Kerry Werner

Jingle Jangle Christmas Cross in September – Kerry Werner on His Career Best World Cup Result

Words by Kerry Werner. Photos by Meg McMahon.

Jingle Cross. In September. You’re probably thinking exactly what everyone else is thinking, so here’s some background. The name Jingle Cross is used because in years past, before it was a World Cup, the race was held in the Midwest’s mind-numbingly cold Decembers. Due to its proximity to Christmas, the race’s mascot was the Grinch, who would ride around on course and hang out on Mount Krumpit heckling all those who dare tread up it. And this tradition continues.

Our story: Touch down in Chi town. Doug made the drive from PA with the new bikes built and ready to shred. He picked me up at the ORD and we finished the journey to Iowa City. We got to the venue with enough time to drop the trailer then go for a spin before settling into our host house.

Friday was the first race of the weekend! I woke up at 8am or so and then had about 12 hours to kill… this is where I struggle with night racing. I passed the time by picking up Emily at the Cedar Rapids airport and trying to take a nap, though my excitement for the coming race intervened and the attempt was a complete and utter failure.

With the pro race at 8:45pm I got to the venue a little too early, but I figured I would have gone crazier sitting in the house all day, staring at the ceiling. It was hot but I had the convenience of the Shields’ RV, which was strategically parked right next to the Kona compound.

Kona had quite the representation. It was Doug and I, Helen and Stefan, and the S&M Kona crew out of Portland, managed by the legendary Erik Tonkin, Kona CX badass from back in the day.

The course for Friday night’s C1 was a bit of a letdown. It seemed like they took all the bad parts from the past Jingle Cross races and put them into one course. The Iowa climate had been extremely dry and hot so the ground was hard as asphalt and thus jarred you around like you were riding on a highway rumble strip.

Once the whistle blew it seemed more tolerable. I managed to have a mediocre start and had to work my way up into around 12th or so. The Euros at the front set a hot pace early and my legs couldn’t turn over fast enough to match the acceleration. I could hold a decent power but the snap was not in my legs and the entire race was a struggle because of this. I was constantly staring at one to two bike length gaps, dangling off the back of groups and being lazy, trying to outbreak my opponents to make up for my lack of snap.

I suffered a flat at one of the best places to flat, right before the sand pit, which was maybe 150m from the pit zone. With a leaky front tire, I floated through the dry/loose sand pit effortlessly, if only the rest of the course would have been more conducive to a lower tire pressure.

I finished 17th, which wasn’t terrible but I knew I could do better. In 2016 I got 9th in the C1… I think I spent too much time on my feet during the day in the heat and this sapped some explosive twitch from my legs. I am not the best at sitting still so I will have to work on that for future night races.

It wasn’t hard to forget about my not so desirable result when I gave Emily a dozen cupcakes from a boutique “cupcakery” in town for her birthday, which was Thursday. I won best fiancé of the year award for that one.

Saturday I tried to minimize time in the heat and on my feet. I got to the course for some World Cup preview laps and to spend more time on the Super Jake, every day feeling more at home. After the course preview, I went home and chilled for a bit before coming back to the venue to cheer Emily on in night C2 race.

She had a terrible start but charged hard throughout the race and finished 7th, grabbing some points and my heart for continuing to fight all race.

Back to normal race time of 3:30pm on Sunday. The temps dropped after some rain came through Saturday night, which caused the course to tack up and eliminated the “moon dust” effect from Friday and Saturday. Mt. Krumpit was grippy and traction was plentiful to ride up the damn thing. This meant the only limiting factor was my legs.

I was third row and found myself to have a better start. I quickly found myself in a group of 5 or so fighting for 20th. After a few laps, our group was solidified as there was a lengthy gap in front of us to the next group and vice versa behind us.

About halfway through the race Wout van Aert, current world champion, flatted and came into the pit just in front of us. Trying to cause some separation in our group I jumped off the front and did my best to latch onto his wheel and get a bit of a pace.

I lasted about half a lap before I thought my internal organs might explode and my legs may seize. Regardless, I got the result I wanted and now it was a group of 3 of us for 19-22.

