Where y’all from? (with a southern accent) was the most popular question of the weekend. Spent this past weekend at the beautiful Sugar Mountain of North Carolina for the NMBS #5 race. After a long day of flying we arrived in Charlotte, NC, met up with Catherine and Kona rider Kris Sneddon (who was left without a ride) and proceeded to stuff three people, three bike boxes and all of our luggage into a rather small Jeep Commander. Those things look enormous from the outside, but it’s all an illusion. There was definitely an art in that packing job, and when the rental agent came back outside he just looked into the truck in complete disbelief, ‘I can’t believe y’all got that in there’….hehe. Our directions to Sugar Mountain weren’t spectacular, and we ended up taking a dark, foggy tour up the really steep and windy Beech Mountain, I imagine in the day time it’d be an amazing view. We finally managed to track down the huge ‘Kona’ house around midnight, nothing like a 16 hour travel day. We ended trading Kris his ride for a nights accommodation at there place, where there just happened to be two spare queen sized bed, thanks to Wendy Simms for her flight being late.
The course left something to be desired and was definitely not suited to me. Each lap started off climbing straight up the ski run on wet muddy grass, then continued climbing on open gravel and pavement roads for about a half an hour. The whole climb, you only ran into two small single track sections, the rest was just an open grind. Once you crested the summit, which was actually the very top of the ski hill, you finally got to the good stuff. The decent was really technical with lots of greasy rocks and roots, which would definitely lay claim to a lot of skin in the race. During the pre-ride I definitely struggled and fought with my bike the whole way through these sections, and the mud was treacherous and I re-tried numerous sections. With about a km and a half of decent left, we popped out onto the ski run again, and finished up with a full speed, open downhill sprint. During my second pre-ride lap in the rain, I managed to survive the gross technical rocky section only to lay it down in front of a large crowd on the slick grass (wasn’t very good for my already sore back).
Race day, the weather held out, and the course was in excellent shape for our three laps. Off the start, Georgia Gould and Catherine attacked, and the entire pack was strung out up the entire climb. I settled in and found myself riding with Wendy in about 14th position. She had more gas near the top and dropped me on the last pavement climb. I road the downhill a little sketchy, had some good saves and had to run a couple of sections, same as everyone around me. Going into the second lap, I could still see Wendy within about 25 m from me, and again near the top she had more gas and increased the gap. Near the top, I was passed by a Kenda rider and I followed her for the climb in the third lap. Half way up the last lap, a Cannondale rider past me, but I was able to react and hold her wheel till the top of the climb. She beat me into the single track, but I nailed the last decent and past both her and the Kenda rider..yippee. Finished in 13th place, and really sore from all the climbing. Catherine finished in third, being nipped by Willow Koerber in the last lap, for her first NMBS podium.
Sunday morning, got up early and went for a coffee shop spin…mmmmmm, coffee. The short track race wasn’t until 3pm, so spent the day relaxing and stretching. With a pretty good climb in the course, this was one of the most difficult ST courses that I’ve ridden in a while. Started off great, passed a lot of girls right away, but the climb killed me and I started blowing up after about 18mins, and lost two spots. I could see the leaders putting a large gap on the field, and with 2 laps to go I got pulled in 15th place. Although I was really disappointed with not finishing, my body was pretty happy with shortened race. Note for next year…practice climbing