Monday, February 09, 2009


Tecnically speaking, I'm sure there are things that are more horrible. There is, after all, Celine Dion. And Edmonton. But in terms of being on the bike, this was most definitely a nightmarish proposition. Six consecutive stages in 36 hours is bad enough. But as if to kick you in the balls once more, they make you miss two nights of sleep by starting the race at midnight. Race organizer Eric Wever seems like a decent guy at first blush. He loves to ride. He puts on free races and even supplies the beer and chili. But that is all bluff. In reality, he is a vile and despicable man who delights in watching people slowly and inevitably come to pieces. He hit us hard from the start with a monster of a lap that was punctuated by sending us up one of the nastiest descents in the forest. This meant an hour-long hike a bike scramble up to 4200 ft., hauling our bikes over rocks and downed trees. Having made it clear that he wasn't joking around when he said "horrible," it was like he looped the tape, pressed play and let it go all night long. And then another night. And another half a day.

Our hope going in was simply to finish. This we'd hoped to achieve by banking time for sleep on some of the adventure race stages where you only have to get one mandatory checkpoint out of a possible six. Stage two was like that. But by the time we got our one checkpoint and picked up a second one on the way back to the campsite, we'd done a few more hour-long climbs and logged another 7 hours on the bike.

After about 12 hours of reciting What Would Lindsay Do? faint whispers of We Are Exactly What We Are elbowed their way past my crippled resolve and into my increasingly fading consciousness. By the time we began the final climb of the stage that faint whisper had turned into a rousing chorus, complete with the secretary's signature falsetto. When it became clear that we could not possibly finish 6 of those stages in 36 hours, the lure of beer, a campfire, and sleep was too powerful. We pulled the plug at 3pm after two stages, having spent 13 hours on the bike, covering 130 kms, and climbing over 10,000 ft. That Alex's heart refused to go over 110 beats per minuted did not help our collective morale. Being told that we'd be in third place on the road if we kept going enticed me enough to pose the question of whether we should try one more stage. But Alex would have none of that. He muttered something about never having really believed in the concept of this race from the start. He was clearly determined not to be further violated by letting himself be a part of Eric's evil fantasies. Or maybe that was his way of saying "I'm tired of waiting for you at the bottom of all the descents." Either way, we were done. Sorry Lindsay. We are exactly what we are. We are not heroes.

After being entertained around the fire by the local cycling celebrity known as Team Dicky, we dragged ourselves into the tent and slept for 14 hours. Just like almost everyone else. Of 29 starters, only 3 were willing to soldier on through a second night. Another team managed to get themselves started again after some sleep and managed to get back into contention. A few others got going again too, but by this point they were facing too much of a time deficit to have a chance at finishing and were not so much racing as riding. We elected neither to race nor to ride. Instead we went hiking.

Once again, nobody finished the race as it was originally envisioned. But ever the cunning devil, our sadistic race director quickly changed tack. He reloaded his trap with fresh bait by shortening the race from 6 stages to 5 and granting an extra two hours to finish. This was enough to seduce five racers into "finishing." Their souls are no doubt burning in hell right now. The top finisher was actually the guy Alex usually rides with in these races. He logged 283 kms and climbed over 22,000 ft. in about 37.5 hours!

How hard was it? Alex and Dave did Trans Rockies this year. After finishing the first two stages, they said each of them was comparable to a single TR stage. Which led to the analogy that we were being asked to complete the entire TR stage race in a single extended race. Or, for Jonny G and Johnny S, I'd say the first stage would be comparable to our second day at Moab if we'd done it three times in a row. Red Ass? It's like a Wednesday Night Race compared to this.

Would I try it again? Yes. Am I relieved that I'm moving away and won't be able to make good on that claim? Yes.

Taken in more reasonable doses, Pisgah is a super sweet place to ride. Unfortunately, I don't have the pictures to back that up. But here are a handful. You can find better pictures and plenty of post-race chatter here, here and here.

The winner, Dave Anderson (with evil Eric smiling on the left).


PaddyH said...

2009/10 is shaping up to be the mega road trip year...thanks for further selling me on this event, sorry you guys didn't make it further, sounds like it was epic noetheless!

The Dark Lord said...

This is exactly your kind of event. Awesome riding and a great atmosphere. Somehow a perfect blend of low key and hard core. Lots of SS'ers out on the trails too--though none of them finished even the shortened version. If it's at all possible, you should do it. But one thing you will need is a partner who can get you through the forest. Think of it as a messenger race in a forest. Half of those intersections are unmarked. If I was on my own, I'd have had to haul out the map every few minutes. I could probably help you find a partner. That one limitation is the only thing holding Eric's races back from being huge. Still, the Pisgah Mountain Bike Adventure Race does sell out every year with 75 two-person teams. But they're almost all locals.

PaddyH said...

yeah, huge is good sometimes, but not all the time, sometimes, an epic throwdown works...and they seem to be getting popular

halloewen said...

good effort given, what one gathers from reading about these events are the extreme difficulty that they present to each team that enters. i wonder if they are only doable if you happen to plan the correct strategy and have a back hand knowledge of the terrain. glad you had the opportunity to try it.

looking forward to riding some of those same trails