We made contact with Stephen Hyde, who after an amazing starting half suffered from the heat and came a bit unglued at the end of the race. He motioned for me to “Go!” as we came through 1 lap to go. I don’t second-guess advice from the likes of people like Stephen and dropped the hammer. The group spaced out then came back together for the final straight where I managed so summon some demons from within and win the sprint for 19th.

Gutted but elated I hung my head while they pulled the transponder from my back number then promptly looked for a bench because I was having trouble keeping it upright. It took a good 15min of seat time before I felt like I could stand up… While the resulting pain was quite uncomfortable I couldn’t have been happier to feel good enough to dig that deep. That is all you can ask for in a race like the World Cups. I managed to minimize mistakes and save enough for the end giving me my best World Cup result to date.

I can’t thank Doug enough for having the rigs as dialed as they were and being as thorough as a mechanic can be with the odds and ends. Next week is the Trek CXC Cup in Waterloo, Wi. C2 race Friday off Saturday and the 2nd World Cup of the season Sunday. Stay tuned.

Pretty in Pink: Kerry Werner talks us through his new Super Jake

All Photos: Meg McMahon

I was able to hop on the Major Jake, same geometry as the Super Jake, back in July when I spent some time with the Kona crew for the video shoot we did for the Major Jake release.

The setup on that bike was the OEM spec, which was just fine and comfortable for shredding around on single track, bunny hopping logs, and doing skids. Though, I was curious how it would feel with an Elite level CX race setup.

Last night at the Jingle Cross C1 cross race I piloted my race ready super jake for the first time. This year the Kona CX Team has a full partnership with Shimano, which I am unbelievably happy about. Therefore, we have Pro stems and seat post, Dura ace wheels, hydro brakes, shifters, and drivetrain. With all these parts integrated into the frame, it makes for a seamlessly eye-catching bike that handles in a very predictable way.

Some of the geometry changes put me in more of a mountain bike position, longer head tube and slacker head angle, which is different but in a good way. I felt very confident leaning in the corners last night and found that I was hopping the barriers faster every lap just to try and see how the bike would react.

I didn’t notice the lower BB as much as I thought I would. I was sure I would clip my pedals more, however, not only did I find that I didn’t but I wasn’t changing my riding style to compensate.

One of my favorite features of my race rigs this year is the upgrade to Di2. Shimano hooked us up with the 9170 group, the new road hydro Di2 group. The shifting is so precise and instantaneous; I am coming from Ultegra cable shifters so this change may be exponentially more noticeable for me. The shifters themselves are smaller and more ergonomically comfortable. There is also the addition of a shift button on the top of each hood, which can be programmed to shift either the front or rear derailleur. I have mine to work the rear derailleur. This feature is super handy when I am really wrenching on the bars. I don’t have to allocate fingers to shift the levers and instead, I can grip the bars as I want and simply reach my thumb up for another gear. I use it off the start line the most!

While my bar tape pops and is colorful it serves a purpose besides looking fly. The Lizard Skin DSP 2.5mm bar tape is extremely grippy. I then pair it with their Monitor SL gloves and it becomes glue like. I love it for muddy races or fast and bumpy down hills when grip can give you an extra boost of confidence.

I have been working with Donnelly Sports, you may know them from their past name “Clement”, for the last two years and I am happy to be partnered with them again. Their “tubeless” tubular is always reliable and predictable. The fully vulcanized system is extremely durable and the tread patterns cover all the condition requirements. Last night I ran MXP’s front and rear (intermediate tread pattern) because it was so loose and dusty I needed more knob than a file to bite. However, I am thinking of running full file tread, LAS, for the World Cup on Sunday or the “mullet” setup, which is a knobbier tire up front with an file in the back, (MXP in the front and LAS in the back) the best of both worlds.

All and all I still have to put some time in the saddle before I become completely confident in the bike but I have good sensations from last night’s first ride. I think I will feel at home in no time, which is good because we are only two weekends into CX season and there are a ton of races left on the schedule.

Cross is Here: Kerry Werner heads to Rochester for the Season Opener

The tension was building for some time now. #crossiscoming was all over the social media outlets, people were getting new bikes, kits, etc, posting schedules, and feeling generally gitty (at least I was). This past week those sensations only increased as the temperature dropped and the opening round of CX, Full Moon Vista’s Rochester Cyclocross, waited, willing and ready.

