At the crack of dawn Sunday morning following the 2011 XTERRA US Championships, Mical and I were piled in the van headed to SLC airport. She was going home to crush some cyclocross, I was headed East to go navigate some gnarl in the Pisgah Forest in Brevard, North Carolina at the Pisgah Stage Race. I was so excited to get an invite from Todd and Heather as this little mountain bike mecca not far from Asheville is legendary. Riders like Sam and Willow Koerber are shining examples of what riding sketchy stuff can do for your technical but honestly, that wasn’t my main focus coming to the race. It was the 29,000 feet of climbing over 5 days. Think of what that can do for your ability to pedal. Magical things.
The timing of the race was ALMOST perfect for Maui for me… maybe a couple of days longer recovery from Utah would have been better but for my MelRad athletes Fred and Kate is was a training camp from heaven since they skipped Nationals to focus on Worlds. Fred was going to be a power monster at the finish and I am pretty sure it would be the most riding Kate had ever done in a week so she was challenging herself big time. She is a bit of a new rider who is improving so fast I am sure she is going to be on my wheel in no time at an XTERRA in the future. As long as we all pay attention to recovery and staying upright I am sure we will all be storming in Hawaii.
Kate and I hit the pool to cram in 6km of swimming on Monday before we drove to Brevard. The one downer is Brevard only has a 20 yard pool which can make for a very dizzying session with that many turns. I figured a swim Monday, Thursday and Sunday was the only option with the Thursday session in the 20yard pool. Other than that I planned to put most of my running aside to focus on getting the best quality out of the racing.
Stage One: White Squirrel Loop = 39 miles and 6200 feet of elevation gain
Thanks to a giant thunderstorm, this stage was quite slippery. My legs were still in recovery mode for most of the day and I was crapping my diapers on all the slippery, off camber and exposed sections of singletrack where a totally possible front wheel slide would result in a massive freefall down the side of the mountain. I was extraordinarily slow along that entire trail. However, how much fun is a 4h 12 minute day of fun singletrack? So fun! It was a good start and I took the lead with Karen Potter in second and Kate third. Sam Koerber rode fantastic taking first, Adam Craig second and Jeremiah third.
Stage Two: Land Of Waterfalls Loop = 42 miles and 7300 feet of elevation gain
I liked today so much more. It is much more predictable when you are just launching down a giant drop than sliding on clay on the edge of a cliff. This stage had the infamous Farlow Gap downhill which was impressive with its fun, gnarly natural features. Challenge of the day for me was trying to get across the creeks without falling in given mountain bike shoes on wet rocks is sketchy. I had a great time pedaling the long climbs on this stage and felt much more confident in this kind of technical. Fun day. Big shoutout to the stage 2 pit crew. This race has the rest stops down like nobody else. First a spotter gets your number and radios ahead to the feed zone. By the time you get there the crew has your bottles out and starts putting them IN YOUR CAGES FOR YOU. Ridiculously pampered. I bet if I wanted a foot massage they would have been down for it. Thank you so much you guys! I felt awesome for about 90 minutes of this day, most of that on the first climg and then felt really sorry for myself in the last hour so I think things are coming around despite that finish. The women’s race stayed the same and in the men’s JB took first with a monster power display in the climing, Adam second and Sam third.
Stage Three: Carl Schenk Loop: 25 miles and 3200 feet of climbing
This was a cross country racers day and I took full advantage. My legs are starting to feel good and I had a good thing going with some of the 40+ elite men today so I just kind of tucked in with them for as long as I could. Climbing was good but the guys definitely go faster downhill than I do. I had a couple of good collisions into the back of a fellow named Garth since his tire was a pain in the butt but otherwise I spent a lot of the race actually racing versus just riding which is what happens when I get dropped and tired. Less than 2.5 hours is certainly more my style anyhow. Good day at the office with some fun singletrack that felt like a pumptrack and some more gnarly stuff to keep it interesting. Same women’s results and Sam took another stage win, JB second Adam third. Adam had a laundry list of mechanical issues which actually was fun for me because I got to watch him CRUSH me on one of the downhills. Those top elite men are so freaking fast I can’t even tell you how they even see a line which they probably don’t… they just point and shoot downhill. Crazy and impressive. Not me. Not impressive downhilling but I am sure I am getting faster in spite of my decision to not ride fast downhill this week. Bubble wrap, people. Big race coming.
You guys can totally follow along with this race as www.cyclingdirt.com is here doing an awesome job covering the race. I have my GoPro but I am a newbie and keep messing up the footage. I have some good interviews that i am going to post but my riding stuff is a bit crappy. I promise I will get better at that. Until then.. watch movies on cycling dirt like this one:
Their riding is more impressive than mine anyways. Isn’t this the most amazing place to ride? Why don’t we have an XTERRA in this place, seriously?
So that is the first three days. I am hearing that tomorrow is the worstest ever ever. We shall see. Rubber side down is the main plan. Or as Adam Craig would say: no whammies.