Stage Racing the North East Kingdom Way

Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom has always been a place that contains multitudes. Dairy farmers brush shoulders with hippies at the bar, tractors share the roads with SUVs, and more than one piece of singletrack shares the forest with vast networks of maple syrup sap lines. Since the 90s, the N.E.K’s mountain bike scene has started and stopped in most folks’ minds with the Kingdom Trails in East Burke, a trail center boasting over 90 miles of singletrack that attracts visitors from all over the US and Canada. But, imitation being the sincerest form of flattery, networks grew up all over the Kingdom, turning the region into a mecca, with sculpted flow trails sharing the spotlight with classic New England rocks and roots.

Tucked in the southwest corner of the Northeast Kingdom you’ll find the Craftsbury Outdoor Center, a four-season resort best known for its Nordic skiing and rowing (and its growing fleet of Kona rental bikes). With years of hosting elite-level Nordic events under its belt, along with an XC race that has become a popular annual stop on the Eastern Fat Tire Association circuit, the Outdoor Center is undertaking a new venture: a weekend-long stage race that showcases some of the best under-the-radar singletrack in the Northeast Kingdom.

The VT3 (“vee-tee three”) is the brainchild of Ollie Burruss and Sheldon Miller, Outdoor Center employees and riding buddies. Miller brings an extensive mountain bike background to the Outdoor Center, having spent years as a mechanic and racer. Burruss came to Craftsbury as a Nordic racer, competing for the Outdoor Center’s Green Racing Project elite team, but mountain biking has become his off-snow passion since he retired from elite competition. With Miller providing the spandex perspective and Burruss the trail rider’s passion for fun, the VT3 was born. A race by riders, for riders, with courses that focus on placing fun first and foremost in XC competition.

The VT3 opens on Friday, August 11th at the Hardwick Trails in Hardwick, Vermont. The network in Hardwick is one of the best examples of community-driven trails. The small network contains a mix of Nordic trails and singletrack, the majority of which was hand-built by a small community of riders and volunteers. A paired time trial (two racers every 30 seconds, each against the clock), Stage 1 pits racers against an up-and-down ~5-mile course with tight lines and an old-school feel. To quote MTB media luminary, Thom Parsons, the Hardwick Trails “are the kind of stuff you see in videos of kids ‘enduro-style riding,’ where it’s loamy, it’s steep.”

If Stage 1 was an homage to N.E.K. riding’s technical, hand-built roots, Stage 2 is a vision of the present and future. A 20-mile XC course on the side of Umpire Mountain at the Victory Hill Sector, a well-known enduro venue that will host an EWS qualifier on the very same trails the weekend before. Victory Hill is a collaboration between the vision of John McGill, an avid road rider who bought the land to turn into bike trails, and Knight Ide, the godfather of Vermont freeride and trail builder/inspiration for the Burke Bike Park. John and Knight have collaborated to create a network of scratched in, rake-and-ride trails alongside modern enduro tracks, carefully sculpted by Ide and fellow builder Ryan McEvoy.

Stage 3 brings racers to the Craftsbury Outdoor Center for the final day of competition. The Outdoor Center network has grown in the last few years from old school singletrack linked by ski trails to include machine-built trails that flow up and down the hillside of the Black River. Riders will transition from grin-inducing flow to challenging tech and back throughout the 11-mile course, with ski trails scattered in to allow for ample passing opportunities on the final day to improve one’s GC position. After Stage 3 riders will enjoy a post-race BBQ and awards ceremony, along with a Longest Wheelie competition and a Pumptrack Elimination Challenge.
We hope you’ll join us for the first running the VT3.

Registration is open now and there are still some spots available that include lodging at the Craftsbury Outdoor Center (including three meals a day from our excellent all-you-can-eat dining hall buffet!). Questions? Email bikes@craftsbury.com.

Bonus : Watch all of the VT3 course preview videos, plus a tour of one of the new Craftsbury Outdoor Center cabins you could stay in, courtesy of DirtWire.tv: