The Good Book tells that God led Moses to the top of Mt Pisgah and from there showed him the Promised Land. For mountain bike riders and racers on the east coast of the US of A the Pisgah range in North Carolina is also the Promised Land. A Promised Land of ancient Appalachian mountains whose height may have been compromised by age but that only means they’ve had more time to learn how to make riders suffer. Steep. Rooty. Rocky. And did I say steep? All buzzwords used to describe the trail features at the bar or tailgate post-ride. The Pisgah Forest features over 400 miles of single and “half” track trail built by the forest service and natives over hundreds of years of continual habitation. The forest is a temperate rainforest so much of the trail never fully “dries” and rides better with a little moisture. The landscape of the Pisgah Forest is stunning and serves up double helpings of EPIC for those brave and tough enough to complete the Pisgah Mountain Stage Race. As the saying goes: “theres only two kinds of riders in Pisgah; those who walk, and liars!”
The Pisgah Stage Race enters its 10th year with the biggest and most international contingent its ever seen. While many riders return year after year the community of racers who notch their belts with a Pisgah finish continues to grow wider and wider. The race stats bely the difficulty: 5 days, 140 miles, 20k+ feet in elevation on 76% singletrack. Pisgah Stage Race leaders and winners include Jeremiah Bishop, Thomas Turner, Tristan Cowie, Drew Edsall, Harlan Price, Kerry Werner, Spencer Paxson, Sue Haywood, Jena Greaser and many more; including yours truly. And if the open/pro categories dont spice your drink then the daily and overall Enduro segments should fire you up.
Rocks, Roots, Repeat is the sometimes motto of the “Stage Race” as many Southest US residents call the Pisgah Mountain Stage Race (PMSR). And the narrow old school bench cut and narrow gauge rail trail of the Pisgah Forest is exactly that. And in the 2018 edition riders from all over the world will face the 4th version of whats become known as the “classic” course. Featuring Cove Creek, Butter Gap, Pilot Mountain, Squirrel Gap, Black Mtn, Avery Creek, Laurel Mtn and MANY more amazing singletrack trails the Classic course has been dialed to perfection by Todd Branham and the Blue Ridge Adventures Crew. 2018 promises to be no exception to the grin guaranteeing experience of years past.
Who can win in Pisgah?
Open men sees another face-off between Kona Pro cross racer and all around rouler Kerry Werney and local hero and previous USA worlds team member Tristan Cowie. The two faced off regularly during US and International cyclocross season and are lacing up the gloves to go a few more rounds in the steep and deep of the Pisgah range. Joining them are PMSR veterans Nick Bragg and my previous Duo teammate Elliot Baring. Newcomers include Tristan Uhl and Stefano Barbeiri. Thats not thunder you hear, its the battle about to go down in Solo Men. Cowie has no doubt been dialing in each and every line through the forest since his win last spring.
Women’s fields can always be difficult to judge but last year’s defending champion; Canadian Jena Greaser, is ready to pounce on all possible competitors drawn from all over the globe to measure up to Greaser’s even keeled attitude and seeming lack of faults on the trail. Greaser is eager to ride her best race and defend a win in the 2017 edition. Bringing the grit and more than her body weight in watts is Southeast Veteran racer Carey Lowery. Lowery is known throughout the country as a determined and formidable contender having won overall in previous National Ultra Endurance Series calendars as well as stand-alone events like the Mah Dah Hey 100 and Marji Gesick; events where toughness is a prized commodity.
Duo men and Duo Co-ed shook up when Elliot Baring and myself separated ways after back-t0-back wins in the overall duo and duo men’s categories. Baring now pursuing Solo male I opted to join my life partner as a race partner and shred the duo co-ed with my wife Emily Hairfield. A shake up no doubt as the Duo Men category is now WIDE open while the Co-Ed category timber just got taller. Even the singlespeed category is rife with hooligans looking to push the limits of their legs.
As we gear up for another edition the stage is set for some incredible daily battles as racers hop, jump, smash, and crawl through the Blue Ridge Mountain range in the Pisgah Mountain Stage Race!
* All Photos courtesy of Blue Ridge Adventures, Land and Sky Media, and Icon Media Asheville