I woke up to a familiar sound. A sound I heard in Brevard, NC in the Pisgah Forest just a week ago. The pitter patter of rain. This time, I didn’t let it eclipse my enthusiasm. I tried to get everyone else in Eagle Lodge fired up about the weather – that it was going to be fun and we’d get some great muddy photos. It had been raining all night. Fortunately for us, Stage 3 features more dirt roads than slippery, treacherous singletrack.
Love the finish line shots at 3min
I had a pretty good start and entered the singletrack in 4th place after chasing hard on the road. I made the rookie mistake of wearing my mountain waterproof jacket. It’s perfect for high alpine riding in the rain because it saves your life. In warmer climates, it’s WAY too hot. I need to invest in a lighter rain jacket. I had the thing unzipped and it was flapping behind me in the wind, and the hood was catching air too! I was roasting as we entered the singletrack descent and my clear lenses fogged up so badly I could hardly see the trail. I was riding too slow and pulled over to get my glasses off my head. A couple NoTubes ladies went by just as I pulled over. By the time I dumped out on the next road section, the women had grouped together about 100yds up the road with about 5 guys. I rode into the headwind alone with my jacket flapping behind me. I decided to get the thing off. I’m not very good at removing clothes while riding my bike, but I managed to get out of my rain coat and shove it in my already full jersey pockets. I chased as hard as I could to close the gap for about 4 miles. The group was charging forward. I was mad at myself that I was just off the back and working so hard in the wind by myself but I did not give up. It paid off and I caught back onto the group. After that, it was easy to stay there, even in the singletrack sections. My lack of roadie experience kicked in. I felt strong, but I didn’t know what to do. It looked like people were working a bit harder than me, but given how I rode the day before, I did not want to risk attacking and cracking like I did in Stage 2. I chose the conservative route and rode with the group taking some sizeable pulls at the front.
As we got closer to the finish, someone finally attacked. I had just taken a pull and could not counter. Half of us got dropped and 3 ladies charged away up the climb. Sarah Kaufman was struggling a bit. I decided I was going to pull her back up to the group. Andrea and Sarah jumped on my wheel and I turned myself inside out to catch back on. Just as we caught back on, the course took a more difficult turn for a steep, soggy doubletrack climb. I was absolutely blown and tried to pedal circles. It dumped back out on the road and I saw Andrea and Sarah had been dropped again. We rode together. The last enduro section was coming up. Sarah and Andrea are both better descenders on east coast trails compared to me, so I got out of the way so they could ride the DH. They didn’t beat me by much. I saw them just ahead as I exited the singletrack. Andrea took off. I chased after and gapped Sarah at the end. She was having a tough day. I took 5th for the day. It was exciting because we all finished within minutes of each other. In hindsight, I wished I had tried to attack the group to see what would have happened, but I still don’t know if that would have been the right choice given how I felt the day before! Roadie tactics – it would have helped to have some experience. I haven’t done a road race since 2006!