Hunter Subaru Pisgah Stage Race - Day 3
Stage details - 25 miles, 3,200+ ft of elevation gain
After somewhat bonking on stage 2, I was a little apprehensive approaching this stage knowing it was a make it or break it stage mentally for me to finish the race. Fortunately I had ridden about ½ the course on a previous ride with Stephen Janes from Asheville. The start moved to the North Mills recreation area at the Wash Creek Group campsite. Although shorter, the stage promised plenty of steep climbs and super fast descents. We started out with a FS road climb up to Spencer Gap and the group started a split almost immediately. I stayed near the front 1/3 and was in good position as we entered the first really steep sections and managed to stay on the bike and climb all the way to the top. In doing so, I passed quite a few that were off the bike pushing the climbs. This eventually leveled out to a 2-3% grade and was a really nice singletrack climb to the top. The downhill was being bombed as I was on the wheels of husband and wife duo team Lee and Brenda Simril. Nearing the bottom we were caught by a couple of insane descenders who blew by us on the creek crossings. One was a guy from Industry 9 in Asheville and I caught back to him and rode for a while talking as we climbed to the Fletcher Creek downhill which I feel was the most fun downhill section for flat out speed and handling. Keith gapped me a bit on the downhill but eventually I passed him on the climb back to aid station 1. The race director and volunteers have this race dialed in. As you approach an aid station, a volunteer is positioned about ¼ mile and radios in your number, as you approach, they have your bag and digging in it for whatever you need. This keeps you moving and you don’t stop. Great system!. I blew threw and grabbed a fresh bottle and headed for the Lower Trace Ridge descent. Flying downhill suddenly I came to a drop off of about 3’-4’ and as sliding to a stop remembered this phrase that kept going through my head “just because you can ride it doesn’t mean you should”. I yelled an obscenity and jumped off the bike to run that section just as I heard someone say, “watch your language young man”. I looked ahead and there was a couple in their 70’s that had hiked up to watch the racers come through that section. They laughed and said that wasn’t the worse they had heard. Turns out they are both Mtn bikers. How cool is that?
Continuing on the bottom of Trace ridge I see Tracey who is the course marshal at the crossing of the North Mills River. I yelled, “Look, I’m being careful” and then screamed across the river to get to the next climb up Wash Creek road and the hike a bike up Trace Ridge. I was starting to make time on a few of the riders I had caught up to but none were in my race category of 40+ men. Keeping up the pace and eventually found myself once again riding alone until I approached the last downhill which would be followed by a shorter gradual climb and finally the super fast technical downhill leading to the finish. I caught up to the women’s leader and a duo team member and rode with them to the finish coming in at 2:41 and finishing 6th. I felt good although tired. Time to recover and get ready for stage 4 which is constantly being talked about as the hardest stage of the race.
Garmin data for stage 3: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/117955389