Off-Road Assault on Mt. Mitchell

This weekend riders will suffer through the Off-Road Assault on Mt. Mitchell, which is a metric century complete with 11,000 feet of climbing—on some of the most challenging trails in the area.

I rode Kitzuma last weekend, which is a mere fraction of what riders will see as they traverse 63 miles of gnar-gnar. The climbs are mainly fire roads with singletrack descents. The only way this works to your advantage is if you climb the fire roads slowly.

There will be that group of people who will feel good on the fire roads and just pedal as fast as they can—especially on the first couple of climbs. They will be encouraged by the fact that they are passing a lot of people—a lot of people that they thought were really, really good. Then, when they get to the second bit of singletrack, they will flounder down the steep drops where the trail has washed away from beneath the roots of trees. They will be sloppy because they are tired.

They will hit the off-camber, 8-inch wide trail where the mountain gapes away into a steep river of broken trees, serving as large spikes, and they will have nothing left to fight the mental images of falling. They will wreck their bikes on the first dip that swallows their front wheel and have to climb several feet back up a steep embankment to the trail, dragging their bikes behind them. Then they will have to find a safe place to get back on because those guys he passed on the fire road have mad skills and are now flying down the drops and sailing over logs like it’s a video game.

The shredders knew what was coming.

Our ill-prepared riders will try to make up for their floundering on the next climb, slightly closing the gap. Then they will hit the next singletrack and never see those guys again. What they will get, is bigger crashes.

Climbing back to the trail, remounting, and regaining momentum take wayyyy more energy than staying on the bike the whole race. Think: Turtle and the Hare.

The trails are in beautiful shape now that the area is back from the draught. I’ve never really ridden it when there wasn’t some kind of a storm. Be careful of the rainforest snot coating the multitude of roots, but remember what Bettina says, “It’s not a good ride unless there’s blood of some sort.”

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