Allen Clark Hill Climb
Bike the Appalachian Gap for a Great Cause!
The Allen Clark Memorial Hill Climb, the annual grunt-fest that has fast become a rite of cycling passage in the Mad River Valley, is a grueling time trial that rises 1,600 vertical feet in 6.2 miles, from the intersection of Routes 100 and 17 to the top of Appalachian Gap. The event is named in honor of long-time Mad River Valley resident, Allen Clark. An avid cyclist who took up biking late in life, he rode 2,500-3,000 annually in Vermont. Allen especially loved the challenge of the Appalachian Gap. This event is a tribute to Allen’s life and a fundraiser for Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports, an organization that meant a great deal to him.
The Allen Clark Memorial Hill Climb is part of a series, the Biking Up Mountains Points Series, or BUMPS.
All the major hill climbs of the Northeast, including Mt. Washington, Whiteface, and Mt. Ascutney, are part of the series. Riders can earn points towards the season-long championship and other prizes. For more on the series, go to hillclimbseries.com. Because it comes late in the season, the Allen Clark could be a truly decisive event in the series.
If the sweat, suffering, and nominal entry fee seem like a heavy price to pay, consider it all for a good cause — the race is a fundraiser for Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports. Allen was a big supporter and frequent volunteer at VASS. He took great satisfaction in seeing the handicapped folks break out in a smile occasionally during one of his little lessons. This year’s race will be sponsored by Stark Mountain Bike Works and Mad River Glen, and will be a part of Mad River’s Green and Gold Weekend. Riders will compete in seven age categories, from 15 and under to 61 and over.
The time trial course begins at Stark Mountain Bike Works at the corner of Routes 17 and 100 and rises 1600 vertical feet over 6.2 miles to finish at the intersection of the Long Trail at the summit of the Appalachian Gap.
The road, originally named the McCullough Turnpike when built in the 1950s, is currently the highest paved road in Vermont kept open year-round, topping out at 2,356 feet. The road wasn’t constructed using the high-tech survey methods available today; instead, the bed was laid out following the natural contours of the terrain. With an average pitch of roughly 10 percent over the last 2½ miles, the climb is steeper (if shorter) than most climbs in the Tour de France. But steepness alone isn’t everything. The numerous changes in pitch and direction are really what make the App Gap climb a challenging and exhilarating ride, both physically and mentally.
Who Can Participate?
Cyclists and Unicyclists of all ages and abilities with any type of bicycle are invited to tackle the challenge of racing to the top of the Appalachian Gap. In keeping with the spirit of its namesake, the late Allen Clark, the Hill Climb is a celebration of cycling as a sport for people of all ages and physical abilities, with any type of bicycle. Clark was a Mad River Valley cycling enthusiast and a regular bike-shop customer who didn’t take up the sport until he was in his sixties. He went on to log between 2,000 and 3,500 miles a year, well into his 70s, riding in all weather and in every month of the year. His favorite bike was a Bianchi hybrid, fully rigged with racks and a huge storage trunk. The bike weighed more than 40 pounds — more than twice the weight of a typical racing bike.
The Ap Gap climb was one of Clark’s favorite rides, as it is for almost every cyclist in the Mad River Valley. The climb can be difficult and even downright painful, but getting to the top is always extraordinarily rewarding. Regardless of what level rider you might be, riding the Gap is the ultimate fitness reality check. That’s why local riders come back to the Gap again and again, in a kind of love/hate relationship.