As we are hoping for a bit more suitable riding and spring activity conditions here in Vermont I thought it would be more then appropriate to chat about a late April event in NEK that brings community together in a special way. This gravel event called Rasputitsa drew more attention this year then the average. Likely do to the extreme weather and road conditions heading into this late April day. Gravel cycling events in Vermont have really taken off in the past couple seasons not unlikely due to the shear effort it takes to complete, challenging conditions, the feel of community outreach and perhaps for a cause.
Vermont Rare attended this event the night prior as part of the many vendors displaying their wears, products and information out there to the world gravel riding. Specifically Vermont Rare was there first and foremost as a outreach, education and advocacy group on behalf of the rare disease community. I was quite impressed with the amount of people throughout the 3 hour time block, with a mock “Prince” band blasting his tunes in background, who took the time to stop by, chat, find out our cause and reason for being present. It was motivating and at the same time enlightening and education others on the connections the rare disease community has.
The following day my wife took the reigns as the representative at the Bittersweet event that Rasputitsa co-founder Heidi Myers started a few seasons back. Here is her takeaway.
1.) In your own words, can you describe the Bittersweet 3.0 event?
The Bittersweet 3.0 event was all about food, nourishment and community for women cyclists. The morning started with a delicious breakfast prepared by well-known chef and cyclist Lentine Alexis. Lenten created with as many local ingredients as possible in the NEK in April. Following breakfast was a panel discussion with people working in the local food community and highlighting the importance of community support. We then hit the road for an easy ride to Honest to Goodness farm for more inspiration about food and community. Before heading back on bikes, we were treated to sugar on snow and more casual conversation.
2.) What was the vibe there?
The vibe was pretty upbeat. The majority of the women rode the gnarly Rasputitsa the day before (I did not!) and there was a lot of chatting about conditions and course and hypothermia! Even though the ride was challenging in every possible way, being in the room with 25 women who did the ride made me feel as though I was out on course too. Definitely considering for next year.
3.) There has been a lot of talk about "community" at many of these gravel events, can you see a connection between this and the rare disease or (any health related) community?
We have often found a parallel between cycling and the rare disease journey and I think gravel riding fits that perfectly. Navigating the road of a rare disease, either as a patient or caregiver, is extremely challenging - everything from the day to day management of the disease to isolation within your community. But there are parts that are also raw and beautiful. Connecting with people who walk this path can certainly helps. For example, even though I didn't ride Rasputitsa this year, I imagine it would have been difficult to get through the day alone - community, kinship and support is what carried riders through the epic conditions, not unlike the rare disease journey.
4.) do you think this concept would take off in other areas of the state?
I do think so. Especially with the group of women who make it happen - Heidi Meyers, Lea Davison, Sabra Davison and others. I'm don't know what the future plans are for Bittersweet but I think that it would be well received in any location because the focus is on being together, not being fast or competitive.
5.) would you recommend to a friend?
Absolutely! And I already have. A couple friends are waiting for word about Bittersweet 4.0.