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Interview: Rasputitsa and Dirty 40 Race’s Anthony Moccia

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On Sunday at Vermont Overland (post to come) we were happy to cross paths with Anthony Moccia, whom we’ve come to know from racing his and Heidi Myers’ Rasputitsa and Dirty 40 races. I’d been meaning to do a little interview with Anthony for a while, and our chat reminded me to get it done. With the final edition of the Dirty 40 Race coming up on September 5th, now seemed like a perfect time to get to know Anthony a bit better and give him an opportunity to talk about how the decision to focus on the Rasputitsa race came about. If you’ve not taken a crack at the D40, this is your last chance! The course will be as pure ‘dirt road’ as we’ve seen, similar to Battenkill, but with more dirt roads and better scenery. Check out our posts from the last two editions (2013, 2014) to get a sense, and visit their site for registration details.

So for those who don’t know you, how did you get into cycling? What drew you to the sport? When I was in high school, my Nordic ski coach always talked about riding during the summers.  I finally was able to get my hands on road bike and that’s where it all began.  I really enjoyed being on the roads and riding alone.  It wasn’t until years later that my friend brought me to my first race which ironically was a gravel road race.

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How did the idea to create the Dirty 40, then the Rasputitsa form? How did the idea become real; what was the catalyst?  Heidi and I were working for the same company at the time, but I honestly cannot remember a specific catalyst that caused us to say “let’s host a bike race”.  Over the years we had thrown around this idea of starting a bike race, neither of us were really paying attention to what was happening in terms of gravel road racing. We knew we wanted to go beyond the norm, try something different and capitalize on the beautiful VT scenery.   I remember staring at a map for hours looking at roads trying to come up with some type of course.  When I presented it to Heidi, the course happened to have exactly 40 miles of gravel roads.  To start, I was going around to bike shops handing out post cards as invitations to race for free.  Things really took off when Tim and Kingdom Trails got behind us.  Year one, we gave away the race.  We didn’t know what we were doing but we knew that we just needed to create such an impression of the racers that they would come back again.  It wasn’t long after the first Dirty 40 that we decided to create a spring race.  Again, staring at a map for a long time and Heidi was in full promotion of the event.   I give the success of Rasputitsa to Heidi; she’s really a marketing genius when it comes to these things.  All in all, a big piece of our success is the feedback we get from our riders.  We ask for real, honest feedback and 90% of the time we get that.  We listen and adjust.

What sort of challenges have you encountered that you didn’t expect, over the course of organizing two editions of each race so far? (You can speak directly to the D40 if you want). Year one, we knew our challenge was going to be the roads to finish were going to be open; how that would play out was unknown.  It wasn’t until after that race that I questioned my own course.  Last year, we decided to change the course a bit and with that comes marshaling.  You really never know what the towns are going to say about the races either; will they support us or not, the power trips these local political “leaders” are on.  We seem to do a great job of pissing a few locals off every year.  2014’s Dirty 40 was water, we ran out of water and literally bought out the local stores trying to get more.

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On the other side, have there been pleasant surprises along the way you never would have expected?Friends. We have met many great people that are so supportive.  We’ve been welcomed with open arms into this gravel community.  These friends have really become a huge part of the success.

You’ve decided to make this the last edition of the D40, would you like to talk about how you came to that decision? We really don’t want it to end but our lives are being pulled in different directions all the time.  Both Heidi’s children and mine are getting older; they are all starting different activities that we really want to be a part of.  Planning and coordinating is very time consuming and neither of us want to miss out on our own family.   We felt that just seeing how many races are out there right now, we could put all our efforts in the Rasputitsa and help really kick off the gravel season.

Moving forward, beyond September 5, what is your vision or aspiration for the Rasputitsa? Is there a certain size you’d like to constrain the event to, or is is a ‘sky is the limit’ sort of thing for you?  We are always talking about what we can do with this race.  2015 is moved location with a brand new course.  The location was great but we need to ‘tweak’ the course a bit.  We had a good number last year; somewhere around 420 participants.  That was a very manageable number.  We will working on perfecting what we have at this level.

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What aspirations for your own riding do you have now that you are into the whole dirt road racing thing? What do you take away from the VT Overland? Personally, since my kids were born four years ago I have not done much riding.  This year, I made the most with the little free time I had each day to ride and train.  Stepping into a couple rides this year to show the support others have so graciously shown us is the least I could do.  VT Overland was absolutely amazing (granted I was in pain by the end).  I love what Peter has done with that race; I hope everyone appreciates his efforts as well.  I love the pavé sectors.  Those are just so unique that they really make the race stand out for the others. Personally, the biggest take away from VT Overland; I need to ride my bike more.

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