My right hand man, Doug Sumi, and I were loaded for bear as we barreled north from North Carolina to New York ready to embark on 5 weekends in a row of top level CX racing. Rochester would kick things off followed by Jingle Cross and Trek CXC Cup (both of which are World Cups). Then to Connecticut for KMC Cross Fest and finally Charm City in Baltimore, MD before taking a weekend off.

We arrived in Rochester at host housing on Thursday evening and I promptly invited myself to the Thursday night CX practice, which only invigorated my love for CX and made me feel tremendous about the future of the sport. 40+ under 8-year-old kids, 20 or so older juniors, as well as an equal amount of adults. I egged on an 11-year-old to hop a set of barriers, on a bike that was a little too big for him, only after seeing him do it twice before. Kids these days are jumping over the learning curve.

Friday was tent set up day/ course preview. Doug and I got right back into the swing of things like summer never happened. I got to try out the new Shimano Di2 9170 disc road setup on my Major Jakes. All I can say is woah! Shifting buttons on top of the hoods for when you are really wrestling the bike into submission, the adaptation from cables to Di2 was seamless.

The course was the same as last year minus the striking heat, which caused loads of moon dust. This year the temps were cool and the dirt was moist and tacky. Therefore, a lot of the features that were mandatory runs last year were rideable this year, score.

Saturday was battle day! Doug had the bikes prepped, the tires pressurized, and batteries charged, it was my turn.

Lining up felt right at home until they called “Jeremy Werner” to the line. Seriously?! Stephen Hyde and the rest of the front row got a kick out of that…

After the whistle blew I found myself sitting comfortably in the front of the race until about half way through. I was at my limit more than I would like. I think this eventually lead to me leaning over a smidge too far in a corner and washing the front end. I managed to pin my foot between the bike and the ground causing me to flail around like a fish out of water before I disengaged from my pedal and got back in the saddle.

I lost the front group of at this point and was stuck in no man’s land with Jamie Driscoll dumping all his new found dad watts into the pedals to hunt me down. Luckily, I held myself together and rode in for 7th. For this I was happy. Sometimes holding it together after even tiny slip ups is challenging. Though, I wasn’t happy with how I felt. I chalked it up to an adaptation effort. Racing always pushes you harder than training can so I was looking forward for Sunday’s battle as I was now, “opened up.”

Sunday was the same routine. This time on the call up they even got my name right! The course was a bit dryer and running faster but the group was still the same. No one was able to get away and I knew positioning at the end of the race was going to be key. There was a lull in pace coming through with 2 to go so I kept the power down, surged to the front, and held it until we hit the first steep ride/run up. I didn’t dislodge anyone so I stayed in front through the technical bits.

With one more technical section left, “double trouble” consisting of a running section followed by a steep dip in and out section, I lead into it and punched it out. I looked back and realized I had a gap. I knew that the initial split would be crucial for increasing the gap because the guys behind me were thinking politics I was only thinking about how I could put more power into the pedals. I put my head down and came through 1 to go with 15 sec. The next half a lap was a blur not looking back but I heard through pit 2 that I had 13 seconds so I knew there was still a chance. Stephen Hyde and Rob Peeters were closing fast but I had just enough in the tank to keep their effort at bay.

I can’t describe the relief and excitement for having started the season off with a win.

I was keen to pick right back up where I left off last year but there is always a little bit of doubt at the season opener. You never know how other people have been training if you have been training hard enough, or even how you will react to the first race effort.

Highlight video:

Now my sights are set on Jingle and Trek. I have a huge boost of confidence and now that the first effort is out of the way things only get easier from here. Right?

P.S. My new Super Jakes are built, they slick, and they are World Cup ready. Don’t worry you wont miss them or me. Just look for the black and purple!

