"You nervous Birdman?" I say. We're rolling in a big group on a road behind the pace car.
"No. I'm just going for a ride," says the Birdman.
"Oh fine, gonna play it cool are you? What a cool guy," I say.
We turn onto some gravel and the pace car speeds up. The Pflug shoots out of the pack and goes after the car. "Oh shit, we gotta try to catch Ger-Bear," I say to Garth Prosser.
"No way I'm doing that man," says Garth. Then he drills it and goes after the Pflug. I say with him for a few seconds, then I need to slow down.
Garth and the Pflug stay ahead for a few minutes, but then they're re-absorbed into the main group. The gravel pitches up a little more, and Jeramiah "Tough as Coffee Nails" Bishop, Sam Korber, and Adam Craig's little posse spins away.
I ride with Pflug and the Birdman most of the way up the hill. The climb is super long, but not too steep. We top out after 45 minutes and swing onto a flat smooth trail. Everybody with gears rips past me. I'm alone, spinning, getting a little lackadaisical.
The meandering descent ends and I cross a bridge. I pop over a little log and make a hard right onto the trail. It shoots straight up the hill. Shit. That was abrupt. I went from comfortable spinning to ripping my back and leg muscles off trying to get up this hill.
The dirt is wet and slick. It's slow. A light fog hangs over the trail. I make a few delicate turns through the mud. The trail narrows down and I start the section that was supposed to be half-track. It's sweet, but there's nothing half about it. It's just some off-camber Appalachian singletrack. Wet roots, rocks trying to buck me off the hillside, and hard corners with streams running down the middle.
I sit down and my seatpost compresses. I didn't hit the drop button. That's not good. I grab the saddle and pull it up. It falls right back down. Now I'm fucked. My dropper post is permanently dropped. A couple guys pass. I ask them how far it is to the aid.
45 minutes with a 30 minute gravel climb. I'm going to die without a saddle to sit on. Then I remember the duct tape I have wrapped around a CO2. Thank god I followed Pflug's advice to carry tape. I pull the post up and wrap the tape around the thing. It kind of works. I climb up towards the aid. By the time I hit the station the post has compressed a few inches.
We wrap it in more duct tape and zip ties and I set off with my crippled post.
There's some rolling gravel, a single track climb, then I hit Aid 3. I borrow a 5mm and put my seatpost up a few more inches.
"Seven more miles right?" I ask the long haired prospector looking dude that loaned me a tool.
"About that. But you've got a little hike. Nice view at the top though," he says.
Nice. The hike couldn't be that long. I feel like I'm already at the top of the ridge. I start running.
30 minutes later I'm still pushing my bike up the damn hill. I set it on top of a rock, scramble up, and repeat. But when the trees open up, the view is incredible. Blueish green hills and far off rocks. I keep walking.
I finally come to a spot where I can ride my bike again. Then the trail drops straight down the mountain. I pound over water bar after water bar after water bar. The orange dirt is washed out and there's huge holes in between roots. My hands are cramping but the hill keeps going. I slam over more water bars.
I pass a dude next to a dead campfire and the hill pitches back up. I hike up, lower my broken dropper post, and start descending again. More water bars and off-camber roots. I clip a rhododendron and roll forward into the dirt. I get up real quick and keep descending.
The trail smooths out and turns into a series of fast jumps and wall rides. I ride the rest of the hill and cross the finish line. 1st SS by about a half hour. Nice. Now I have to try to fix my stupid dropper post.