My NUE series schedule this year started in April with a huge lull until late summer. This meant that I would be racing the NH100 then two weeks later race the SM100 with the FG100 the following weekend. With the inaugural running of The Pisgah Monstercross Challenge the weekend after Fools Gold, I had decided that it may be best to sit it out and rest up. After the body mechanical I suffered at Fools Gold, I knew that there was no way I would be attending the PMC even if I wanted to.
Upon returning home from Georgia, I paid a visit to Dr. French of Chiropractic Wellness who discovered that I had a "locked up" L5 and a "twisted and tilted" sacrum. He made some adjustments and sent me on my way. Immediately after my visit I was able to stand straight and the pain was replaced with soreness. I began thinking the PMC was a possibility and toeing the starting line became my goal for the week. My follow up appointment on Thursday was positive but I was still a little out of whack. I felt great Thursday evening but the soreness returned on Friday. If my pre-ride was any indication for how the race would go, it wasn't looking good. My lower back was extremely sore and I was experiencing tightness under my shoulder blades.
The morning of the race was crisp and the weather forecast looked promising. I lined up with my buddy Tom near the front of a large mass of random bikes most of which were cross or road bikes. We had both chosen to race on mountain bikes as that is all we own. With lots of gravel and pavement ahead of us we wondered how we would fair with our slow rolling rigs. Since I don't own many tires, I decided to keep my normal 2.4 Racing Ralph on the front and threw a Stans Crow on the rear.
The start was flat and fast. It only took a few miles for the gravel to turn into an extended climb where Tom and I proceeded to work our way back towards the front of the field. I was able to break away with a group four cross bikes and it wasn't long until we were out of sight. Once we hit the flat section of 1206, I was dropped and spun on solo. I immediately turned around expecting to hitch a ride with the next group but there was no one in site. As luck would have it, one of the three who dropped me popped off the back and he was kind enough to pull me to Yellow Gap. Once we hit the loose descent my huge tires became favorable and I was able to let it rip without too much concern.
Going into this race, I had an idea of how it would play out. This idea involved being towed on the flats, downhills, all of the parkway, and all of 276 to the finish. Yeah.. that would have been ideal but it just didn't work out that way. Once reaching the climb on 5000, I proceeded to be dropped by Isaac who would work himself back up to second place overall... impressive! After chatting with Wes for a few minutes, he fell back on the climb and I found myself alone for the rest of the race. I was passed by Sam (after he flatted twice) and one other guy on the parkway but saw no one else on that long lonely stretch of pavement. The views up there were gorgeous as always. I made sure to take in the scenery and spent plenty of time reminiscing about the how much fun Vanessa and I had bikepacking along this same stretch of road earlier in the year.
Riding on the parkway was tough. The grade of the hills was menacing. It was steep enough where it was straining my back to stay seated and not steep enough to stand. I spent much of that time wishing that the road would turn up so I could get into a good standing rhythm. I spent most of my time on the parkway looking behind me. How could I make it this far into the race without being caught by a huge group of skinny tires? I knew they were coming and was baffled as I made it to the 215 descent with no one in sight. My tires sounded like a monster truck railing the pavement at 40+ mph. With all of the tucking that I had done thus far in the race, I was not too thrilled to be tucking for 7 miles straight. This was by far the most painful part of the race.
As I approached the climb up 475, I caught a glimpse of two riders behind me. At this point, I felt as if I might be doing well in the overall and decided to see if a top 10 was possible. I knew that I had an advantage over the two cross bikes descending 475 and had to put lots of time on them in order to outlast them on the long flat paved finish. Once I reached the flat pavement of 276, I looked back and I was alone. Could I spin/tuck my way to the finish without getting passed? I tried so hard but apparently riding a singlespeed at 30+ mph on a flat is still not enough to hold of two guys on skinny tires working together. With less than two minutes before crossing the finish line, I was caught and passed by these two. I was happy to see that one of these two was the guy who pulled me on 1206 early on in the race. I was also unable to hold off one other solo who made a pass less than 30 seconds from the finish.
As it turned out, I won the singlespeed division with a 4:28 but missed the top 10 in the overall by three spots. I was so close! I tested my back out early on in the race and continued wondering if and when it would lock up on me. It was sore but stayed nice and loose the entire race. I am relieved to hopefully have that little episode behind me.
I can't say enough about any of the races that Eric and Erinna put on. They are always affordable, organized, and unique. Everything from check in, timing, food, atmosphere, and volunteers are top notch when Pisgah Productions are involved. If you haven't had the opportunity to have a Pisgah Productions experience, you are really missing out. Thanks Eric and Erinna!
I would like to thank local Asheville company Endless Bikes for providing me with an array of cogs to keep me guessing what I should run until race day. The 19t proved to just right for 70 miles of gravel and pavement.
Congratulations to my buddy Tom for his 5th place singlespeed finish and to his wife Cheryl for cranking out 70 Pisgah miles on her mountain bike!