Photo Credit: Meg McMahon

Single Track Summer Camp – Kerry Werner Waxes Lyrical on The Transylvania Epic

The name implies fun in the sun, good times with friends, and an easy laid back attitude. I mean, they hand out beach balls and whoopee cushions on the podium!  However, the name does not glint even the slightest hint of the physical exhaustion, jarring rocks for miles, flats/mechanicals, wet roots, and climbs that hurt to think about, which lie ahead. While the later mentioned aspects of Transylvania epic don’t sound like joy they are crucial to balancing the week out. Plus, misery loves company and this year there were plenty of friends to share the long miles with. This picture depicts it best…

Cory Rimmer, Kona Grassroots rider, mean muggin with a SpongeBob popsicle

Last year was my first year of Transylvania Epic (TSE). I never had the pleasure to endure the 7 day version, which I honestly can’t imagine. All throughout my career as a junior racing in the Mid-Atlantic Super Series mountain bike races I would hear about this awesome/amazing race in the middle of Pa. Every year I would contemplate the possibilities. Though, I could never scrape the funds together or convince my parents to let me take a week off of high school.

It took 8 years but I finally managed to race last year and it was great! I ended up winning, which granted me a free entry this year and thus no excuse not to come back. Emily and I loaded up the RV and headed north!

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One thing that stands out about this race more than others are the promoters and their dedication to helping more kids get on bikes through NICA. Last year they implemented the first year of free entries by fundraising for PICL (Pennsylvania Interscholastic Cycling League). This meant instead of handing out comped entries to pros they we had to work for it. If you raised $1000 the first $500 went to the PICL, to grow the high school race scene, and the second $500 covered your entry fee. If you only got $5oo it all went to PICL and you had to pay for your entry. Talk about investing in the future and planting seeds! Mike Kuhn and Dave Pryor have developed a system which helps put about 10K into the local NICA chapter and generates a ton of talk, equally important. Link here to donate!

Race start was Thursday for us 5 day racers. The 3 day racers would take full advantage of the long Memorial Day weekend and not have to miss out on work. However, they would miss out on the enduro day, which was Friday.

Day one was a fast start to the race, traditionally dubbed the road stage, though the Wild Cat trail would easily change your perspective. We finished the 29 miles in just under 2hrs avging 16.4 mph! With rain the night before some of the century old rocks were slick as vaseline on glass, which created some gaps later in the race. I took full advantage of some course recon the day before and launched an attack late in the race, which granted me 20 sec, though Justin Lindine reeled that back to less than five by the finish. I won the stage but Justin won the enduro segments on the day, which gave him a 1min time bonus on GC. I got 2nd in enduro and got a 40 sec time bonus, so Justin was now up <20sec…Just like that the stage was set for 4 more days of racing. (each day there are 3-4 enduro segments, if you get top 3 in the enduro you get a time bonus on GC 1min, 40sec, 20sec)

Day 2 was meant for fun and fast. Enduro day! Only the cumulative time of all the enduro segments (5) were added to total GC time. That meant soft pedaling in between, snacks at the rest stops, and conversation rather than just breathing hard at each other. I slapped some beefy WTB Vigilantes tires on my Kona Hei Hei DL to give me some extra flat protection and more confidence when boring white knuckles. My fatty stanchioned MRP Ribbon 120mm for was my saving grace as I didn’t have a trail bike to hop on for the day. I got through with no problems and smooth runs but it was no match for Justin on a trail bike, who put 8 seconds into me.

Stage 2.1 was the go-karts after the finish… We didn’t get a time bonus but we did get some raffle tickets and became extremely close to cramping up in the go-karts.

Stage 3 would prove to be a humdinger of a day, a real bellwether. Tussy Ridge, 38miles, the longest, the gnarliest sections of rock pedaling, and equally demoralizing road climbs. I was feeling good and ready to do battle, though the wind was swept from my sails as I flatted at the bottom of the 2nd enduro section. I was following too close to the guy in front of me and wasn’t ready when a deep water bar popped out from behind his rear wheel. Two quick “PING PING” sounds came from my rims and a rear slow leak ensued. Unbeknownst to me the feed was a short pedal away from the bottom of the enduro, which would have aided in saving time lost due to wheel change or tube installation. However, I decided to do it trial side. I experienced some CO2 malfunctions and by the end of the day I would loose 14min to Justin. My head hung…

