Pisgah Stage Race Report by Evan Lang - Stage 3
Pisgah Stage Race Stage Three - White Squirrel Route (29.5 miles, 5118 ft elevation)
The third stage of the Pisgah Stage Race is the day with the most climbing. It begins with a short cross country style opening loop to separate the field before starting the first climb of the day, Black Mountain. Straight out of the gate the race was on and the selections were made around halfway through the loop as the front group rode away. Circling back through the start finish with two other riders I knew it was going to be a tough stage. Both were on hardtail bikes and set a blistering fast pace up the climb. It wasn't long before I found myself riding solo, making mashed potatoes as far up the mountain as I could. The top portion was littered with roots and a steep gradient making it another hike-a-bike. This was the first of two hikes for the day. Cresting the mountain led to a gnarly singletrack descent opening up to grassy doubletrack before turning into a fire road climb up to Buckhorn Gap. The descent down the Buckhorn Gap trail was fast, loose, and I let it rip into the first aid station. Having been set with fluids and food, again I opted not to stop, so I instead began the nearly six mile climb up to the top of the Avery Creek trail. Towards the top came hike-a-bike number two. The Stage Three enduro went down the aforementioned Avery Creek trail which up top is littered with roots, drops, baby head sized rocks, and drainage channels. Getting a bit off line, my rear wheel had an interaction with one of the larger geological features and punctured the tire. Riding the rest of the endure on a slowly deflating rear is not confidence inspiring, but I only let up enough to preserve the integrity of my rim. After the enduro finished is when the tire went fully flat which was no problem due to the rapidly approaching second aid station (actually the same station as before, but the exit was a left turn into the descending gravel fire road). Here I popped a tube in the rear, filled my bottle while waiting and hopped back on to make up as much time as possible. There was only one more climb to go up the backside of Black Mountain, and then descending it into the finished. Burying myself, I managed to make it into the finish without losing too much time. The results of the day were pretty good. Charlie crushed the enduro with third place while I came in eight seconds slower for fourth place. For that competition Charlie is sitting in eighth with me two spots ahead in sixth, just a handful of seconds from fifth place. In general classification I retained my twelfth overall, and Charlie kept his position in seventh overall.
As for the duo squad Gordon and Elliott: they've been smashing it out each stage buying themselves a huge advantage on the second place team. They have been found at the top of the podium each day.
Two more stages left! Let's see what we can do!