Temperature: 60-80 degrees F
I awoke in good spirits and with happy legs. I had plenty of time to think about how to go out on this stage. Barring some sort of bike and/or body catastrophe from Amanda and Sue, I realized that I was not going to win this thing and that was o.k. I want to win based on my performance and not because my competition ran into misfortune. As long as I finished, I would earn back my entry fee. So, with that in mind, today and subsequent stages were all about racing my shadow.
The start involved a shuttle to Kuykendall campground. While waiting on the others to arrive I warmed up. Thom P. interviewed me and below is my 90 seconds of fame ... ah, the life of a semi- pseudo mountain bike pro.
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The start involved more running along with 1 somersault between the orange cones. I think I bruised my kidney with my tire pump that was in my jersey pocket. I have not done a somersault since 3rd grade! I am going to have to practice up for the Swank. I was headed up to Farlow Gap, but to get there would involve a 12 mile climb, 11 of that being on gravel. The forest service was nice enough to have just graded and graveled 6 miles of it so instead of asphalt-fast, it was loose and soft.
Farlow was fun; I made it most of the way down the rock chute, but decided I liked my teeth more than my ability to negotiate the 26" holes that dared to swallow my front wheel. Anyways, it was just about as fast skirting down some of that stuff. It was pretty much ride a bit, walk a bit for the first half. A couple sections were even difficult to walk down ... they were potential ankle-breakers. Once I got past the short uphill hike-a-bike, the remainder was fast and fun, well, all but the steps and last creek crossing.
A short ride on Daniel's Ridge followed by a long haul on FS225, which I have named "Mystery Ridge." So overgrown, I could not see more than 5-10 yards in front of me, so I kept it light on the front end and brakes. Luckily there were no downed trees or large rocks to catapult me off into the briars.
Cove Creek was a flowy fast descent. Hoo-whee! I was smiling so much I think I got a couple bugs in my teeth. After that was the short but steep connector to Daniel Ridge ... ouch! The Daniel Ridge descent was fun, but a bit tricky as it was overgrown. There were a couple of deep washed out areas that were hidden by the weeds. Rolling down to aid station 2, I refueled and headed over and made short work of the Davidson River Trail.
The climb up 475B was longer than expected. Just when it leveled out and I thought I was at the top ... it pitched up again. It tricked me this way several times. I also expected a longer leg-resting descent, but was surprisingly disappointed that it was only about 3/4 mile long. More climbing on Hwy 276 and some more gravel leading to Club Gap.
Turning onto Club Gap, the volunteers at the aid station asked if I needed anything to which I replied, "Do you have any sherpas?" Some chuckling ensued as I began the steep 1 mile climb up to Black Mountain. Both the body and conditions were much better than last year and I was able to clean the climb, albeit at what seemed like a snail's pace.
This new to me section of Black Mountain was fun once I got passed the hiking/pushing portion. Then I hit FS 5058 to FS 5022. That last push up 5022 hurt. Those false flats were misleading. The 3 mile climb was about a mile longer than I expected. No expletives, but I think there was one, "Ah, come on, where is the top!"
I was a minute faster down the last portion of Black Mountain. Rolling through the finish line all smiles once again. Even seeing Amanda in civies already did not sway my attitude. I met my little mini-goals for the day, I was having a blast riding in the Forest, and I realized that I was in the best shape of my life. What more could I ask for?
|Climbing Black Mountain was a mix of riding/hiking.|