Friday, September 30, 2011

Pisgah Race - Stage 4 - Promised Land

Stage 4 - Promised Land Loop
39 miles, 8,000+ ft of elevation gain - MAP

The hardest stage of the race turned out to be my favorite and suited my riding strengths well. The weather was perfect, cool fall breezes with bright sun and spotty clouds. Also there were lots of leaves changing color and drifting to the ground. This day was a super challenging stage and one of the best days I have ever had on a bike.

We started the day riding UP the Black Mountain descent that we have been finishing on all week. It was eye opening to see how steep and rutty some sections were from the other direction while riding (and hiking) up them.

After a long and painfull grind, hike, and scramble up to the top of Black Mountain, the trail turned right onto some fairly fresh single track. This turned out to be really fast but sketchy because the thorns bushes and rhododendron have reclaimed most of the free space where the trail runs through. It seemed like bombing a downhill in the jungle, never knowing what whould await around the next corner. Then the trail went back up and down about 5 times before descending to aid 1.

Next up was Squirrel Gap, but in the oposite direction from stage 1. It turned out to be a long and enjoyable single track climb that undulated up the mountain in a long series of rollers. Near the top one of the course marshals was chilling out and playing a banjo. Then it got much steeper and I clawed my way to the top where a long fireroad section had sweeping views of the pisgah forest.

A fast long descent lead back to Aid 2 and the riverside trails ridden in the opposite direction which then turned skyward with a climb to Buckwheat Knob. Another rider and I inched our way up the very steep inclines and were rewarded with a fast and very technical descent followed by a super fast gravel descent.

I was relieved to see the horse stables and aid 3 which meant that there was one final climb left. I found some new energy as I drank my bottle from aid 3 and had visions of the final Black Mountain in my head. A good bit of climbing later and I hiked up to the final descent. 3 of the 4 stages so far have returned to the start finish with the same descent down Black Mountan and as tired as I was today it was nice to have trail memory to guide me as I ripped down to the finish!

5:10 4th place Open Men

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