On my way out of town Sunday morning I heard a rumor that Spring might actually, finally, be here. I was off to to find out, but either way the plan was to race hard and have fun at the Dragons Tale. The Dragons Tale is a back country mountain bike race in the Jefferson National Forrest near Newcastle Virginia. Most of the race is on a rolling ridge littered with rock spines and steep climbing. Check out the course map and profile here! I had absolutely too much fun on this course last year and I even managed a 3rd place finish after a tough day of racing. So it was an easy choice to head down there this year.
The race was hot with attacks from the get go. The first climb was a stampede of anxious racers all trying to get their spot in the front. As we picked our way onto the ridge I settled in behind the one and only Sam Koerber. At the top of the first descent he slipped, giving me the lane to shoot by into the downhill first. My lead lasted all of 10 yds. before Sam comes sliding sideways, passing me on the inside of the next turn. This dirty but riteous move is all he needed to command the lead.
After the second climb (which is the same as the first) we turned left for the 10 miles of technical single track ridge which I consider the main event of the race. The ridge is narrow with views on both sides. It is graced with rock spines and ledges mixed into steep ups and downs. This is the kind of trail that pitches steeper just as you run out of gas and makes you smile on the way down. I hit the ridge in second but rovered from around the top ten in hot battle. This part of the race was good old fashioned racing with 2nd-10th all in a several minute range. No matter where I found myself I was either chasing or being chased. Toward the end of the ridge I picked up a small bush in my derailleur bending it and misaligning my shifting for the rest of the race, the only bummer of the race.
I came off the ridge in 4th with 2 racers hot on my tail and only 6 miles to the finish. We raced hard up and over 2 small mountains, after an unlucky racer succumbed to a flat tire, the order around me was John Petrylak in 3rd, Andy Rhodes 4th and me 5th. With fatigue setting in and random shifting on my bike I was gapped by a strong Andy Rhodes. In the finishing stretches, just ahead of me I saw him catch and overcome John. The final Podium went 1st Sam Koerber, 2nd Johnothan Gdowik, 3rd Andy Rhodes, 4th John Petrylak and I was 5th.
What a great race! We had phenomenal weather in the upper 60's with sunshine. The trails were incredibly challenging and in excellent condition. Theres no question weather or not I'll be back to try my hand at the Dragons tale in 2015!