Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Pisgah Moutain Bike Stage Race: Day One.

Yesterday all racers were required to attend a pre-race meeting and dinner at the Brevard Music Center.  The food was awesome (mmmmm... trout), but I was mainly there for the course overview.  Todays stage had a projected finish time of 3:15 for the winner and 4:00 for an "average rider".  Looking around the room at all the racers I decided to set my goal, somewhat optimistically, at 4:00.

At the race start/finish area we all signed in for the day's stage.  It was noted that the trails were somewhat wet (read: SLICK) from rain overnight.  At the sound of the gun we were off.  Approximately 75 riders.  I still have no idea who all is in my class as there is an "elite 40+" and a "masters 40+" class.  I file in the pack about where I felt like I fit in speed-wise as the pace car lead us up the road 1/2 mile to a fire service road.  At the FS road the race began.  Mostly pleasant at first, then it turned uphill and would remain a climb for the rest of the 7 miles to aid station #1 of 3 for the day.  I paced myself in a small group, including a couple of single speeders.

At aid station #1 I opted to carry a 2nd water bottle as the next aid station wouldn't be until mile 22.  This section featured a lot of really sweet single track and I felt pretty good.  The trail was slick but manageable.  As we continue on, the descent becomes narrow, rooty, off camber, side-of-the-moutain scary.  I decide to edit my goal time to 4:15 considering the conditions.  If I went fast it was a bit easier over the roots, but bouncing off the trail was a very real possibility.  If I went slow it made riding over the rocks and roots that much more difficult.  I struggled along as best I could (wishing I had opted for a grippier front tire).  After, about the 3rd low speed fall onto the banked side of the trail I was getting a bit discouraged.  I had already let 3 racers pass by.  I looked at my handlebars and read what I had previously taped their: "In your strength I can crush an army; with my God I can scale any wall."  I didn't feel capable of crushing an army at that moment, but I settled down and got into a rideable rhythm.  Soon the section ended and I was on to aid station #2.

The 10 miles from aid station #2 to #3 was all fire road.  Which suited me fine and made me glad for my fast-rolling tire choice.  I soon passed back all the positions I had given up and caught a few more.  I was feeling pretty speedy when I reached aid station #3, which was the same as #1.  ...until one of the volunteers pointed out the direction to proceed.  It was a tangled, rooty, mess.  Thus begun the extended hike-a-bike.  Every time I felt like I could ride a section that feeling was quickly dashed by a stair-stepped switchback or a vertical rock or more tangled, twisty roots.  So I kept hiking.  A little downhill relief.  More hiking.  Some places it was a bit difficult to tell what was actually trail, some places I wondered if I would be able to drag my bike up and over.  But the down hill came.  With a vengeance.  This part of the trail had dried pretty well, and, for the most part, wasn't on the side of the mountain.  I blasted down as fast as I dared - always trying to balance speed with control, and the probabilty of flatting on the rocks.  I didn't always get the balance just right, but I didn't crash or flat, or lose any positions so I considered it a success.

At the bottom I reach the start/finish.  The official time clock reads 4:15.  There weren't a whole lot of riders in the recovery area (although Jeremiah Bishop was riding his MTB on rollers) so I felt like I placed well.  Tomorrow will be a remote start, but the same finish area as today.  It's a few miles longer.  I'm guessing it's not going to be any easier...

See you on the trails!

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