imageAfter such a fun race last year and being so frustratingly close to rewriting the single speed playbook, I had to take one last crack at the Pisgah Stage Race. Being its my fifth PMBSR I am dubbing this one the VAN-detta!
The first year was a tease when we all braved ridiculous conditions and punishingly hard stages and I finished fourth overall just off the podium. The following year, I came back with vengeance only to break my cleat off on the first stage. I took a few years off then crashed out on the fourth stage two years ago. Last year, I blew the chance to show that single speeds don’t have to be hardtails to win when I didn’t fully test my tensioner setup and gave up an hour on the hideously muddy second stage.

16 Pisgah day 1This year I hope to get payback on the unforgiving rocks and roots riding my sweet Ibis HD3. I learned a lot last year and today my bike performed flawlessly–gobbling up the Pisgah gnar like it was a Chinese buffet. In fact, today’s stage wasn’t even enough to really utilize such a beast of a bike, but that will change as we ride deeper into the forest as the week carries on. I had jet legs as the stage began, and found myself mired in traffic as we started up Daniel Ridge.

Unfortunately all the fellas ahead of me wanted to make sure their granny gears were working. This is always frustrating to those of use who choose one speed because we require flow and momentum to clean the technical sections. At the top, the first endurbro section began and I rolled into it right on the wheel of a slower rider. I worked through some traffic, but it definitely wasn’t my best effort. I wasn’t surprised when the second place single speed rider caught me at the top of the next big climb.

I dug in and held his wheel eventually rolling back past him with the help of my 150mm of suspension on the gravel road descent. Leading into the next double track climb, I stayed even and then quickly opened a big hole as I effortlessly rolled down Butter Gap despite the slimy roots and rocks that give it said name. That lead held until the top of the final road climb and again my adversary came by. He immediately attacked looking for a gap going into the final downhill to the finish on the Cove Creek trail.

imageI held on and slipped by as we left the road. This trail never seems to play well for me as it tempts pedaling and momentum only to snatch it away with short punches and corrugated roots. There are several rickety log bridges that normally slow me down, but I felt like a snail crossing them this year coming off my leg injury. My knee is still incredibly unstable especially on uneven slippery surfaces. Despite their awesomeness, my Diadora carbon soled shoes do not help instill added confidence. Instead, each time the cushion would close only to open again as we got back on our bikes. In the end, I squeaked out a few seconds gap at the finish to win the stage.

It is undoubtably the least favorable stage for me and my paltry performance today makes it even sweeter to escape with victory in such a closely contested affair. Now there is no time to celebrate though. I’ll try to recover and make sure tomorrow is even better than today!

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