Written by Jose R. Mendez Wednesday, 19 October 2016 00:00
I had been looking forward to this race since last year! Payne's Creek dethroned Jackrabbit Trails in Hayesville, NC as my favorite race trail when I first raced it last year. They tout it as the “rollercoaster” of mtn biking and I tend to agree. The trail is superfast and the moderate climbs are rewarded with amazingly designed descending rollers. A little rootiness here and there to change things up but overall, it's just a blast to ride/race.
This weekend was no different. We sprinted off the start in dry and cool temps, the best riding weather we’ve had in weeks. Feeling spry from my latest results, I knew I could sprint off the start and stay there. After reaching the top of the initial road climb I entered the woods in 5th place overall. The trail and the pace did not disappoint. We flew through the single track, fast enough to quickly create a gap between the top 8 guys (multiple categories) and the rest of the field. This trail is easy until the high speeds make it technical.
Feeling good, I pushed my pace but settled into what I knew was sustainable. I did have to let Duane go; a Tampa racer who is just in a league of his own. Knowing that made my race a lot more simple. I actually got to enjoy my race! What a concept. Fly down the single track, power the climbs, and repeat. The course had only one “legit” climb and even that was moderate at best. Perfect course for never letting off the gas!
My race was fairly uneventful which was nice. The one minor mishap I noticed, fortunately not mine, was an apparent active hornets nest. I raced down a pretty quick section of ST when something hit my helmet and something else hit my chest. No clue what is was. I figured something came off a tree... until I heard the guy I had just passed. Ouch! Shite! Damn! Ouch!! Turns out I caught some hornets off guard when I ran into them. BUT they had their weapons ready once the next guy got there! As his voice faded in the background I made out, “I just got stung all over!”
And no, I didn’t leave an injured racer, he was telling the next guy coming up behind him. He had a lifeline. ;-) Hey, and I dodged the bullet and that was kinda funny to me at the time. :-)
Besides that, everyone seemed to have had a great time. It is always awesome to see people on a course that is so fun. It changes their perspective on racing. So many times the courses are grueling. Many, especially newer, racers get discouraged from results, injuries, and just flat out exhaustion. Seems like most folks I came across this time around were really having a good time being out there. And that is what it’s all about. If you ever have the chance to visit the area do yourself a favor and go ride this trail!
In the end I was able to hold my 2nd place onto the podium again. And if all goes well at the last race I should finish 2nd for the overall 2016 series. The next one is close to home, finally. I look forward to sleeping in and racing in the same day.
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