Photo by Harris Dunlap Photography
Stage 4: Coburn – 40 miles
This one is known as the “roadie” stage. I never thought I’d be happy to ride a stage associated with roadies, but after the past two days of getting clobbered by rocks, riding a mess of scenic fire roads was exactly what the body needed. Although it’s less rock oriented than other days, the Coburn stage still featured plenty of rock to piss me off, especially the Fisherman’s Trail.
Not to be confused with the other Fisherman’s Trail on day one and two—a trail that’s remotely rideable—this other Fisherman’s Trail was a clusterhump of slippery, moss-laden boulders that were simply unrideable by anyone who wished to complete the day without a compound fracture. Hell, they were dangerous enough to just walk over, let alone try and ride.
The highlight of this stage was riding through an old railroad tunnel that was completely black once inside, which was especially thrilling considering the sharp jagged rocks thrown everywhere. Upon exiting, a couple vampire/zombies greeted me with some much-needed libations of the sudsy type that numbed the pain and carried me all the way to the finish.
Photo by Devon Balet Media
Stage 5: R.B. Winter – 31 miles
This was my favorite day of the entire week. R.B. Winter is a remote park out in the middle of nowhere that gets more Amish family cookouts than mountain bikers. R.B. Winter is old school Pennsylvania mountain biking at its best; overgrown bridle trails, primitive singletrack that looks like it hasn’t been ridden in years, copious amounts of mud, slippery roots, creek crossings and of course rocks.
Although there were some rocky, slippery and sketchy sections with a couple hike-a-bikes, there was just enough fire road interspersed between each tech section to give the body and mind a break. And at less than three hours of race time, it was one of the shorter stages of the week, making it a rather enjoyable day on the bike.
Not much else to say about R. B. Winter than it was badass.
Photo by Devon Balet Media
Stage 6: Tussey Ridge – 42 miles
Also known as the “Queen Stage”, Tussey Ridge wasn’t as much of a soul-crushing, rock-strewn beat down as Stage 2, but after five days of getting clobbered by rocks, Tussey was a day that completely wore me out mentally. I’ve never cursed at the top of my lungs more often and more enthusiastically than on this day. I must have shouted out “F*ck these f*cking rocks!” at least a dozen times at varying volumes and levels of hatred. The technical sections were punishing, and they simply never seemed to end. I hear the view from the top of Tussey Ridge is breathtaking. I mean, I was there on top of Tussey Ridge, but I wouldn’t know what the view was like because I was too busy making sure I didn’t knock all the teeth out of my skull.
The course was so rocky that I lost two water bottles, an inner tube and air canister, almost lost an entire bottle cage and my front wheel blew a spoke. The wheels were literally falling off the wagon on Tussey, as was my mental game. I had to get off that goddamn ridge and get the stage done. Thankfully, I made it off in one piece, but when I jumped on the road and started daydreaming, I missed a turn that cost me about 10 minutes.
If that didn’t piss me off enough, the last two miles of shitty, primitive, barely ridden-in trail surely did, especially when my front wheel hit a hidden punji stick—basically a sawed off sapling sticking three inches out of the ground—and sent me over the bars. I roared like a bull that just got whacked in the testicles. “F*CK THIS F*CKING TRAIL!” A nearby photographer cowered into the bushes. He looked scared. When will this shitshow end? A mile later my question was answered. Thank god. I was not a happy man.
Dicky was happy though. Ecstatic even. After literally giving up on racing two days prior at the Coburn stage, Dicky channeled some otherworldly force on the Queen Stage and destroyed it, winning the stage in commanding fashion. Equal to my own irritation, I was equally impressed by Dicky’s heroic win, especially considering he went back to riding his rigid fjork. A rigid bike on these trails does not compute to me. I simply don’t know how the guy does it. Seriously.
It was a rough day on the bike, but not nearly as rough for me as for our singlespeed compatriot, Matt Ferrari. Matt had a commanding 40-minute lead in the overall race, but when he went to pass a rider on a high-speed descent, he failed to see a water bar and was shot over the bars at more than 20 mph, literally breaking his ass. The next time I saw him he was on crutches, out of the race, which meant I was now the overall leader of the singlespeed category with one stage to go.