David did a wonderful job with that write-up of the prologue but he’s busy flooding your e-mail inbox with e-mails right now so it’s back to me (Christopher).
Day two of the Pisgah Stage Race started early. We woke up at 6:00 in the pitch black so we could be dressed and have eaten by the time the sun came up. The stages all started at 8:00 so we didn’t have much time to dilly-dally. A couple of packets of oatmeal later, we pulled on our new Performance Bicycle Race Kits and pedaled our way to the start line (which was only about a mile from our tents).
You’ll also notice my illumiNITE arm warmers which are quite warm but react strangely to cameras.
The whole field rolled out onto the road for about a mile before hitting the day’s first climb: a 7 mile gravel road (past a horse stable) which gained us more than 1500 feet of elevation right away. By the time we were most of the way up, the field had thinned out with the lead group already long gone. We would only see two or three riders at a time for the rest of the day.
At the top was the first rest stop which we promptly skipped. The resulting descent was exhilarating and very fast. We tore through tunnels of Rhododendron plants at break-neck speed and soon entered a very difficult section of trail. This trail went on for miles and was carved into the side of a steep slope (only about 6 inches wide in most places). Because of the massive amount of rain that we had experienced, every root was a chance for a crash and every rock was as slick as ice. I went down hard a couple of times over this section and David managed to break his left pedal. It still basically functioned but he had to find the side that worked every time he wanted to clip in. There couldn’t have been a worse place for this to happen as we were on and off of the bike every 2 minutes for over an hour scrambling over rocks and roots.
Rest stop 2 couldn’t come soon enough. We weren’t quite sure what to expect (other than food) but after another grueling fire-road climb we were desperate for a quick break. As we pulled into the stop, volunteers leaped to our attention holding our bikes, getting us food, even taking our packs off of our backs so they could refill them with water or energy drink. Luxury!
After consuming three complete PB&J’s and having David’s bike looked at (they didn’t have a spare pedal but did get his shifting smoothed out) we headed back out feeling much better and even got to enjoy some of the beautiful scenery (above).
After some more tame trail, we started up the backside of Black Mountain. This would be a recurring theme over the next three days as each time we finished by descending Black Mountain. Before we could get there though, we had to make it through the part that we started calling “The Miserableness”. Some course marshalls at the final rest stop told us that we were facing “just two quick peaks, a short hairy descent, then a punchy little climb before a HUGE descent full of rocks, roots, drops . . . well you know, it’s like . . . Pisgah!”
We of course had no idea what that meant. Oh yeah, it’s like Pisgah. It’s like a place we had never ridden before. Terrific. This became a theme for the rest of the weekend. Course marshalls or rest stop volunteers would constantly stop us to tell us what to expect next. They would describe a section and it would turn out to be about 10 times bigger/longer/harder than they had described. As we would reflect on this, we would shout, “it’s like Pisgah!”
Here I am at the top of “peak one”. With the leaves changing it was truly a beautiful vista. Not so much worth the 45 minute hike-a-bike that it took to summit the two peaks, but pretty nonetheless. We couldn’t believe that it was only the first peak and wouldn’t be convinced until the trail finally turned downhill. The grueling climb was completely unrideable and we spend much of this hour pushing and pulling our bikes up the trail. With this picture taken, we tore down Black Mountain (2-3 miles of descending with stair-step drops, gullies and ripping high speed sections) to the finish line exhausted but happy. All in all, we got in about 40 miles that day and it took us about 6 hours and 8 minutes (a mere 2 1/2 hours after the winner of the stage, Jeremiah Bishop).
Back at camp we were very happy to see everything as we had left it. We showered and ran out for some Mexican food before starting a fire to settle in for the evening.
We cleaned and lubed our drivetrains using the camp spigot before hanging our bikes to dry (not the recommended method, but you work with what you have).
Soon it started to rain but not very hard and the temperature also started to drop. Not to be discouraged, we set up the GT tent over the picnic table and roasted some marshmallows.
I fell asleep about 30 seconds after hitting the air mattress at about 8:00 and slept like a log while a gentle rain pattered against the rain fly of my huge tent.