Three weeks ago Emily and I bought a house!

We have spent most of that time unpacking boxes, organizing our space, and putting ikea furniture together, which has been a relationship testing ground in and of itself. However, we have also been getting out for bike rides and getting to know the area better. 

If y’all can remember we did a socially distanced stage race back in May. It was 6 stages, 2 road, 2 mtb, and 2 gravel. That experience pretty much solidified Roanoke at the top of our list for home shopping. 

Then the people behind that first race put on another race, this one is 5 stages and all MTB. We did the first 2 stages around the 4th of July. Then we had to take an intermission to pack our things and focus on the move. I won’t lie. Things have been caotic! Moving is hard and I don’t know how people with 9-5’s do it. So kudos to y’all. It took a solid 2 weeks but things have settled down for us so we felt like it would be a great release to take some of the stress associated with moving out on the mtb trails and complete the rest of the stage race. 

About a week ago, Saturday, Emily and I set off (from our home this time, we are locals now not commuters) to complete the final 3 stages. Starting with North Mountain, just 35min drive from our house near Catawba, VA. Its a heinous Ridgeline trail that sounds easy on the surface. The segment was only 10miles and some change but you had to earn every pedal stroke! We set off for a pre ride lap with some friends and quickly found that the Roa-Stoked description, stating the first 1.5 miles were the hardest, couldn’t be more right. Straight up hill and some hike a bike for about 35-40min. 

Then we had a ripping descent down Deer Trail to a gravel road, which traversed us north east to the Grouse Trail. We climbed that back up to the ridge, which wasn’t as bad as the opening climb. Then we had some epic Ridgeline gnar and got revenge on the opening climb as we sent it with speed back to the car.

We fueled up and knew what we were in for now. So we hit the opening climb with gusto and embarked on a much faster but much harder pinner lap.

We took a few days off from the stage race after North Mountain. Those shelves won’t hang themselves ya know. But the fire was lit and we got back out after it on Thursday to tackle the Carvins Cove figure 8 loop. 

Again, it was a shorter segment, only 11 miles ish. So we did a pre ride lap and got reacquainted with some trails, albeit in a different direction, that we did during the first socially distanced stage race back in May. The new trials however were awesome. The Gauntlet and Hi-Dee Hole being two of them. They were so fast and once again we were happy we pre rode because I no doubt would have blown a few switch backs. 

We got back to the parking lot, collected ourselves, gave Sherm some pets and let him roam for a bit before we locked and loaded for a hot lap. 

I really enjoy riding these trails and having all the good ones laid out before us on our GPS units by the Roa-Stoked crew is a real treat. However, I like hitting them at speed even more. The pre ride laps give us an idea of the tricky bits so that when we throw some speed at it we kind of sort of know our braking points and it makes for an exciting time that almost feels like racing even though we are far from racing.

Since we had done some of the segments at Carvins before I had some markers to try and hit (times to better on some climbs) and I was stoked to hit them even if it was dryer and running a bit faster.

We got back to the RV and headed home before the sky unleashed it’s fury. Only one more stage to go!

We took a day off and welcomed Spencer to our new home/ join us for the last stage. Spencer, for some reason, owns not 1 but 2 concrete saws. I wanted to cut a trench in our drive way to run a gutter drain away from the house so this was a perfect weekend for him to come up. 

We set out on Thursday morning for the Pandapas Day Use area (pronounced pan-dap-pass not panda-pos like I thought), just north of Blacksburg, VA. 

The segment was only 13 miles and some change so we opted for another pre ride and I am glad we did. The final 3 miles was a total gut punch. That special kind of trail when your tires don’t touch dirt and your getting bucked around over up-hill rock gardens. Keep in mind this is at the end of the lap when during the pinner lap you’re starting to fade. Then you have to find a little bit more just to keep moving forward and not resort to walking. 

I got back to the RV let the worminator out for so sniffing around then I locked him back up and reassured him that I would be back in not much over in hour. This was likely to motivate me more than it was to reassure him. He seems totally fine snoozing the afternoon away in the comfort of the RV.

I hit the first climb with speed, caught Emily and Spencer on the big descent (they didn’t come back to the RV in between the pre ride lap and fast lap) and kept a little bit in the tank for those final three miles. 

I finished just under 1:10. Drained of sweat and humbled by the trails of the Pandapas Day Use Area. 

We got cook out milk shakes on the way home and had a jolly old time cutting a hold in the driveway that evening. 

If there is one thing I have learned about these strava stage races it’s that it’s a good way to get some race like stimulation in as well as test out your equipment. I have been using this iteration of the Roanoke Stage Race to see what the new Hei Hei is all about and I am all smiles coming out the other side. 

I know y’all may think I am biased on this topic but I do think the guys at HQ did an awesome job updating this bike. It pedals so much more efficiently and that really showed on the the technical pedaling at North Mtn and Pandapas. However, it maintains its ability to go downhill fast while still offering a semblance of comfort and confidence. I can truly say I haven’t felt this good on an XC race bike before and I can’t wait to throw more challenges at the new Hei Hei to see how it handles it.

Here’s a little hint at what’s coming down the pipe. It involves a trail that is “roughly 480 miles long, with more than 75,000 ft. of elevation gain, traversing through six wilderness areas, six National Forests and eight distinct mountain ranges. The average elevation is more than 10,300 ft…”

Can anyone guess what I am getting at? Yep! The Colorado Trail. My amigo Russell Finsterwald and I have had this on our bucket list for a while and since we are both looking for adventure in place of racing we figured this was the best time to take a crack at it. So keep your eyes open for more on that at the beginning of September.