After satisfactorily filling our bellies, we continued our journey on 77 until we hit the exit where 77 splits from 81 and we came to another abrupt halt. Unlike the traffic on 79, however, this time it continued for about 10 miles. Daniele told me that it was only a few miles of traffic until we reached a bridge where whatever was holding us up occurred. Daniele was wrong. We sat in bumper to bumper traffic, slowly lurching along, cresting one hill just to see the red tail-lights slowly climbing the next hill. This happened for about 3 hills or ~10 miles when we finally hit the bridge where traffic had been diverted to the 12-foot-wide shoulder around the area of sanded liquid. We later found out that a FedEx truck had jackknifed and its fuel tank had spilled all over the bridge (I feel sorry for whoever is waiting for those packages).
Finally, we make it onto 421 and find the exit for the park we are staying in. We drive through the sketchy little town that is apparently part and/or all of North Wilksboro and turn onto Reservoir Road. Drive to the end of that and find a gate and no sign of any teams set up for camping. Great… now what do we do? Thanks to the power of 3G, I have access to the race flier that gives perfect directions to the camp location. We crest the hill that leads to the dam we are supposed to drive across and what do you know, another gate! Ok, really? Now what? That’s when we notice the 2 VT guys crawling out of the back of their van in the little parking area by the gate. They inform us that half their team hiked across the dam and are sleeping over there, but they are just staying in the van. The park rangers and the sheriff have been called but there is pretty much nothing to be done. Well, we can adapt, we’ll just throw our tents up on this mostly flat grassy knoll beside the gate. No big deal. Well, apparently it is a big deal. The park rangers drive up and tell us we aren’t allowed to camp there and we’ll just need to sleep in our cars for the night. Yes, all 14 of us will sleep well crammed in our 3 sedans and a Jeep! The sheriff also decides to come back after the park rangers leave and informs the VT guys that he “will not deal with this all night.” Sorry sir, it is our goal to stay awake because we have no place to sleep and wreak havoc on your park. We finally get to the parking lot, waking up the vicious dogs in the Xterra parked there already and the GW guy sleeping in it, set up camp, and finally get to sleep. At some point the Jeep furiously rolls in, unhitches the trailer, and pulls back out to sleep in a hotel because they got lost and couldn’t find the park. Sorry guys, you had the flier too.
The next day begins at 7am for me and apparently 6:30am for others. We’re all looking a little tired, but our spirits are still pretty high considering. We tear down our hard-won camping area, the jeep shows back up to pull the trailer across the dam, and we head over to registration. It’s at this point that we realize that we had been surrounded on three sides by water that night and the hill we had tried to set up camp on was directly adjacent to a cemetery. Everyone does there pre-race thing. Several of us head out to pre-ride the short track course which features a couple of not fun, steep little climbs at the beginning before looping back around to a flowy smooth downhill section and back to the hills. They sent the Men’s C category off a few minutes late and they do their 20 minutes of short track. The rest of us stood around and cheered on our fellows, especially the 2 freshman who were putting out an astounding effort (big kudos to you guys!) and watching the VT guy who was leading get legitimately clotheslined by a vine. Next came the Men’s B race which went smoothly and without an exciting wreck to report. Mikaela and I then had our chance to pedal for 20 minutes against each other in the Women’s A/B race of which we were the only two Bs. Obviously, we exhausted ourselves in a heroic effort to be the dominant team (sarcasm). After that, our entire team walked our bikes up the hill to the start of the downhill to get in a couple of practice runs before the race. We practiced a couple of times, trying to find the best line through the gnarly rock garden, then had a nice sit-and-wait at the top of the hill for the start of the event. Everyone else eventually showed up and we all sat for a while longer until the event started; then we rode our bikes down the mountain.
After we were all done, we made our way back to the cars to get some foodstuffs in our bellies before the Super D. We ate and some decided to practice the Super D course which really wasn’t too much different from the downhill with the exception of a few extra twists and turns. We all took our time getting back up to the top but we still happened to be the first team there. We found what we assumed was the start area and people practiced running to their bikes for the Le Mans start. We concluded that Jake needed a new pair of shoes after doing a burn out and falling down while taking off, at which we laughed hysterically. Others had some amusing practice running-starts as well. Everyone eventually showed up again and we all hung out for a while, still hoping we were in the right spot for the start. We were. Then after some Le Mans starts and splits between categories, we all eventually pedaled down the hill in the Super D. Sadly, DeCann took a spill on his way down which messed up his shoulder and caused him to have to sit out the cross-country the next day. We have since banned him from participating in any more gravity events.
