Sunday, April 29, 2012

Looking back / Looking forward to TSE

Teaching in the environmental education field has allowed this former State College “local” to ride and race in some pretty spectacular sections of the country over the past year and a half. Last spring, I was surprised by all the good riding in the Hill Country around Austin, Texas. That summer I acclimated to the altitude of Colorado and was blown away by all the legendary singletrack. Now I’m in the North Georgia mountains, finding great riding, but with TSE on the horizon, instead of GA, I have Rothrock on my mind.

I’m here in Toccoa, which in Cherokee means “beautiful”, and sure, if you head to the hills outside of town where I live and work, this can still be considered true. A regular day involves leading 5th graders through the woods for most of the day and regularly into the night. Endurance training of a different sort.  Afterwards, while my coworkers head back to our shared house, crack some cold ones, and decompress like sane, hardworking people do, I grab my cygolite, throw on some riding clothes and hit the trails we teach on and the nearby, gated forest service road.

As I climb up the steep pitches of Lee Mtn road, kicking up crepuscular critters here and there, I imagine that I’m climbing Kettle road, the soul crushing wall early on in the Cooper’s Gap Stage 2. Taking the secret trail back down, I picture myself dropping Pig Pile, later in that stage, enjoying the speed and trying not the think of the slog of the imminent, deceptively named Flat Road.

On my days off I get out to nearby Lake Russell WMA for some gravel grinders on its beehive network of dirt roads and multi-use trails. The roads are reminiscent of Rothrock but the trails lack all the glorious rock of stretches like John Wert or Tussey Ridge (sweet, sweet Stage 6…). A little further South lies Paynes Creek, a lake-side loop designed and built in conjunction with IMBA. As I look out over Lake Hartwell, across to neighboring South Carolina, I pretend I’m looking at Raystown Lake, ripping it up on the Allegrippis trails. And though revenge is best served cold, I’m sure Rays Revenge will be flowing just fine in the heat of May during Stage 4.

Yea, there’s been some racing to get ready for TSE too. Early on in my move to Georgia, I took on Iron Cross’s confederate, trail-less cousin: Southern Cross. It more or less served as a long winter training ride and a reminder that hey, there’s some elevation ‘round these parts. This month I’ll find out if all those mild-winter base miles are worth anything out at the NUE series opener, the Cohutta 100.

I got hooked on riding on the back roads of Central PA and the bad-ass trails of Rothrock and I can’t wait to get back there to test my mettle in the Epic.  And you best believe I’ll be downstairs at Zeno’s Wednesday night for bluegrass!

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