Monday, May 30, 2011

Trans-Sylvania Epic Stage Two

Today's stage was billed as the toughest stage of the week.  I sure hope it was.

It was already starting to get hot when we rolled off at 9:30 am.  There was a neutral roll-off that kept the pack close together as we entered the first double-track rocky, wet descent.  It didn't take long for the carnage to begin - a rider was off into the woods early.  Some other riders stopped to help and I knew there "sweepers" riding behind the pack so I said a short prayer and continued on.

We mostly climbed gravel roads then single track with a few fast, treacherous descents thrown in and some hike-a-bike leading up to the mile 11 checkpoint.  I saw pro racer Jeremiah Bishop there with his bike upside down.  Never a good sign.  Kinda cool to be ahead of last years overall winner though.  I found out later he had broken a chain.  Several others had flats throughout the day as well.

The next section felt like 17 miles of rock garden.  I'm not terribly comfortable with long rock sections but I did manage to catch and pass a few riders.  The part that wasn't rocks was super narrow single track with brush about 4 feet high on both sides of the trail.  It made it hard to see what was coming up and the going was pretty slow but I eventually came to the mile 28 aid station.  The wife hooked me up with some Heed and cold water and I was off again.

The next section had more rocks, but it also had more mud.  There was one low section that wasn't even really "trail" so much as a large area with various sized rocks, roots and trees.  I got passed by 2 riders in this section making me feel a bit lame about my technical skills since I had already passed both of them.  When we popped out of the single track onto a long gravel climb I was back in my element and passed them back and hammered on (well, a rather fatigued hammering).  I caught a couple of other riders and we more-or-less pace-lined back to the scout camp.  One thing of note:  when we passed under the Hwy 322 bridge leading to the final climb about 1.5 miles from the finish there were optional beer handouts.  I can't actually verify this, so maybe it was apple juice?...

I finished in a little over 4 hours.  I'm still waiting for results, but I think I finished pretty respectable.  I'll head back to the scout camp for the nightly awards presentation and upcoming stage preview.  Another long stage tomorrow with lots of climbing.  Hopefully there will be less rocks.

See you on the trails.

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