Pro road racer Ted King was born and raised in New Hampshire, and he has a home base in Spain. But it was in Vermont that he fell in love with cycling.
"I didn’t ride before I came to college at Middlebury,” says King. “When I came to college at Middlebury, I planned to pursue academics exclusively.”
That plan fell apart midway through King’s freshman year when he watched his brother win the cycling Collegiate National Championships hosted by the University of Vermont. “It made me want to explore Vermont by bike,” remembers King.
Adventure rides around Middlebury soon turned into training rides that propelled King to a decade long career as a professional road racer, riding the sport’s biggest events including the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia, UCI world championships, Paris-Roubaix, and the Tour of Flanders.
When King reflects on what captivates him about riding in Vermont, he says it’s the contrasts he loves most.
“When the weather is good in Vermont, it's great. When it’s bad, it's abysmal and impossible to pedal.
Vermont is an amalgamation of rolling country roads with very little traffic, with a dash of dirt roads thrown in for good adventuresome measure, simply stunning landscapes wherever your eyes wander, crisp cool air in the early morning warming to the steamy sauna that New England’s known for by noon. I love passing farms and seeing tractors being put to work and fat, black and white cows against a backdrop of emerald green landscape. I love how Vermont makes me suffer up climbs but leaves me smiling ear to ear on the sinuous descent. And there’s nothing like finding some no-name stream and soaking your legs after a ride, then getting a maple creemee. And yes, I love how hokey it is to call a soft serve ice cream a creemee, but that’s what it’s called here in Vermont. This state has just the right dose of everything."
A close second is the quiet roads. “You can find roads with no traffic,” says King. “Sometimes I’ll ride 1.5 to 2 hours without passing a single car. Sure I have to deal with frost heaves and potholes, but there are enormous stretches of road that are silky smooth too.”
But in the end, for King, it’s the mountains that make Vermont a world-class training ground.
“Vermont’s Green Mountains offer everything from short, punchy climbs to long extended grinds,” praises King. “My favorite thing to do here is to just ride and get lost, then find my way home. It’s pretty easy because Vermont has a lake that runs north south and forms the border with New York, and a mountain range that runs the same direction down the middle of the state—so you can follow dirt road to dirt road, then navigate home. There’s always a general store along the way—usually populated with local characters ready to offer advice and directions, and those stores often have some homemade concoction to eat that’s surprisingly delicious. That’s where I came up with the idea for Untapped—maple energy foods that I’m making in conjunction with the legendary ski family, the Cochrans, at their sugarhouse, Slopeside Syrup. Once upon a time, on a training ride, I pedaled past a general store that was also a maple shop. I bought, and chugged, a novelty glass bottle of maple syrup, which was a serious upgrade over energy shots with 12 mostly synthetic ingredients, which generally seem caustic to me.”
King's pro tip for locals and visitors alike: Don’t be put off by gravel or dirt roads. “As a student, I never rode gravel—but embracing dirt makes the state so much bigger. That way when you come to a fork in the road you can, like Robert Frost said, take the road less traveled. It’s cheesy but completely apt and fitting—especially because when you ride Middlebury Gap, you pass Robert Frost’s cabin.”
So, kit up, and try one of King’s favorite rides:
200 On 100: “Try this life-list double-century if you’re adventurous, and strong of leg and mind,” says King. Most riders tackle it on the summer solstice, June 21. “It’s like doing the Appalachian Trail, but in one fantastic day,” says King who also writes about the ride on his blog. “It’s a sampler platter of everything Vermont has to offer. Take it all in—and start early!”
The Mad River Road Course: “People drive from all over New England to do the queen stage of the Green Mountain Stage Race,” says King. “This was the Collegiate National Championship course that I watched my brother win the race on, and that got me into the sport of cycling once upon a time in the early 2000s." Pro-tip: “Stop at the Bristol Bakery for a cold drink and delicious pastry before the final assault on Appalachian Gap.”
Vergennes to Middlebury and back: “It’s a beautiful, flat(ish) loop with views of the Green Mountains to the east of you the entire time,” says King. “There’s one small hill towards Weybridge, and you’ve got to earn it because when you get back to Vergennes, it’s practically mandatory to stop at Vergennes Laundry—owned and operated by a Middlebury alumnus—for an exquisite French pastry and perfectly made post ride cappuccino."