Sunday, September 22, 2013

2013 Pisgah Stage Race - Day 5

Photo by Brad O Allen

It’s going to be a bit damp today.

My tires slipped and squirmed, desperately trying to find traction in the landslide of rocks and mud called Farlow Gap. This trail is heavy, and in the rain it’s down right ugly.

In a moment I was hiking down the last half of the main gnar on Farlow Gap. Joel from Canada rode around me and crushed the nasty. Man, this boy has got skills!

After some on and off the bike riding on Farlow, we started a ripping a section that had a sizable log drop in the middle of the greasy chunk. Shift the hips back, fist the left grip, drop that son of b!tch. We were Rollin and coming home like a letter bomb.

One guy dropped his chain so I got a pass as it opened up and put it in the big ring to chase down the loony Canadian. Farlow Gap trail had relented and most of the steep rock slides were behind us, but not before hiking across a coupe small waterfalls.

I was flying towards the end of this trail and had to bust some quick moves to avoid an ass over tea kettle event. We dispatched the rest of Farlow and dropped in on some wet, rutted out, log steps that were the entrance to Daniel Ridge.

The rain was picking up a bit.

Riding Daniel Ridge at speed in the rain is an exercise in controlled chaos. The trail is littered with large rocks, wet roots, and a precipitous drop to a creek about 40 feet off to the right of the bench cut snarl. Sometimes I got a less than desirable line going. Too wet to correct mid line so I just rode out the nap and let the bike knock around under my tense body and mind. Be like the water and flow where the trail naturally pushes your bike. Don’t even consider touching that front brake!
Photo by Brad O Allen

At last the trail eased and turned into the gravel path that would take us to the road. I had a moment to reflect on the school bus ride out to the start, as well as the gut busting climb we all endured to get to Farlow Gap. Man, the first part of today was heavy.

The gravel road gave me a chance to refuel. The mild rain continued.

After a fast section of single track next to Davidson River, I popped back on the road and turned right into the Fish Hatchery. I was careful not to toss it on the wet pavement.

Alright, here is the long but moderate double track climb. Just got to motor through this to get to the final descent down the Braken Mountain trail. After a few miles I caught back up to Joel. He was setting a good pace, and I pulled just in front of him and motored away. Joel stayed on my wheel and together we knocked out the seemingly endless double track. Each small grassy clearing that bent right looked like the one I had seen on my preride of Braken at the start of the week. But the double track just kept going.

We got it done son.

Photo by Brad O Allen

The final single track ascent relented and I looked back and waited for Joel to grab my wheel. We descended down Braken on the slickest trails we have ridden all week. It was raining and my glasses were dirty and fogged. This made it hard since I have prescription lenses. I rode the trail based on general shapes and instinct. It was going well.

We caught up to the duo team leaders and I was able to pass one of the guys on the inside of a hairpin. I started riding in earnest because I knew the finish was close at hand.

I rode a little too fast for conditions.

My front end washed out and I splattered into the mud, covering the left side of my face. Almost as soon as I was down, I was back up and on my bike. There was one final punchy section of climbing and Joel caught back up to me. I really wanted to ride the rest of the trail with him, but a nasty case of chain suck had him running his bike up the climb.

I was a little more tentative on the final twist and turns of the mud luge, and took it easy rolling into the finish. Wow! What an amazing day of riding and racing.

Soon all my fellow racers and new found friends came through the finish. Everyone had completed the epic. Everyone had battled through their distinct challenges during the week. Everyone had found their journey’s end.

I was a little sad that it was all over. The struggles, the fight, the purpose was over.

But now I had a chance to share fresh war stories, cold beer, awesome food, and the fine company of good people.

During this week of endurance, this week of tragedy, and this week triumph, we are all brothers and sisters, a community of adventurers. We are a Family forged in the high country that is Pisgah at the best adventure you will find in the promised land of the Pisgah Mountain Bike Stage Race.


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