By: Cary Smith
Today’s stages were advertised to be steep and they didn’t disappoint. I rode the steepest trails I’ve ever ridden on Monday. And today’s were steeper.
And getting there was no more mellow. After shuttling to the paragliding launch at the top of Mt. Seven, we hiked up a class 4 ridge to a separate summit. From there, we dropped a couple thousand feet through the woods...straight down. Some of the chutes were a simple rutted affair while others were littered with roots and rocks. I came off a couple times, some smoother than others, but survived with minor cuts and bruises and a twisted shifter. Mike Austin wasn’t as lucky. He came upon another rider who didn’t get out of the way quickly enough. Mike tried to avoid him and ended up 50 feet below the trail with a cracked frame, broken spoke and flat tire.
After a short climbing transfer, we dropped into a totally different type of trail. Plenty of fun turns and pedaling. This should’ve been my stage but a rock in my shoe migrated under my sole and had me cringing with every pedal stroke. I couldn’t believe how I let it bother me but I couldn’t wait for the stage to be over.
After a quick lunch we climbed a gravel road to one of the most fun looking flow trails I’ve seen. It was like two Ferrins except with perfectly sculpted berms and fun jumps of all sizes. Part of me wanted to ride it before heading up to the start of stage 3. Stage 3 started at the paragliding launch. Racers had the choice of the mellower Summit Trail or the wicked Dead Dog trail. I watched a few guys go down Dead Dog and decided the Summit Trail was for me. Aaron Grutzmacher and Andrew Sherman both rode the “A” line, with different outcomes. Aaron cleaned it but said it was the hardest, scariest, dumbest thing he’s done on a bike. Andrew crashed twice and brought a significant dirt sample with him to the finish. Even after the two trails joined back together, the action wasn’t done. There were plenty of areas to make a mistake. But the majority of it was super fun, trying to drop my heels and stay light through the roots.
Another transfer on a fun looking trail brought us to today’s final stage. This was a high speed affair but it would bite you if you let your guard down. Plenty of corners to crush interspersed with rocky sections, root drops and g-outs. It finished with a fast bobsled run which tested your trust in your tires.
After the third day in a row of 4000 plus feet of climbing, tomorrow supposedly has less climbing but the descents promise to be rockier and just as exciting.