This morning I choked down a bagel and some coffee. I’ve done a lot stage of racing over the past 5 years and I'm still surprised how my stomach can turn in knots at breakfast before the start of the first stage. I'll just chalk it up to the anticipation of awesome.
Tyler and I quickly gathered all our gear and our bikes that we had prepped the night before. We and loaded up the car and headed to the race start.
I ran into some familiar faces rolling around the parked cars and race start finish. There were also a lot of faces I've not seen before, but glad to share a stage race with.
We rolled out behind the police escort from the start without any dramatics. The pace was pretty easy as we followed the flashing lights to a main intersection.
As soon as we turned left, the Canadian team guys PUNCHED it, hard. I was not expecting this since the last two times I've done this race, the leaders save the 'pop' for the gravel road where traditionally the race pace has kicked in. There was a pretty big hill on the way out of town that would slow em down a bit, eh?
After a short lived pace line, the group I was rolling with turned left onto Turkey Penn RD, the first gravel climb of the day.
We rolled along a gradual incline and it was nice to sense all the riders settling into a more rational pace. Soon we would hit the day's first single track and bomb down the start of the Mullinax trail. There were a lot of small fast water drops that kept it interesting. Then we crossed a short suspension bridge and started the climb up Mullinax Trail towards Squirrel Gap. I pushed a bit harder through this section and made sure to start consuming my calorie laden elixir.
It was not too long before Squirrel Gap trail welcomed us with its mix of roots, tight bench cut, and single track love. It was nice to be climbing lots of sing track. Tough stuff for sure, but much more engaging than grinding it out on the gravel.
Once up on Squirrel, it opens up a bit into some fast sweeping sections with tight, rocky, and wet turns. These are awlays a bit of excitement. I was pushing hard to catch the rider in front of me and keep my small lead on the rider behind me. Soon, there was a right turn up a rooty and very steep trail. The top of this trail gets very steep and chewed up, making it a challenge to ride. But I knew that some reprieve from all the single track climbing lay ahead.
After cresting the climb, a rolling section of old road bed double track granted some nice views of the Pisgah Mountains. A white knuckled gravel descent had me entertained as I drifted through a few corners. Soon I popped out onto a gravel road and the aid station. The awesome aid station help already had my bag ready and I grabbed my bottle, rolling out in probably less than 30 seconds. Thanks Guys!
The short section of gravel that followed gave me a chance to suck down some nutrition. I was going to need it for the hiking on Black Mountain that lay ahead of us. Just after the gravel, a fun trail called South Mills River was a blast to ride. Race director Todd Brahnam was dressed in a Lion suite and cheered us on. The trail soon began a gradual climb up to the Black Mountain trail head. I was mindful while climbing Buckhorn Gap to leave a little in the tank for Black Mountain.
Roots, roots, and more... roots greeted me as began the assault on Black Mountain. Pretty soon I was just trying to hike my bike as quick as I could. My legs ached as I neared the 1st hike a bike summit nd began pedaling again. Wow, my legs were smashed. Another two or three hike a bike sections had me hurting, but I made it to a hair raising descent. The trail coming off the top soon turned steep and very water eroded, with a deep rut (1/2 to 1 foot) running down the middle of the trail. It was pretty gnarly, but I was happy to clean it all and not smack my hand on a tree. I had done this a few days before when I pre-rode this section.
The angry trail finally eased a bit and I picked up speed heading for the last techy climb and then the sweet downhill that follows. I made it about halfway up the next steep, rooty, and difficult climb. However, my legs surrendered and soon I was hiking again. I knew another rider was right behind me and put it on full steam to keep my position going into the 2nd part of the Black Mountain descent. Cresting the last bit of climb was nice as I shifted into high gear and descent mode.
I made some great time on the descent and had truly ripping finish down the last third of the trail.
I finished 5th Open Men in about 2:58.
What a fun way to start the 2013 Pisgah Mountain Bike Stage Race!