I pulled into Suspension Experts this morning to ask them to take a look at a scratch on my stanchion. Less than an hour later, I was pulling out, feeling very confident that my fork will not be failing on me anytime soon. Turn around is not always lightning fast, but when it is, it is, and I'm grateful. All of the stage racers should go by the shop and leave their suspension on the way out of town, it needs to be overhauled!
I took the parkway to the start in N Mills River and was glad I did. I rounded a bend on the gravel road and caught sight of a bobcat meandering across in front of me. Freakin' cool, the day was already successful.
We lined up and took off. I decided to hold a fast pace up the first gravel climb and into the single track, then when we went into the woods, I backed off and settled into my endurance pace which I was able to hold for then entire race. Up Spencer Branch, down Spencer Gap, up Middle Fork and a right turn on Neverending road. I knew from last year and looking at the map that we were supposed to take Fletcher Creek Trail, but when I got there, there was a "Wrong Way" sign and tape further up the road. I played it safe, thinking that the trail might possibly be impassible. It turns out it was mis-marked and a lot of people missed out on some really fun trail.
All the way down neverending road, through Trace Parking and then the loop down through N Mills River Campground, eventually coming back to Trace Ridge Parking area. I got my water bottled filled with Coke and started the climb. I was having trouble at this point keeping my head in the game and just focused on walking up stuff I have ridden up before. I figured with 80 miles left in the week, it would not hurt to conserve a bit today. I was also starting to get a little bit overheated, and knew what zone I had to keep it in, so I did.
My friend and competitor from last year, Jason Luque, caught me near the top and I followed him down Spencer Branch to the gravel road where we traded pulls to the finish. A quick dip in the creek, home by the time the kid got off the bus, White Duck Tacos for dinner, a massage and now its time for bed.
I placed 5th for today, and am in 5th overall. I have no idea who the guys in 4th and 6th are which is probably good, I won't keep looking over my shoulder for them.
Two more days, and 81 miles to go.
The temps are warming up, and with the way I overheat, I decided to pull out a secret weapon:
Tomorrow, Stage 4!