July 31st, 2017
ORAMM 2017 in the books!
The Off Road Assault on Mt Mitchell (ORAMM) is another superb event put on by Blue Ridge Adventures. Along with a few other of my favorites including the Stage Race and the Swank 65, ORAMM follows suit to offer a challenging long day in the saddle.
The race begins downtown in the quaint village of Old Fort, NC. Just appearing within the past two years, a large bike painting resides just across the street from the start in town. The local police department escorts nearly 300+ racers on the 4mi stretch out of town.
I arrived in town Saturday night to van-camp. I was able to park nearly a block from the race start.
Race day! I wake up extra early to pick my goodie bag and number plate up from check-in, make my ritual breakfast, and get my morning dose of caffeine. I’m amped for the day — I love the ORAMM course and all the people that go along with it. The volunteers, promoter (Todd), rest stops.. everything is on point year after year.
I line up one row off the front. I conversate with several as we anticipate the pre-start meeting and tunes to get everyone even more excited. At 0800 we’re off! The lead-out by the police department is at a casual pace. I hear bike tire on bike tire rubbing as we all try to keep distance from those around us. The anxious try to funnel their way towards the front of the pack.
As we approach the greenway, we’re set loose from the escort. The pace remains steady as we barrel up to meet the entrance to the first singletrack. We hit the technical/step climb taking us to the top of the Kitsuma trail. Several of us keep pace and don’t have to resort to hiking too much. Near the top, then descending, a few gaps form and I get to take my hardtail down it’s first Pisgah trail.
The decision to ride the hardtail at this event was a long thought out one. Last year I raced my full suspension bike and thought the hardtail would handle the climbs more efficiently. Obviously the descents would be tougher and require a little more strength and concentration, but my thought was my time would be made up during the climbs. Post race, my evaluation of descending on the hardtail was compared to a pinball inside a pinball machine.
Making it down Kitsuma in one piece was a relief. Next up was ascending to Star Gap, then the long ascent to the top of Heartbreak Ridge. The beginning of this continuous multi-hour climb was the tricky uphill section at the bottom of the Heartbreak trail (the same section we’d descend a little later on). Some of this was so steep we’d have to hike. Going up to Star Gap, then down, then a long fireroad took us to rest stop #2. I chose to fill up water and grab snacks here. Our continued climb took us onto the Blue Ridge Parkway where we crested at somewhere near 5000ft elevation. I ride this section with fellow XC racer, Justin McMurrer. It made the climb less painful having someone to talk with. Jumping back onto singletrack at the top, the final hike to the top of Heartbreak was as grueling as it gets.
Descending Heartbreak was the true test of how going downhill on the hardtail would be. Knowing the trip was nearly twice as long as Kitsuma with a few trickier technical sections, I didn’t take any breaks until I was at the bottom. The hardtail held up fine….my body was just absorbing the extra jolts and drops.
Coming into rest stop #4, I fueled up one last time (the PB&Js were on point). Justin and I get separated here, as he had water bottle hand-ups. We were to make a final loop of the Kitsuma trail again. This one proved to be more difficult with 4+ hours under the legs already. I did the final hour solo, not seeing many others at this point. Coming down the last of the singletrack onto the pavement was a relief with just some fast road miles to the finish. I pushed the pace all the way back to Old Fort; hoping a group wouldn’t catch back up.
I cross the finish in 5:17, 8 minutes faster than last year. Also, 8th place in Open Men, compared to 14th last year. I was pleased with my performance and also what I put the hardtail through. Finish line shenanigans rounded out the day with cooling off in the creek, good food and drinks, and hearing everyone’s stories from the long day.
If you’re bucket list is lacking, ORAMM is definitely one to add