Pisgah Stage Race Report by Evan Lang - Stage 4
Pisgah Stage Race Stage Four - Carl Schenck Route (31 miles, 4113 ft elevation)
Stage Four. The Queen Stage. This one is long, hard, and contains the most technical singletrack of any stage in the event. Starting out on the grounds of the original forestry school in the country the race takes to a mostly flat fire road before bottlenecking around a closed gate marking the beginning of the first climb of the day, Funnel Top. Mostly grassy doubletrack, Funnel Top climbs for just over a mile before turning onto Squirrel Gap. This is a section of trail ridden the opposite way on stage two, and is an up and down singletrack with an array of roots and rock moves. At around mile twelve, the trail points downwards, descending Laurel Creek, aptly named for the soggy crossing at the bottom. It is tight, twisting, and super fast. Only a few sketchy moments were had before the bottom, no major events though. After crossing the creek at the bottom, the race course turns onto another fire road and climbs for four miles to the first aid station. Here I refilled my bottle with electrolyte drink and prepped mentally for the next section of the race. Laurel Mountain trail is a ten mile singletrack climb with a nice quarter mile hike-a-bike at the top. This is the kind of trail that you can set a tempo and hammer out until the top, but there is no rest or recovery unless you steal it while hauling yourself and bike up the hiking section. The top of this mountain is around 4,800 feet in elevation and also marks the beginning of the Stage Four enduro down Pilot Rock. Pilot is a two and a quarter mile long descent with rocky switchbacks, rhododendron tunnels, rock gardens, roots, and hecklers, that descends nearly 1,400 feet. It it's brutal, it is loose, and it is fast. I had been looking forward to this enduro, and with only four seconds to make up to seat myself in the top five enduro classification I set out to race the descent. Getting loose in one left-handed switchback, my front wheel pushed a large rock off the trail and my wheel went with it. This was my first crash. Recovering from it as quickly as possible, I got back on course and back up to speed. I was on a good run, hitting all my lines and carrying good speed through the turns. On the approach to the longest rock garden, and heckle pit, I could hear someone yell "holy crap that's fast!" Not one moment later I found myself headed into a boulder on the right of the trail. This was my second crash. Assessing the bike to ensure it was is operating condition, I noticed the chain had dropped. Quickly slipping the chain back on, I found the culprit to the wreck: a stick in the fork. It is never a good feeling to get anything wrapped up in the stanchion of a suspension fork, and fortunately my mud guard had taken all the damage by fracturing into pieces. Recovering once again, I remounted the bike and continued to smash out the remainder of the enduro. The finish of the enduro stage was a gravel climb on the final fire road of the day, and I gave it my all into the finish. I did not know how much time I'd lost with both incidents, just that when I was rolling I was rolling fast. This left just a few more miles in the stage, all on fire road. Giving everything I had left in my body, I hammered all the way into the finish. On the day I finished twelfth again, maintaining that position overall. Same story to teammate Charlie, seventh on the day and seventh in GC. Managed to hold it together enough in the enduro to finish third, just two seconds ahead of Charlie, in fourth. This was enough if an effort to vault me into fourth in the enduro classification, with tomorrow's Bracken enduro to prove a true test.