This put 1st out of reach and 2nd was 8 min up now. I went into stage 4 ready and willing to take no prisoners. My aggressive attitude was matched by great legs. I was putting the wood to the guys early and managed a gap. Justin and I lead into the first enduro where I wanted to stay pinned in order  to gap the current 2nd place GC contender, Kyle Trudeau. We had him on the ropes until… (cue low toned dramatic music) I flatted again. This came as a mental wall collapse. I felt good on the descent, not taking chances, but riding fast and smooth, I never felt my rim hit any rocks or bottom out my suspension. I would come to realize this was just dumb luck. I fixed the flat and throttled out for the next 1.5 hrs by myself. I felt great and was able to get time back on the guys that surpassed me but I fell to 5th in GC with 3rd was now 2:20 up on me going into stage 5. Justin would later reveal that he has flatted on a single rock on that descent “like 3 times… It is pointy sharp and pointing backwards in the trail.” Someone should go dig that thing up and move it. Or at least point it down hill.

Stage 5 was going to be relentless. I knew I had to go early again to have enough of the stage to make up time on 3rd in GC. Though, after the first bit of, slick AF, gradual rocky climb I knew I emptied the tank on stage 4 and my legs weren’t feeling quite as snappy. Soldiring on I attacked about 15miles in and gapped Aaron Snyder, 3rd in GC, and never looked back. Justin and Kyle Trudeau (1st and 2nd in GC) came with and then went by me on the climb. I never saw Justin again but went up the final climb pacing myself on Kyle. I crossed the line and immediately started to measure the time gap between me and Aaron. Of course, I glanced away from the clock for one second at which point he comes into view and I lose track of time. Now all I can do is wait and reassure myself I did it even though in the back of my mind I knew there was a chance I hadn’t. I cleaned up, drank a lot of coke, and ate a lot of pringles until the results were posted.

(Cue sigh of relief)… I managed 2:50 seconds, putting me in 3rd by 30 seconds. Not too shabby of a race after 15o miles of some of the rockets mtb’ing in the nation. Though, Aaron proclaimed we weren’t friends anymore with a smile on his face, I am sure that will pass.

My Kona compadre managed to muscle his way into 5th throughout the stage race. He said this was the first year he hasn’t flatted! Good legs and good luck held him steady throughout the week and he maintained 5th in GC and 5th in the Enduro overall piloting his Kona Hei Hei Dl.

Link to Dirtwire.tv interviews from the entire race and amazing highlight videos!

I had some unbelievable support this year. Big thanks to Lynn and Kerm for providing soigneur and tech zone services. Thanks to my mom and dad for coming up and watching, and a huge thanks to the TSE volunteer crew who pulled off another year without a hitch. I’ll be back next year for sure, with some thicker tires!

You may have thought that was the end but I had other plans, since we drove 8hrs from NC to PA. Bald Eagle State Forest is not only home to the TSE and great mountain biking but also some amazing dirt bike trails, which opened to the public on Friday of the race. That meant the Tuesday after Memorial Day we had the place to ourselves! Emily and I used this opportunity to get her out on her first trail ride.

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That evening I hooked up with Aaron Snyder and Gunnar Bergey for a few laps on the SMCC Enduro Trails. These were the same trials we raced a few enduro stages on during the race, however, instead of going down these descents on dirt bikes we were going up. As if my arms weren’t pumped up enough!

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Big thanks to Bruce Buckley and the TSE Media crew for great content all week!

Kerry and Emily’s Blue Ridge Bikepacking Adventure: Beta

Words and photos by Kerry Werner.

It all started during cross season. We were staying at a host house in Sun Prairie, WI, getting ready for the Waterloo CX race, when our hosts started telling us about how they ride tandem. For some reason it clicked. I immediately thought of Emily and myself doing some sort of tandem adventure.

We had talked about doing some thing really cool this summer because in the fall she will start an internship, which will keep her chained to Winston-Salem. She will have little time for extended adventures – the likes of which a standard 4 year college degree and two years of grad school allowed, the latter less often of course.

Then I thought of a conversation I had last summer with a good friend, the Lees McRae Collegiate Cycling Coach. We pondered how cool it would be to do a fully supported Blue Ridge Parkway through-ride, by raising some money for a charity of our choice. This would allow us to simply ride with two bottles and a phone to take pictures then meet the support vehicle at the end of the day, have a good meal, sleep in a bed, and wake up to do it all again the next day.

