Valley River Road Race @ Snowbird Wilderness Outfitters

I rode in this road race for the first time last Saturday. It was sponsored by , a really sweet Christian camp that is impacting this generation for Christ. The race was part of a fundraiser day for the camp, so I took a few of our guys from  and let them experience all the cool recs that the camp has to offer. But, in order to come out for all the fun in the afternoon, they had to volunteer during the bike race in the morning.
One of my high school students, Andrew, decided he wanted to ride in the race with me. He is in great shape, is a cross country runner, and a fantastic MTBer. But he had never done a road race. He borrowed Erin's bike, and signed up for the 55 mile race that I was doing. The race is in it's 4th year, so they are still working out a number of bugs in the organization of the event that could really make this race do well. The 55 mile race only had 8 people sign up for it, while the 21 miler and the 40 mile sprint relay were much better attended. For some reason no one wants to ride a bike for 55 miles. I wonder why?
The course started out with a 2 mile fast downhill, followed by a 3 mile fast paced section with small rolling hills, and nice smooth road surface. I took off pretty fast, averaging somewhere between 20 - 25 mph for the first 5 miles. I glanced back to see that Andrew had dropped off from the pace, and knowing it would be a long day, and that there was no reason to make him suffer so early, I eased off until he caught back up to me.
We had been warned at the beginning of the race that the final 5 miles would be torture. However, very little had been said to us about miles 5-15. It was ridiculous. The climb was a continuous grade for all of 10 miles. It took us all of an hour an 15 minutes to complete - How miserable!
Then we got to take a fun 6-8 mile decent into the Nantahala river gorge which made the previously horrible climb almost worth it. Somewhere in the fast downhill, my sunglasses flew off and disintegrated into a thousand tiny pieces. There goes 10 bucks down the drain.
Climbing out of Natahala was painful again, but this time traffic had become an issue. We were on 19, which is the main drag through the gorge, so the hill was less difficult to climb, but cars were not as friendly as one might hope, and made this part of the ride stressful.
Andrew and I made our own pit stop at a gas station for a power bar, because we were both feeling very weak. Snowbird provided a number of water stations, but we really needed some bananas, apples, or granola bars... our fuel tanks were empty. I chose the Cliff bar, and he chose the Powerbar...I made the right choice. BTW it was funny to see people's looks when we walked in with tight shorts, jerseys and numbers on. They acted like we had beamed in from our alien spacecraft!
Next we headed on to Andrews, NC. The race course took us through a very beautiful valley alongside of a small airport. Getting down and around this airstrip took much longer than I would have liked. Andrew was really hurting now, unable to put any power behind the pedals, so instead of making time up on the flat section of the race we ended up losing more ground. Nonetheless, we circled the airstrip, and came to Fairview Rd followed closely by Pisgah Rd, the final climb of the day.
All the hype over this climb was not worth it. We were expecting a series of switchbacks like the ones on the Hincapie challenge at Paris Mountain. This climb had a few, but really was not nearly as difficult as the earlier climb in the race. We made it to the last water station, where the girl told us we had 1 mile to go... she lied. There was about 2.5 -3 remaining. Distances driven in a car should never be taken for granted. We agreed to race it out to the finish, and I beat Andrew to the line by about 1:30, and we came in 4th and 5th place just under the four hour mark. I was really proud of Andrew for a great effort his first time out.


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