Saturday, September 14, 2013

Pisgah Monster Cross

My first race back after breaking a collar bone in 2 places and a few ribs was the 2nd annual 70 mile Pisgah Monster Cross Challenge.

I had done a little bit of riding on the road in the past week, but mostly I have been logging "miles" on my Computrainer.  So there was some trepidation on how I would hold up in real world race conditions.

I opted to race my Raleigh Talus 29'er hardtail with 700 x 40c CX tires.  I figured having the suspension fork and lower MTB gearing would be more rib-friendly.

We started from the Pisgah Ranger Station with a lengthy neutral roll out on a cool morning.  I managed to work my way nearer the front than usual for me.  I wanted to be sure I gave myself the best opportunity to hang on as long as possible.

When the racing starte in earnest we immediately begin the longest sustained climb of the race.  My Quarg power meter was not working, but my heart rate indicated I was putting forth a pretty hard effort.  ..and I was getting passed.  On a climb.  I set a goal: to not get passed by 10 riders on the climb.  I started to count them off:

Ok that's one. 

Another one.

Dang it.  Two more.

When I got to 6, things started going my way.  Downhill.  Suddenly me and my MTB passed all of the riders back that had just passed me and I gained some more spots.  As it turned out, I could still ride a bike.  Joy!

I kept a steady pace up the remainder of the climb.  When I got to the paved road that lead to the Blue Ridge Parkway I found myself pace-lining with another MTB and 2 cross bikes.  Until we got to Pisgah Point, or whatever the highest point on the BRP is called.  After that, those of us on MTB's couldn't hang with the CX bikes on the loooong paved descents.  I was pretty well spun out at 36mph, so I would pedal as fast as I could to get up to speed then tuck and coast at 36-42mph. 

So, after working like a dog on the places that I could pedal, it was kind of de-motivating to be caught by about 10 pace-lining CX bikes.  I fell in line with the group.  It wasn't long before we turned off the BRP and stopped at aid station #2 at mile 44.  I made a hasty water bottle refill and took off down the rocky/loose gravel Bent Creek descent.

By the time we hit pavement again, it was just me, one cx bike and the MTB from earlier on the BRP. 

From here on out I pushed hard.  It was clear I was able to maintain pace more than the others.  One by one I caught all of the riders I was around at the begining of the day that had gotten ahead of me.  The final descent is a rib rattler.  It's a bit painful on the ribs, but the frequent, tight, loose gravel corners keep the speeds reasonably low.  I know the finish is near, so I push hard with all I have. 

I catch one more rider on the road just before the finish.  He is riding a flat rear tire to the finish.  "Bummer", I say.  "It happens" he says, smiling. 

I do a pretty mediocre cx dismount before the only set of barriers placed in front of the finish line.  I crossed the line somewhere around 4:27, which translated into 20th overall.  After looking at the quality of riders that finished ahead of me, I felt a bit better about not being higher placed.  It was a good day back.  A good day on the bike.  The days mission: accomplished.

I'm not sure what the rest of the season will bring, but it's great to see everyone back at the races.

See you on the trails, or, maybe the gravel roads!

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