. So we decided to only take one run. We discussed taking it easy, and Roland joked about having to fight for third place. At the start I gave one push, and looked over to see a roll of duct tape rolling down the hill. The duct tape was rolling faster than Roland! Shonzeit pushed like a bat out of hell. I took it easy, it was only the three of us. I had already decided to completely respect the hill and take it VERY easy, as I had already purchased tickets to Europe. At each corner Jeff pulled a little further away from me. I let a foot drag through most of the sweeper and Roland took the opportunity to pass me. I broke harder then I intended for the hard left, and let Roland get too far away from me. As I came down the final straight, heading to the last turn I saw someone climbing out of the hay. I'm trying to figure out why someone was on the course while we were racing, then I realized it was Jeff! He saw Roland and I coming so he quickly jumped on his board, Roland went wide to go around him and hit the hay. I slowed down to much for the previous turn and didn't have enough speed to pass Jeff and ended up in second.
I sat out the next couple of rounds and got took a few photos.
After watching a couple rounds of racing I headed to the top of the hill. I wanted to get another practice run before the luge race. On the previous practice run one of the Three Bobs hit the hay right in front of Jeff. Jeff barely avoided hitting him, but did hit the sled. Fortunately only two of the Three Bobs came to the race, so Bob had a backup board.
After the first round of Pro Luge, the standup race got under way. I took it fairly easy, and didn't push too hard. I ended up in a three way run off for last place! I had my best run of the day, as I was getting a bit more comfortable with the course. But I had to be careful, I didn't want to get too confident and get hurt on the run off! Bob Swartz was racing fairly well. He was in a runoff for 2nd with Hicks. Bob came flying into the bottom turn ahead of Hicks, just a wee bit too fast. He needed about two more feet of road.
It was quite late, people milled around a bit, finished packing and saying good byes. Since it was Saturday night I think most people were going to stay in the area and head home tomorrow.
We finally got off the mountain close to 10 PM! We probably could have headed into White River and found some place open, but I was positive there was something open nearby. We talked about going to a pizza place, and ended up at one in Windsor. It was just after 10 when we got there. Apparently they close at 10. They were nice enough to cook a pizza for us, but we had to take it to go. We found a bench outside and ate.
It was close to midnight when we started to head back to our hotel. Just as we were leaving it start to lightly rain again! Jeff and I decided to go to the Emergency Room. His ankle wasn't looking too good, from his run in with the board. The doctor says there were no breaks, just a really bad bruise. He recommended staying off the foot for 3 days to a week!
Mt. Ascutney is a harsh road. With the number of trees and large, sharp rocks, it is very difficult to adequately protect the road. Two people were sent to the hospital in the early going. One had a separated shoulder, and the other Dave Auld broke his left arm and left leg. He was airlifted to a nearby hospital. Several other people ended up with fairly bad bruised legs and arm.