October 21st, 2017
I moved to South Carolina nearly 5 years ago. When I came into town and decided to search for mountain bike races that were in the area, the Southern Classic Series took me to races in both North and South Carolina. The Pisgah area was also a frequent weekend destination for racing. Traveling throughout the season to some awesome trails was a blast. I love seeing new trail, visiting unique towns, and getting to meet lots of riders. Normal travel duties were in the realm of 2-5 hours. Eastern NC, Western NC, Northern SC. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much close by.
Early in the year, the crew at Andy Jordan’s puts on the Canal Crown series. This low-key party in the woods brings out riders in the CSRA on a Thursday night to try their best at a 2.5 mile hot lap of the Canal single-track. The atmosphere at this event is casual, friendly, and welcoming to all kinds of riders. For me, these 4 weeks of races are a time a few of us get to see who’s fastest on our local trail. A combination of your best time CW + best time CCW = your total time.
Another of our closest trails, FATS (Forks Area Trail System), never saw any bike racing action. Over the years, running races have been held here, but no cycling events. That changed this weekend when the first ever #firstmountainbikeworldcha
The race was coined the FATS Flow Master, highlighting the fast ‘flowy’ speeds that are possible on this trail system. The weekend began with early packet pickup from 4-7 Friday evening. I made my way to the shop to check in, gather my goodie bag, and talk to some of the crew. Early to bed for me on Friday night, as Saturday would come early enough.
Saturday was the day – Loaded up the truck and off to the races. I arrived before the sun had even come up to already, a parking lot full of others anticipating the race.
The rider’s meeting was held at 0830 near the finish line. 125 racers gathered to hear any final details before the race. The Flow Master course was composed of the south three trails at FATS; Brown Wave, Skinny, and Great Wall. The start would be on a gravel road nearby, beginning with a mile long climb to get into the trail system. 0900 was the start — Josh, Dustin, Chris, and I lined up together anticipating a fun group ride through the woods. The race was off! Us 4, along with a racer from Myrtle Beach started the trek into the 20 mile race together. The pace wasn’t anything less than fast!
Our pack heads into the Brown Wave trail; Dustin leading us to our first group KOM 🙂 I lead the group through the second of 3 trails; Skinny. I kept the pace high and the group behind began to break up. The sole aid station was located on this trail, so we were greeted with many encouraging words and cowbells as we passed by. I remember (1) hearing inspirational heckling coming from a microphone and (2) some long-haired Pinner drinking spectator. These fueled the Skinny group KOM 🙂
I felt pretty good at this point in the race. The trail was super fast — It was dry, dusty, and loose in certain spots. Traction was hard to pick up in some corners, but the fast/flowy-ness of the straight-a-ways made up for any lost time. The last of the 3 trails was Great Wall. Some of the resurfacing work has already been done on this trail. Some of the more rowdy sections that were eroded are now smooth and add to the flowy-ness. Great Wall followed suit as our, now group of 4, started to break up some more. Half-way through our group turned into me, Dustin, and Karl. I led the first half until Dustin made a move, charging up one of the final climbs. I tried to follow, but I had nothing left as the final 5 minute climb separated us even more. Dustin came across the line first, then me 25 seconds later.
This race meant a lot to the cycling folks of the CSRA. Lots of money was raised for the resurfacing project and future development of the trail system. The crew at Andy Jordan’s along with many other organizers and volunteers made this first-time event possible.