Stage racing is no longer just for the fast-pack cycling of the Tour de France. In recent years, multi-day mountain bike races have gained extreme popularity out West and around the world. Race director Todd Branham decided it was time to host an epic stage ride in the Blue Ridge.
On October 15 to 18, the Pisgah Mountain Bike Stage Race will bring some of the world’s elite mountain bikers to the backcountry of Western North Carolina for four days of rugged riding that will total 145 miles and 38,000 feet of elevation gain.
While most stage races move to a different base location every day, Branham has designed three different 50-mile loops that all start from a central location in Brevard, N.C. The first day of the event will be a short track time trial at Brevard College to determine who wears the leader’s jersey. The three main stages start at the head of Black Mountain Trail and launch into between 42 and 50 miles of the Pisgah National Forest’s sinuous singletrack and rugged fire roads. Branham believes the course makes the race exciting for world-class riders and attainable for experienced weekend warriors.
“This is designed to be a true stage race and not a lesson in survival,” Branham says. “I’m not trying to weed riders out and have one left standing at the end. At the same time this is an event that’s going to bring some high-end pros to the area.”
The field is limited to 150 riders and offers a $15,000 cash purse, making it the richest MTB stage race in the country. The race will field several elite riders, including former Olympian Chris Shepherd, Marathon Mountain Bike National Champion Jeremiah Bishop, and six-time 24 Hour Solo World Champion Chris Eatough.
“I can’t wait to get down there and ride it,” Bishop said of the Pisgah course. “No matter how your race is going, you’ll still have a fun time riding. It’s spectacular, rugged backcountry mountain biking at its best.”
PISGAH COURSE PREVIEW
Stage 1: Time trial is on a three-quarter-mile course at Brevard College. The short track format is designed to select a race leader and give spectators a chance to enjoy the action.
Stage 2: At 51 miles and 13,600 feet of elevation gain, this is the longest and steepest day of the race. Riders will tackle 21 miles of singletrack and have a fresh look at beloved Butter Gap, which will just be seasonally opened.
Stage 3: This stage features 42 miles and 11,700 feet of elevation gain with stints on the Turkey Pen and Laurel Mountain Trail systems.
Stage 4: Finish with 46 miles with 11,900 feet of elevation gain, including the epic ride to Squirrel Gap.