Stage 1 Prologue - Bald Eagle
"Woah! It can't be this fast all week..." I thought. Dejay caught and passed me just outside of the camp. He started only 30seconds behind me in this 11ish mile time trail to start the week. I told myself I'd hold him off until then. It unfolded as a week of miniature goals just like this. Racing 101 folks...I guess. What the hell do I know.
It was a long road until the second fun single track bits and pieces, with a good bit of downhill that gave me some valuable intel for the rest of the week. Dicky, who also caught me, starting a minute back and bringing up the rear of the single speeders, can't descend worth a damn. He's small man. Big personality... but that doesn't help your momentum downhill. Hm. Good to know. I tucked that info away for later.
I had no idea what to expect. We were in the camp side of things, Bald Eagle (pronounced Bal-daegle round them parts) and I wasn't familiar with the trails. Plus we were heading onto private trails, so who knows what'd we'd be hitting. Not to worry. It did not disappoint.
Dicky took the hole shot. We were pulling Steven who we we just passed, the Texas contingent of the small ss crew. I think it's fair to say that none of us really knew each other's ability. Having worked at a Niner dealer, I knew of Dejay and figured he'd be dominating, but the other four of us were wild cards in my mind. So like the trails, I didn't want to disappoint.
I kept on it.
Swooping, serpentine singletrack through trees and ferns, not far off of Decker Valley Rd. Up a rooty, rocky jolt of a hill, Dicky slipped out and I cleared it to pass him. I knew it was a long week ahead, but what little competitive burn I had in me got stoked at that moment. I couldn't let him roll in before me. "Well shit....didn't I tell myself that I just wanted to finish the week? That's my goal". A voice said in the back of my mind. "Screw it!....New Plan". Race on.
We burst into a Pennsyl-tucky backwoods party, complete with people cheering, logs and giant tractor tires to ride over, and a grin from ear to ear that returned to my face every single stage. Well done Mike and Ray. Well done.
The fun and games were short lived sadly. I kept ahead of the other two and passed Chris Merriam before the long climb out of there. I was in second place now...but not really, since we all started at different times. It was beautiful, with a dense carpet of ferns all around. It seemed to get rockier the higher we got up the low ridge, but never too steep.
A quick drop onto more road, then more trail. I knew I rode these trails before, but couldn't remember when. Some group ride years ago probably. Fun. Was glad to be back.
I stuffed it up a little rocky climb, caught a rock or something, looked back, got back on and kept pushin'. No one was in sight. In this little crash something clicked on too. I had to ride smooth the rest of the week. At least try. I didn't want to get hurt.
Passing geared riders here and there, looking back when I could, I ended up on more familiar terrain, seen towards the end of the W101. Not far now.
Up a really steep stretch of the sand and rock motorcross trail, I got off to jog/walk myself up. As I was about to crest the hill I looked down to see Dicky digging in, attacking the hill at full speed.
No time to relax.
I stayed ahead, passing geared riders as quick as possible to get them between me and my competition. Luckily there was a nice fire road descent to help me pull away. He fought back on though and through the slop of a trail back into camp, I think he was right behind. I couldn't bare to look back at that point.
Pulled in ahead of him and was stunned. This was not at all what I expected the week to be like. I haven't raced like that, since....I don't know when. I knew it didn't mean much. Since he started a minute behind, his finishing time was still ahead of mine. But it set the stage (and podium) for the week to come; by no means in terms of speed, but in terms of my place in the race. 3rd.
Stage 2 - Cooper's Gap
"Not the tree, not the TREE!! Here goes my race!"
I started Day 2 excited to head into Cooper's Gap. Rocky riding gems in that neck of the woods. It wasn't long into the race before the rocks really welcomed me back. By throwing me off my bike and taking a square foot of skin off of me.
Dropping Stillhouse, at about the time I could achieve maximum speed, somehow the bike race turned into a rodeo and I was trying to hold on as long as I could, then land as softly as possible and not get run over by the stampede still behind me. It happened so fast, I honestly don't know what happened. I got up, tried to breath again, and take a quick assessment. By the looks of things I had myself a new right elbow, I tasted blood, and the bike was intact. Good enough. Saddle up and roll on Buckaroo. Maybe this ride won't be so fun after all.
Before I got down and out towards Milroy, I passed Chris who seemed to be having tire troubles. No worries, I'm sure he'll catch up. Then I either caught up to Steven or he caught me and we rolled back into the woods together, shootin' the shit, allowing myself to not worry about the injuries I just sustained and try to enjoy the rest of the day.
No Name trail laid ahead, with miles of glorious rock gardens beyond. The week prior I cut some logs on No Name, so I knew exactly what to expect: Walking. Just a line of "riders" pushing their bikes up the mountain, click clacking their hard soled shoes on the rocks. No one in much of a hurry. Gettin' antsy, ahead of Steven at this point, I saddled up and rode the last thirty feet up and onto Beautiful trail. Didn't see any single speeder's after that.
The trails weren't too wet, but what mud there was got pulled up over the rocks making it difficult to blast through them like normal. This became very apparent on the Sassafras-Pigpile connector; slipping out all over the place. I was pretty beat up from the crash, so I lacked the small amounts of finesse I could sometimes muster.
All in all, beyond the crash, it was a pretty uneventful day. Somehow I stayed ahead though and got third on the day, but lost a ton of time in the overall.