Bike: Turner Sultan with 130mm of travel. A bit slack and a bit heavy at 28 lbs but it climbs like no other and descends just as fast. I truly love this bike. It’s very forgiving in Pisgah and with long rides this is key.
This race was a blast as I am still adjusting to this type of racing style and I knew the course well so I had a great time and a great result for my girlfriend
This season has been rough as I have had some big nutrition issues and overtraining symptoms that has really limited my ability. Thanks to Taft Draper LD I’m getting back to where I need to be. I saw Billy and JD and was stoked as it’s always more fun to have familiar faces at these races. I knew the course and was prepared, but I asked them for tips as they both have done this race before.
Basically it was a long fire road climb at the beginning which eventually turned to singletrack up to Star Gap. Then down lower Heartbreak and over to Kitsuma on the fire road. Down Kitsuma and back to Old Fort.
We lined up at the start and I was a bit nervous but kept telling myself that this was my first year and to just chill out and and have fun. The gun went off and immediately Ian Baldwin was at the front which was bad because he is faaaaast. The police did the lead out on the road until the fire road and then the pace blew up. Immediately there was a group of 7 of us. The two leaders, Ian and I, a few guys that rode for Specialized Regional team, and another I used to race against in XC. Ian did an amazing job with pace as it was steady and not panicky as we weaved up the fire road. Two leaders broke off about half way through. They looked back as if to say “that’s it?” Then gone. Ian and I were leading the rest up and down the fire road until it pitched upward for a while. I put in a small attack and Ian joined and that was enough to drop the rest. Ian and I stayed together for the ENTIRE race.
We began the climb off the fire road up to Star Gap. It’s a tight and twisty climb with a lot of switch backs with some much too tight for me to ride. I had no idea what this race was going to be like with Ian. I just wanted to hold on. I was feeling pretty good at this point as I cracked jokes with Ian. Once we reached Star Gap I could tell that no one was chasing which was relaxing. We descended lower Heartbreak surprisingly slow as I stood on Ian’s wheel. I’m not sure if I have gotten faster or he has gotten slower but it felt slow. We hooped and hollered down the final tight switch back and on to the fire road and picked up the pace.
Race officials kept telling us that we were only 8min back and that we could catch them – screw that. When we hit Kitsuma I bonked HARD. I had no legs suddenly and became frustrated and angry. I went into survival mode and spun up Kitsuma in hopes of not getting passed. On the way down I was okay and became excited as I saw Ian ahead. I caught him! No idea how but I was back on his wheel again as we hit the road back to Old Fort. I was thinking about sprinting him for 3rd but thought better as he worked much harder then me. I let him take 3rd. Some how I got 3rd in open class, not sure how, but a podium is a podium. Overall, I finished 4th at 2hrs 9min. I am stoked to say the least and my girlfriend was just as happy. A great ride!