The Tour de Valley 2019
Every year since 2005, my dad’s mountain bike club – The Brewster River Mountain Bike Club (BRMBC) – has put on a legendary 30+ mile event called the Tour de Valley that winds through several hand-built, off-the-map, rugged and rowdy, zones in the Pleasant Valley area of northern Vermont: my home turf (aka where I grew up). The Tour is not a race, but it attracts almost 200 riders each year and is a day filled with techy riding, flowy downhills, plenty of shenanigans, beautiful views, buckets of sweat (Vermont summer humidity is no joke), and probably a truckload of Clif Bars consumed amongst the crowd. The day culminates with a swim in the pond (100% necessary) and a huge BBQ after-party complete with several kegs, music, a bouncy house, and a sweet raffle.
The last time I rode the tour was three years ago when my brother and sister-in-law held their (EPIC) wedding at my dad’s house. They conveniently planned it to coincide with the tour because, well, priorities. Back then I was kinda sorta into mountain biking and was rocking an old Gary Fischer Rumblefish. I managed to finish the whole thing, but I was definitely worked.
This year, I borrowed a burly 2019 Devinci Troy that behaved a bit better than my old (and severely abused) 2017 Devinci Troy that is currently in the hospital and waiting for new parts (and will then be sold in exchange for a shiny new Santa Cruz Bronson – arriving TODAY!)
Anyway, the tour generally follows the same route each year with a few new trails and link-ups added as my dad and his crew continue to build out each zone. Below is a rough guide to the route we rode for the 2019 tour. Come join us next year!
This is a great warm-up for the 30+ mile Tour. It’s about a two mile dirt road ride up to the Billings zone and then a fun twisty, turny ride through dense forest with lots of roots and punchy ups. If it’s wet, though, this zone is the most treacherous. Thankfully this year was relatively dry!
Ugh. Listers. Not my favorite zone of the tour, but it’ll definitely improve your technical skills. The twisty/turny switchbacks will have you wondering whether you’re going in the right direction and the punchy ups will keep your heart rate in the red zone. But once you get to the top it’s a long, fast downhill with plenty of features to bounce your wheels off of.
THE best downhill of the tour and perhaps of Pleasant Valley as a whole. But be prepared to work for it. The Schneider climb is a grunt with switchback after switchback to tackle before reaching the picnic table at the top overlooking Mt. Mansfield. But it’s well worth the huffing and puffing. The 15 or so minutes it takes to get back down the hill is total whoop and holler fun.
This zone is basically my dad’s backyard. It’s a mix of easy climbing, short rock slabs, awesome views, and tacky loam. Most of the trails lead up to the ridge then twist and turn back down. After my dad and I went to Squamish for 10 days of incredible riding this past June, he came back to Vermont and built a BC-inspired trail called Krustees that made its debut for the tour. Think rock ledges, steep pitches, roll overs, and fast turns.
Just say no to Kruse Block. It’s part of the tour, but one that I almost always skip. It begins with a two mile climb up a dirt road and then a mediocre run down some semi-fun singletrack. The reason Kruse Block was initially part of the early Tours was because there wasn’t enough singletrack built to make up a 30 mile ride. Now there is plenty of singletrack, so – in my opinion – Kruse Block is not an integral part of the Tour.
West Hill is actually my favorite of the zones, but since it’s the last one of the Tour I’m usually too exhausted to really enjoy it. At this point (mile 25ish) I’m just trying to prevent the cramps from seizing my legs and keep my bike moving in a forward direction. But West Hill is beautiful. The lower section runs parallel to a magical river banked on either side with mossy rocks and shaded overhead by a canopy of maple trees. It’s also a good mix of techy/flow and climbing/descending.
It may not sound like 30 miles of singletrack is that big of a deal, but in this terrain and with this elevation gain (plus the humidity), it IS a big ride. But since the Tour is not a race, we take it slow and have plenty of snack and hydration breaks accompanied by hilarious banter and shenanigans. It is a ridiculously good time and one that I hope to make it back for every year from now on!