It was my 5 days of spring training for 2017 and I thought it would be wise to use the Pisgah Stage Race as the setting, great idea! Yeah, now that it is has come and gone I’m left with one certainty…Pisgah is hard, hard and more hard but fun, fun and more fun! I had been to the Pisg before but it had been a long time and I wasn’t focused on cycling back then. I got an eye-opening experience and then some.
I raced the Single Speed division and it was stacked from top to bottom with an exceptional bunch of misfits at least the bunch I rode and hung out with, which made it a very painfully and rewarding experience. It was perfect for me and it tested me. I suspect it has propelled me forward by a month in my training.
A couple of lessons I learned about the Pisgah for those that decide to venture down to the Pisg for the first time or maybe it has been a while:
- Suspension is your friend
- 32×19 is a bit stiff for 5 days
- Dropper Posts are highly recommended and I will have one next time
- Ride with someone who knows the Pisg
- Don’t take yourself too seriously (have fun) and I did accomplish that mission
I could add a lot more but the picture should be crystal, do your research and there is plenty out there, so know where you are going and have a contingency plan and a buddy with you because you could easily get lost or hurt out there and it is remote. I was fortunate to have a marked course and rode with veterans of the Pisgah Stage Race or Pisgah in general.
The course was a plow fest from the start to the finish. You better be ready to climb and go down and I don’t mean your local downhill. You better be ready to ride down gnarl that had me wishing for a belay line as you catapult down boulder fields and tangles of roots that would make an octopus envious, it will slap you silly. The beauty of the Pisg will reward you with a true back country ride that will slap a smile on your face regardless of the pain you might be temporarily experiencing and believe me more pain is a coming!
A little about the course so that you can get the picture of what 5 days of the Pisgah Stage Race looks like for you data crunchers and planners. At first glance, don’t mistake this for your EKG results, it looks like an up and down affair within a shark’s mouth and it is indeed. Credit: Blue Ridge Adventures for the profile charts below.
Stage 1 – Looking Glass Route
24.71 miles / 39.77 km
4,130 ft / 1258 m elevation gainStage 2 – Promised Land Route
29 miles / 46.5 km
3878 ft / 1182 m elevation gain
Stage 3 – White Squirrel Route (HARD)
29 miles / 46.5 km
5118 ft / 1560 m elevation gain
Stage 4 – Carl Schenck Route (HARDER)
31.5 miles / 50.5 km
4113 ft / 1254 m elevation gain
Stage 5 – The Land of Waterfalls Route
25 miles / 40 km
3186+ ft / 971 m elevation gain
It is a grind but it will reward you with some of the sweetest morsels of ripping this side of the Mississippi along with amazing views. A few routes that stood out to me that I could do over and over with a grin from ear to ear: Stage 1 was a hoot from start to finish except the hike a bike up Daniel Ridge, Squirrel Gap ascent and descent on Stage 2, Black Mountain descent on Stage 3 after barely staying upright on it during Stage 2, Laurel Creek descent and Laurel Mountain Ascent until the ridiculous hike a bike at the top on Stage 4 and the Bracken Mountain flow descent to the finish on Stage 5.
When considering your trip to visit the Pisg rather it be for a bike vacation or to do the Pisgah Stage Race, these venues and resources were bomber for me: Sunset Motel (lodging convenience that caters to cyclists), The Hub (afternoon ale refreshments and food truck delicacies), The Square Root restaurant (dining pleasures and evening chill time), Davidson River (cooling those battered legs) and great weather which we had everyday so I recommend a spring time frame.
My bike shredded and climbed like a beast! It was the first real test for my Lynskey Ti build and the Captain came out with a 5 star crash test certified rating. A few of the pieces that made it a success on the Pisg-gnar: ESI grips kept me from having nerve damage in my hands, Trucker Co tire sealant kept me from having any flats nor did I put air in them one time during the entire race, Maxxis Crossmark tires provided great traction across all surfaces (it was dry), Industry Nine wheels that hooked up while absorbing the pounding of the Pisg, KMC chain that I put out at least 500 lb-ft of torque on those vertical climbs and last but not least some cold hops with classy folks!
A few things that would have made it even more pleasurable: A dropper post would be advisable for you hard-tail lovers like me as it would make the extreme vertical descents so much more ridable, instead of a 32×19 gear setup on the single which I ran every stage for added training bonus (idiot)…a 32×20-21 would be more forgiving on the climbs,
I want to thank my sponsors for their superior support that aided me in my survival: Trucker Co brakes and tire sealant, ESI grips, Kogel bottom brackets, Squirt lube, Twin Six kits, Loaded components and Wolftooth cogs!
In the end, I revisited a terrain that I don’t get exposed to often, especially the technical descending. It was a blast and very rewarding! I’m glad to have been a part of this mayhem. I have done several stage races in sweet spots across the globe and the Pisg is the most challenging technically, so be prepared. I want to thank a certain few individuals that suffered alongside me while hooliganing all along the way. These guys are single speeding machines of madness, cheers to my fellow one-cogging brothers: Dave and Dave, Stephen, Cam and Joe!
Blue Ridge Adventures put on a memorable and delightful stage race experience. Thanks to all of the volunteers that were out there everyday supporting us. The course was marked perfectly. The food and libations were delicious. This is a very affordable race compared to the others out there and Brevard is a very cool town to hang out. I had a great time mingling with all of the racers who were very social and positive. Racers came from all over the world. It was a pleasure getting to know some of them.
Now it is time to focus on endurance racing and I will be stronger having had the Pisg stamp of fitness and beat down etched into my bones. I’m very pleased with my top 5 finish alongside these wily bunch of single speeders. XC racing, I have always found to be a great way to supplement your endurance racing with that extra bit of power and cardio fitness that will kick in during those wee hours of the night when you are battling it out with another crazy and you need that little boost to get you over that mountain top in front!
First, before I get ahead of myself I have to go check all of my wheel and bottom bracket bearings after I went swimming in the creek with my bike on Stage 3, oh yeah!
Cheers and all the best to your 2017 season of ripping and roaring!