Tales from the Air Line Trail: The Natchaug Epic

By Kim Bradley

There is really nothing quite like jumping on your bicycle and exploring the beautiful landscape of Connecticut while challenging your body and mind. Two wheels provide an escape from the daily routine and opportunity to breathe deeply and focus on the trail ahead. This spring, my teammates on the Stage 1 Cycling Club encouraged me to take on a new challenge, the Natchaug Epic Gravel Ride event. This event is nicknamed the “Quiet Hell” because of it’s distance (86 mile, 135 km) and challenging climbing and descents (approximately 6000 ft. of elevation gain). I have always enjoyed gravel riding, but the distance and racing platform was a new experience and made me a bit nervous prior to the event. Luckily, our team is incredible supportive, and helped me get all the gear, snacks, and hydration needed to successfully complete the adventure. Several Stage 1 teammates rode by my side the entire race. The scenery was beyond beautiful, and made the hills worth the challenge. The route brought us along 9.3 miles of the Air Line Trail State Park, and through the gravel roads of the northeast Windham County. Rolling into Thompson Speedway to smiling race volunteers and a delicious bowl of chili completed a truly epic day.  The Air Line Trail State Park provides perfect training opportunities to build experience gravel riding, train for longer distance, and take on the challenge! I encourage everyone to out there and explore on two wheels!