Location: New Castle, VA
Date: April 14, 2013
Riders: Zack - 2nd Overall
The Dragon's Tale is a 37 mile event on the rocky spine of mountains in southern Virginia. I raced this event when it was a shorter race in the late 1990s and my only recollection is a lot of hiking and swearing after I broke just about everything on my bike (torn tire sidewalls, broken derailleurs). Zack fared a lot better than me. Here's his report in his words:
The 5th annual Dragon's Tale was a blast. This race is the reincarnation of Kyle Inman’s classic “Dragon’s Back” from mountain biking’s hallowed past (the 90’s) on a revised course but many of the same trails. It couldn't have been a more perfect day, with sunny weather in the 60's and 70's, cold stream crossings, grinding climbs, ripping descents and gnarly ridge top riding on some of Southwest Virginia’s most epic singletrack.
As usual Chris Scott of Shenandoah Mountain Touring puts on a great race: well-marked, well supported, good food (with vegetarian options ;-) and great beer at the finish line. It looked to be a tough field with guys like Westly Richards, Erik Jensen, Kyle Lawrence, James Wittwer, Andy Rhodes and Mike Runnals coming out this year.
We rolled out of the staging area at 10 am with a 4 mile parade down Rt. 311 for a relaxed warm-up. When we made the left turn on Broad Run road, it was time to start opening things up. I set a fast pace on the dirt road, blasting through the 5 deep and cold creek (come on, it's a river) crossings.
The water was deep this year due to a heavy rain fall a few days before, and I had to jump off halfway through and run the across several times. These deep crossings can wreak havoc on a drivetrain, but my Squirt wax lube held up and I was still squeak-free by the end of the race.
Wes and I reached the first climb with a rider from App. State hanging on and a big gap over the rest of the field. I led up the 20 minute technical climb up Grouse Trail with Wes right on my wheel. First time at the top it's a right turn along the ridge into Deer Trail for a ripping downhill with many tight steep switchbacks.
My new Scott Spark handled this terrain beautifully, I was able to climb up some steep switchbacks that I don't think I've ever ridden before, and the thing descends like a rocket, such a fun bike to ride. I thought I might be able to get away on the descent but only managed to gain a few seconds.
Coming back through the first aid station to climb Grouse again, Wes pulled in front of me and motored up the climb and was out of sight by the top. He was on fire. At the top of the climb it’s a left turn on North Mountain Trail to ride out the rest of the ridge.
I was by myself for the rest of the race, just going hard and riding clean on the rough and rocky ridge-top single. I kept imagining someone close behind and Wes right up ahead to keep going hard, even though my legs were in a fair amount of pain and having cramping issues.
This trail is punctuated by 6 steep grunting climbs requiring several dismounts. One of the final humps is particularly sadistic - seemingly endless and so steep it's a struggle to put one foot in front of the other. Finally, the grunts were through and it's down a fast descent to Aid 2. The Continental X-King’s setup tubeless on Stan's wheels were amazing in this terrain with excellent climbing, cornering, and braking traction, and they roll fast on the road sections as well.
After Aid 2, it's the home stretch with about 45 minutes until the finish. A steep 10 minute climb up North Mountain Trail followed by some ridge and yet another ripping descent down Lick Branch Trail with some sweet skinny off-camber single. Then it’s the final 5 minute climb (woooo!!) up Ferrier Trail and an awesome descent to roll back on the road for a few miles to the finish.
I crossed the line with a time of 3:53:30 for second place, about 10 minutes in front of Harrisonburg's Erik Jensen and about 5 behind Wes Richards. Sue Haywood (Stan’s NoTubes) topped the women’s podium, followed by Laura Hamm and Brenda Simril (Motor Mile Racing).
Andy Rhodes (5th), Zack Morrey (2nd), Wes Richards (1st), Erik Jensen (3rd), and James Wittwer (4th). (I’m looking forward to getting the 2013 jersey that hopefully covers my belly.)
Both the first and second place riders were riding Scott bikes.