Hunter Subaru Pisgah Stage Race - Day 1
Stage details - 39 miles. 6,200+ ft of elevation gain.
Weather was great as we lined up for the first stage of the 2011 Hunter Subaru Pisgah stage race. The Lynskey Pro29SL was dialed in with a new drive train, new Ergon grips and running some new Kenda Slant Six tires front and rear. I figured the 120TPI would serve me well as Pisgah is known for ripping some sidewalls. The stage started out from the Black Mtn trailhead and turned right on Hwy 276 past the Pisgah Ranger station and up Forest Service rd 477 to the horse stables. This was a controlled start on pavement and once we hit the gravel road it was “Race on”. The climb up Clawhammer rd to Buckhorn Gap is about 7 miles and an average grade of 6-7% with some steep sections of around 12%. I decided to keep my heart rate just under 165 for the climb, which meant I was letting a lot of folks go by me. I got to the top in about 44 minutes, grabbed a fresh bottle and hit the singletrack down Buckhorn to Squirrel gap, a great reward for all the early climbing. I felt pretty good at this point but had to stop to reposition my saddlebag and rear quick release, which was creaking. The climb on squirrel was great and having ridden it before with Teammate Scott George, Tracey Lewis and others, I knew what to expect so I turned up the screws and dropped several of the riders close by. After getting out of the singletrack we hit a long gravel FS road where I picked up the pace and caught four other riders. The climb back up to Buckhorn was a little tiring especially knowing that I had to hike a bike over Black Mountain to get to the finish. I stopped for some quick chain lube and hit the climb. If you’ve never done that section of Black Mtn, it is a beast on foot, much less dragging a bike up. Once over the top you have some downhill sections with big log drops, washed out trail with lots of rocks etc. One more hike a bike section before hitting the final downhill section and on to the finish. Hitting the fast section and being tired caused me to make an almost tragic mistake. Coming out of a turn at 20+ mph I steered into a flat faced rock head on and had a serious gut check. I grunted so bad that I thought I was flying over the handlebars and race over. I’m not sure how I saved it but credit goes to the bike. I fully used every bit of front suspension so much that it forced oil out of the seals and pushed the ring marker all the way to the top. Slow go to the finish as I realized that 4 more days of racing were ahead. Finished 4th with a time of 4:43. Garmin data for this stage attached: