How was the course?
Oh man. Amazing. This is the premiere gravel race for the southeast (I know it’s really at MTB race but whatever). The course has everything. The beginning single track section is smooth and flowy with just enough rocks, roots and elevation to make it interesting. After that it’s well groomed forest service roads – gravel with some nice elevation – very fast. Hit Husky Mt Road/607 and the elevation really starts. This section had some very loose fresh gravel so climbing standing was very difficult and generally a waste of energy as my rear wheel kept slipping. Some very nice views and then I’m at the aid station. From here the Skyway starts and it is mind-blowing. Rocky, rutted and with sections of huge lane-wide mud puddles at the top. And the rocks, rocks are everywhere. Loose rocks, embedded rocks, rocks flying around from my tires. Tiny pea sized rocks to rocks the size of a car tire. The worst are the softball sized ones that pop up at the bottom of a deep rut. I’ve never seen anything like this road – it was really cool.
I guess if I was going to sum it up, fast single track, fast gravel roads, super technical climbing rocky dirt road, super technical descending rocky dirt road, fast gravel, fast single track. It was a little wet as the area had 2-3 inches of rain in the span of a few hours 3 days before the ride but overall it was dry.
What did you ride?
Charge Cooker Hi 29er converted to 9 speed and drop bars. The bike was great but my seatpost slipped at somepoint descending the Skyway and I came back almost 1.5cm lower – it didn’t cause any problems I guess.
I’m not happy with my current tire choice. Continental Race King 2.2 in the rear and Michelin Wild Race’r in the front. The rear is ok but a little too narrow for the rocks and the front is too aggressive under hard cornering. It’s a classic MTB tire in that it was designed for 17mm wide rims and when mounted on a wider rim and ridden aggressively tends to give moderate traction until the side knobs hit and then it’s instant grab that makes the front dive into a hard decreasing radius turn. Oh well the tires were fine, just not ideal. Next year I want to go tubeless with at least 2.3 width.
Worked so well I hardly thought about it. Ran the 26 ring exclusively on the single track and switched as needed on the gravel. 39/26 with 11-34 9 speed. Had more than enough gear for the climbing.
What’d you eat?
So much caffeine. In order:
- chocolate brownie clif bar
- 7.5 ounce coke at aid station
- power bar
- 2 fun size snickers at aid station
- mint clif bar with caffeine
- 7.5 ounce coke at aid station
I had a lot of caffeine but not enough food – could defnitely tell at the end as I was getting frustrated. I should have eaten another clif bar as I rode the entire singletrack (45 minutes) without eating. I didn’t have an appetite but I need to power through that and put something into my stomach.
How was the week leading up to the race?
Boring – but I’ve been having lower back issues so I’ve been aggressive resting, stretching and monitoring my back. It seemed to work ok. During the race whenever the course was clear and open I would stretch my calves, my shoulders and arms and move around a bit. My back was borderline hurting for the first half but after that it was fine. The last section of singletrack I had no pain. Part was probably the accidental lower saddle height and part was the stretching.
Where’d you start?
I was really nervous about getting stuck behind someone on the single track as well as being the slow one in front of fast people on the single track since I was the only person on a drop-bar MTB. So I equivocated and just kind of fell in at the start – at the middle-end. This was a dumb choice as I got stuck behind two riders wearing peachtree bikes kit that lacked the technical skills to ride the single track at a fast speed. Braking for every corner, no flow, won’t pass etc. It sucked but I guess it was a good 20-25 minute warm-up. I blasted by them at the first dam, passed another rider and then I’m ok. The other people I passed during the race I would have passed no matter when I started, the people ahead of me I would never have caught. So I guess my start position didn’t really matter. I’m like the fastest slow guy or the slowest fast guy – always.
How’d you do?
Uh…like 5th or 6th open male, 10th or 11th overall? I think this is one of those races where if you didn’t come in top 3 you don’t really get a result. My time was 6:01 something, I was pretty happy. 7/11 open men, so not bad I guess.
I did think this was interesting.