Ride Recap: Peacham's Fall Fondo

Strange and wonderful things can happen when a World Tour cyclist chooses to live in a tiny town in Vermont. Case in point: the Peacham Fall Fondo, a dirt-road ride through the hills of the Northeast Kingdom, organized by Ian Boswell, 27, who rides for the Swiss cycling team Katusha-Alpecin

 Gretchen and Ian’s rustic Vermont kitchen. Their house was built in the 1700’s and sits on 10 acres.

Gretchen and Ian’s rustic Vermont kitchen. Their house was built in the 1700’s and sits on 10 acres.

 Ian stoked to do a VIP course preview ride the day before the fondo.

Ian stoked to do a VIP course preview ride the day before the fondo.

Peacham, population 732, isn’t what you’d call a cycling destination. The sleepy village has little more than a church, a library and a café. There’s no bike shop, no craft brewery. But it’s got something fundamental to soulful two-wheeled adventures: miles and miles of quiet dirt roads snaking through tunnels of old maples and skirting pastures with dairy cows and long-range views to the hills rolling on and on in every direction. In short, Boswell picked a good place to spend the off-season. The fondo was his chance to share some of his favorite roads with about 150 other cyclists and, in the process, raise funds for Peacham’s community pavilion and a few other local charities. 

 Peacham’s General Store.

Peacham’s General Store.

 A tunnel of golden maples.

A tunnel of golden maples.

Around nine o’clock, surrounded by riders dressed for 40-degree temperatures and cloudy skies, Boswell gave a short speech and sent us off for 45 or 22 miles. It was clear from the first few miles that this wasn’t like other gravel fondos—people weren’t pushing the pace at the front, frothing at the mouth to finish as fast as possible. Maybe it was because Boswell kept himself mid-pack, chatting with cyclists who were happy to have the chance to ride next to a world-class athlete. 

 Ian leads the group at a social pace through the first couple miles of pavement.

Ian leads the group at a social pace through the first couple miles of pavement.

The first 23 miles looped to the south, clockwise, with some mostly gentle climbs and fast descents. The dirt roads were in prime condition, as it had rained earlier in the morning. A sizable bunch of us stayed together, the largest group of cyclists these roads have probably ever seen. At about the halfway point, we passed the start again and set off for another 22 miles to the north. The climbs on the back half were a bit steeper, the roads more sinuous and winding. At mile 35, we stopped at an aid station in West Danville set up with energy drinks, maple syrup shots, and Cabot cheese and crackers. When we reached a high clearing, we gawked at the trees aflame in red and gold, unfolding into the horizon. 

 The ride sponsor, Wahoo, placed these motivational markers on the hardest climbs of the course.

The ride sponsor, Wahoo, placed these motivational markers on the hardest climbs of the course.

 The lead group heads North out of Peacham.

The lead group heads North out of Peacham.

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Back at the start, after a little less than three hours on the roads, we were advised to head down the street to a tent in front of the town library, where local residents were serving homemade pie. It was good advice. The pies were delicious, and a good appetizer for the lunch offered later on by a few food trucks, along with beer from Kingdom Taproom. Happy riders milled around the town common, checking out colorful gear from Ridge Supply, and taking turns on the Wahoo KICKR, while snacking on free pumpkin and zucchini breads and re-hydrating with DRINKmaple water. 

With a friendly and mellow vibe, classic Vermont dirt roads, and plenty of food and drink, the Peacham Fall Fondo is well worth the money and effort. I hope to make it back next year.

 

Written by

Kirk Kardashian

Freelance Journalist, Cyclist and VTdirt Contributor

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