After many hours in the heat, dust, sweat, and chamois, we were finally done with racing. Though it wasn’t the toughest day, I am confident in saying that we were all done. However, the best part of the day was still to come. We had witnessed some of the VT riders coming back from a dip in the reservoir between the downhill and Super D and so decided that we should have a bathe in said reservoir. That was the most amazing feeling ever and possibly one of the best experiences of my cycling career. The cooling effects of the water must have released a huge amount of endorphins in all of us because we were simply giddy. Laughing, frolicking, and having an all-around joyous time. Judging by the amount of dirt I scrubbed off of myself Sunday night in the shower, I don’t think it really did anything for getting us clean, but it sure lifted the spirits.
After drying off and putting on some dry, non-lycra clothes, we headed out to find some grub. We had been arguing about where to go for at least 3 hours and finally decided we would deal with the gastro-intestinal effects and partake of the Mexican restaurant where the road team always eats. After getting lost once again, we finally find the place and sit down to a yummy meal. We laughed, discussed the races, ate about 12 baskets of tortilla chips, and had enough plates to feed most of an army. Afterwards, Mikaela and I sat complaining about our food-babies, Oprah and Shania respectively and our food induced comas. We were tired. We then made a quick Wal-Mart stop for DeCann to get a heating pad and for some team road sodas.
We quickly made our way back to the camp, which we had luckily set up earlier in the day so we could just enjoy the evening. The sodas were broken into and the stand was set up to work on bikes. I noticed the fire VT had going so I decided to join them for some mountain biking spirit. If the laughter was any indication, the sodas had their intended effect on the team and the WVUers were having a good time as well. Eventually a park ranger pulled in and told us to put the fire out and I suppose turn the music off considering it ended at the same time. The two teams socialized for a while until the clock struck at 11 and everyone quickly disappeared into tents. With some rustling and snoring, we all fell into exhausted sleep.
The next day dawned much the same as the one before. Everyone rolled out of sleeping bags looking a little more tired and I think just ready to get the day over with. We ate, did a bit of last minute bike maintenance, changed, and mentally prepared ourselves for the last race of the weekend. The Men’s C/ Women’s B categories started somewhere close to 9am and did a 6.4 mile lap which included more climbing than I had mentally prepared for but was easily ride-able. I sat behind Marco for a good part of the ride and every now and then heard Mikaela’s breaks speaking behind me (she wasn’t feeling great that morning). I warned her about the switch backs that were coming up and hoped I hadn’t distracted her into wrecking. I had warning to slow down after the first sharp turn and hearing brakes squealing and tires skidding on rocks. That turned out to be Cameron having a minor crash that skinned up his palm. Marco and I caught up to Cameron and Daniele, at which point Marco found a place to pass and disappeared into the twists and turns. I decided the guys were setting a good enough pace for me and just sat in behind them, enjoying the fact that I wasn’t alone for the first time in a race. When the XC trail met up with the Super D course they dropped me and I finished the last little bit alone.
They started the Men’s A race, which we didn’t have anybody racing in, then the Men’s B/ Women’s A. Kyle was our only B rider for that race so while he did his 2 laps, the rest of us packed up the tents and started loading the trailer. After playing an hour long game of bike Tetris, we fit all but 2 of the bikes in the trailer without their wheels and found space for all the wheels as well. It was a tight fit, but we finally managed. After Kyle came in from his laps looking hot and tired, we let him cool down for a bit before throwing his bike on a rack, loading up and heading out. We left the parking lot by 1 which I am pretty sure is some kind of WVU Cycling record.
The drive back was uneventful and we never hit any accidents. Around Summersville or so we started hitting rain and as we got off the interstate at Star City, we heard the obnoxious blasts of the Weather Center issuing a severe thunderstorm warning. Daniele and I pulled into the Bike House a bit before the rest and began to dread having to unpack in the delude issuing from the sky. Little did we know, that was going to be the Morgantown weather for the entire week. Everyone else came in a little behind us and after waiting for the trailer, which did not stop for a game of mini golf, we got the trailer unloaded and everyone headed to their houses to shower and recoup. It was a great weekend of riding and I can’t wait for this weekend.
---Post by Sequoya