Pisgah Stage Race | Stage 5
For a lot of the racers I think this was a day of celebration, it was the last hard day of trail riding and was one of the shortest days. For me, it was going to be anything but easy! I knew this was JB’s last chance to close the time gap and take back the win. He would be pulling out all the stops and taking n0 prisoners. This was immediately present when we passed him driving to the start, on his bike warming up. All the other racers (myself included) had met at the Brevard Music Center to shuttle over to the start location. He had driven out to the forest to get a warm up in. I can’t blame him, it was a good idea and I knew then, that this was going to hurt from the start.
Todays course had us rolling out forest service roads for the first 5 miles, 3 of those were going to be very testing on 10%+ grade. At the top of this climb the first section of singletrack started; the infamous Farlow Gap! I can best describe this section of trail as like riding down a very steep river bed. As expected, the gravel roads were a real suffer fest. JB and I quickly rode away from the field and the battle began. He didn’t put in any huge attacks but we rode the climb at a very high pace the entire way. When we reached the top and entered the first section of singletrack leading up to Farlow Gap,I needed to back the pace off a little bit to recover from the gravel road climb. I wasn’t too concerned b/c I felt confident that I could close the slight gap on Farlow Gap.
By the time I reached the first major obstacle on Farlow I had caught back up to JB. On the lower section of Farlow Gap and Daniels Ridge there are numerous creek crossings that have to be traversed. We quickly found ourselves dismounting and run across the creeks, up the other side, jumping on the bike and sprinting away. I was beginning to have flash backs to what cross season is like! This scenario went on for a pretty good bit until we reached the final downhill on Daniels Ridge and popped out on dirt roads and pavement. The attacks kept coming but I focused on holding that wheel and not letting a gap open. At this point the race was quickly evaporating as so were the opportunities to close the time gap I had. When we hit the final climb I knew this was going to be the decisive moment for the last five days of racing. I couldn’t afford to let a gap open and we still had a forty minute climb ahead of us. JB through down attack after attack trying to get a little gap established or catch me off guard and ride away. I was careful to pay close attention the whole time, and every time he attacked, I shut it down as quickly as possible!
As we reached the top of the climb we neared the days enduro down Bracken Mountain. I lead the first little section of singletrack but I had no reason to take any big risks or push the pace. I just needed to ride these last 4.5 miles as cleanly as possible. When we hit the first little rise on the downhill JB came around me and put the hammer down. I closed the gap and sat on his wheel. We cruised the next three miles twisting along some of the best machine cut singletrack we had ridden all week. As we neared the finish line and I caught sight of it,I breathed a tremendous sigh of relief. I hadn’t crossed the line yet and won the race, but the finish was so close I could, for the first time all week, soft pedal and enjoy the moment. We cruised in together and I crossed the line just 1 second behind JB. I had finally done it! I had crossed the line and won the race; five hard fought days were behind me and I had come out victorious. What an incredible feeling. I have to give it to JB he pushed me the whole time and it was never a dull moment. This was one of the toughest races I have done and one of the most rewarding.
Thanks again for all the great support this season!
Here are some cool links to check out whenever you have some down time!