Dr. PrepperFor Plassman, the week leading up to the tour is full of excitement and planning… and getting shit done. Preppers would be proud of me. Well sort of… I didn’t bring guns, a machete, or canned goods to the party. Unless beer counts as canned goods? You bet your ass it does. And I brought my Leatherman, so there.
God damn! Bikes aint gonna git themselves ready. Tire swaps, wheels trued, gravity dropper shafts cleaned and lubed. Wrenching yourself gets old fast when your prepping multiple bikes. Beer helps. Dreams of Tour glory kept me going.
PrologueI worked half a day to keep some vacation in the bank. Then I stuffed my Mazda to the gills, and headed to the Burg. I checked into Motel 6, and the light was not left on for me. Get it straight Tom Bodet. I set about deflating the Mazda and filling the room, trying to get my stuff in order, but not trying that hard.
Mike Coco arrived and was unloading next to me. It was 5:00pm, and I knew we needed to get a move on. Rolling time is supposed to be 6:00, so we should have just barely got there on time if we left soon. We headed out, and heavy traffic conspired with Siri to steal some more precious time. Hauling ass on back roads and my inner child salivated as we neared the Stokesville Church.
Shit, there were lots of cars, but no people. Frantically, I got ready for the Trimble loop, and soon we were rolling out FR 95. Upon arrival at Trimble, I saw a rider dash into the woods. A motley crew was gathered, each rider waited for his or her turn.
Carp saw me and hollered for Plassman to grab his plate. “You can go whenever you’re ready.” Yeah, rock star treatment, nice! So I rolled up, plated up, and rolled out.
On the climb I passed a few riders as I chased Dickey up the climb and watched him disappear. Dan gave me some good natured grief, and later admited he thought I was someone else. I’m sure I’ve earned it any way. Joe Fish stormed by me, and I settled into a semi comfortable climbing pace. Near the top, I passed a few riders and then Abe motored by. He sure was rolling fast.
The descent was fast, fun, and loose. Late afternoon sun cast a mottled mix of shade and strong light on the semi grass covered single track. It’s some tight old school single track too. I rolled a fast but cautious pace, not wanting to bin it at the prologue. Near the bottom, I caught a rider and got held up a little bit, but it was not going to make much difference at that point so I settled in for some fun.
A great pizza dinner at Thomas’s house was followed with opening ceremonies and descriptions of the big day ahead in Fort Valley.
Joe and I headed back to the room and knocked back a little whiskey before resting for the first full stage.
Fort ValleyThe day starts with a soon to be morning ritual of breakfast at mister J’s Bagels. I’m going to assume the manager was working this morning, and she was all business. They still call out orders over a PA system, and it sounds like a subway station. I have faded memories of ordering food this way from the 80’s as a kid. Would you like an apple pie with that?
Sue gave me some shit for parking in one of the cherry paved lot spaces at Camp Roosevelt. Parking slum. While kitting up, I realized I had forgot a critical nut for the GoPro mount. Some days don’t need to be captured in HD anyway. The mind has a way of remembering that makes the story that much better.
There was a strong WNC crew representing, and a few of my friends from the high country commented on my backwards mounted rear tire. I said it was on purpose, but the more I thought about it, I realized I had just said to hell with it when my self-generated pile of bike maintenance had kept me up till 1:00am one of the previous nights. At least the logo matched up with the valve stem.
The first timed section began with a rolling start up a paved climb before launching into a bench cut and medium rocky trail heading up to our first summit. The riding got a little more technical, and I half committed to powering up and over. I had been battling a knee injury all spring and wanted to ease into the tour this year to avoid blowing anything up. It worked, and I did not blow up the climb either. I found myself hopping off and pushing more than I like. Then the descent started in earnest. I dropped in, but refrained from a full on attack, that whole warm up plan again. Eventually I settled in and started riding a little better, but was frustrated by an aching back. I got a little more aggressive on the bike and shit started sticking better. My hip pack was a bit loose and that was distracting, but not as much as when the hose dropped out of my mouth (yeah, that reads a bit funny) … and dangled off the pack threatening to get balled up in my rear spokes. Luckily, my hose stayed out of the wheel, and I got it back in place.
There was a lot of carnage on that 1st ridge. Seemed like Adam must have had at least 3 flats, and plenty of others were busily fixing trail side tire drama. There were some pretty decent rider injuries as well.
Mike Boyes and I traded places a bit on the long ridge and descent towards the end of the 1st section. The recovery zone was great. I did however manage to lose at water cooler roulette. I filled my hipster pack with hose flavored bleach stank water. Shit was nasty. Later, on the 2nd ridge when it got hot, I drank the stank. I can still taste it if I think about it.
The parade over to the 2nd stage was lead out by the sprint chasers. I heard one of them almost ate a trailer in the sprint melee. Back in the party pace group, there was some carnage as well. Stang was limping along with a serious chain and or derailleur issue. Then, I think we missed a turn after passing the emergency squad that was dispatched to a minivan buried in the green off the side of the road.
Road drama resolved, we re-grouped before the 2nd stage. We climbed a very steep gravel road to the start point and got ready, many folks shedding extra water weight in the bush. I manually shifted my single ring, from a 32 narrow wide, to a 26 small ring I had left on the double when I converted to 1x10. Like manually locking out a 4x4. Diggity. Then we were off, up a water chewed up track.
A number of folks bustled ahead, and I patiently worked my way into the ridge that soon turned into what seemed like a continuous rock garden. Some big ass rocks for sure, and plenty of hair raising death chutes. I loved this trail. Riding all that technical terrain kept my mind fully engaged and I didn’t think much about the physical effort of racing. I focused more on the Zen of piecing the rock puzzles together.
About two thirds of the way through I got a second wind and started charging a bit. Riding aggressively felt much better than the defensive strategy I took on the 1st ridge. Soon enough the final two descents were at hand. The 1st descent was plenty rocky, definitely rowdy, and a bit cheeky to boot. Some hikers had stopped on a rock and took photos / video as riders passed by.
A mild gravel road connected to the second descent where I checked in for the Super D. I charged in, but soon bobbled a bit on a weird rock section I tried to ride straight over. It was a little rough over the backside, just like my body at that point. I charged again and got hung up in one other spot. After that, I just took the straightest lines possible, even if that meant over the larger rocks. Finally I was riding along with some decent urgency. The rocks gave way to more loam, and finally a clay toned ribbon at warp speed. It sure felt nice to hit the tape slalom at the finish. Tour stage 1 complete. I was relieved because I knew it was arguably the most technical day of the Tour. Bang, done!
Dinner at the Little Grill did not disappoint. There were probably double of the number of people there compared to last year, and basically the staff crushed it. I wolfed down two Mexican plates and the same count of brews. Back to the hotel, to prep and rest up for the next day’s 100+ miles on the road, up and over some big ass climbs.