So with these two thoughts aligned my brain instantly computed that Emily and I should do a Parkway through-ride, bikepacking on a tandem. I dropped the whole support aspect of the original plan because it would be more fun to camp and make an adventure out of it. I like to get out of my comfort zone, it helps me grow and realize I am human. Plus, I was watching my friend Russell Finsterwald’s Instagram, and what not, all fall. This must have lead to an immense amount of pent up jealousy, which erupted into this idea.

From there the plan changed slightly, only in the approach. Instead of a tandem Emily would use panniers and I would pull a B.O.B. Yak trailer, behind my Major Jake of course.

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It was Emily’s spring break, instead of Punta Cana or Cancun, we decided an abbreviated bike packing trip (3 days, 2 nights) from Winston-Salem to Stone Mountain State Park. Stone Mountain State Park, along the Parkway, to Boone, NC, Boone back to Winston-Salem, with a mandatory bakery stop (and later an emergency donut stop).

We strapped on our cold weather gear, loaded up the rigs and headed out into the burliest head wind… and that is how it was for the next 5 hours.

Tall shadows confirming our late arrival at the end of Day 1, which was not a pleasant way to start this journey. It ground our average pace down to 12.8 MPH, which wasn’t planned when we started late at 12 noon.

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It was an expected low of 15ºF that night and the temp was dropping fast when we rolled in. We got out of the saddles and straight into the tent, inhaled some freeze dried food and cookies, then lights out.

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We woke…

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Breakfast…

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Packed and hit the road!

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The night was nice, our gear kept us warm, the sun was out, and we were feeling revived, refreshed, reinvigorated.

Got on the Parkway in the first 5 miles and didn’t have to get off it for the next 60.

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These were the reason the Parkway was added into this equation. Vistas to the right and left for 60 miles.

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The BRP holds a special place in my heart because I trained on it for 6 years while I was in Banner Elk, NC going to college. This is why…

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I can remember doing efforts on climbs and finishing at the top, completely blown, I crane my neck and my eyes focus on layers of pastel blues darkening and deepening as the miles stretch on.

It was just as I remember it.

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We called a friend in Boone because why struggle when awesome people want to help? We were welcomed into a warm kitchen, straight to a bubbling pot of chili, and as much hot tea as we could manage. After warm showers and a great meal it wasn’t long before lights out. Besides, tomorrow was going to be a big day.

Pancakes for breakfast, lots of them, or rather one giant one that would fill your plate like a mini pizza but was half an inch thick and absorbing all the syrup you could throw at it.

Out the door, but first to Hatchet Coffee for a little pick me up and a pastry from Stickboy Bread Co.

Now for real, Boone to Winston, 100 miles! The previous two days were 65 miles. We were a little nervous because the all day head wind and the 60 miles of Parkway forced our average speeds down – below 12 the second day. If we didn’t have a tail wind or wouldn’t have started the ride by dropping Elk Creek Road – a big paved, snaking decent, which intermittently pops on and off gravel as it serpentines next to a gently rolling creek – we wouldn’t have made it before dark.

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Luckily, the bike gods were on our side because by the end of the day we averaged 16.1 MPH. This was after an emergency donut stop just outside of Wilkesboro, NC. As well as a stop at the Amish Bakery in Windsor, NC before the last push home.

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It was a long three days and the temps were certainly unfavorable, thus adding to our post ride exhaustion.

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In hindsight it is comforting to know that we managed to do the trip in the harsh, cold temps that we experienced because this was all just practice for the big hoorah! The real Blue Ridge Parkway through-ride is planned for early June, after the Trans-Sylvania Epic mountain bike stage race. We plan to use fitness gained from that 5 day MTB stage race to get through the Parkway through-ride.

This mini 3-day trip was crucial to first see if bikepacking is something that we both could enjoy as well as dial in our gear and weed out unnecessary pieces of equipment. I am more excited for the through-ride now than before our adventure. The warmer temps will make the whole ride more tolerable and give us longer days; we started before the time change. Thus, we will have more time to follow the brown signs of the park services to waterfall off chutes, swimming holes, and welcome centers that will be open in the summer, which were not at the beginning of March. All in all Emily and I are both excited for the big trip, though I doubt you will see us towing the B.O.B. trailer across America or down the Continental Divide anytime soon. Baby steps.