The Transylvania Times -

By Eric Crews
Staff Writer 

Bike Riders Overcome Nasty Weather In Forest Race — Brevard NC


Lori Roberts, owner of the Sunset Motel, sponsor of Wednesday's stage, fires the starter pistol as the 75 riders in this year's Pisgah Mountain Bike Stage Race head off on the 32-mile long Carl Schenck Loop.. (Times photo by Eric Crews)

Racers in the Pisgah Mountain Bike Stage Race battled torrential downpours, flooded crossings and trails described by the riders as creeks during the 42-mile-long opening stage of the race Tuesday.

Despite the tough conditions, riders said they enjoyed the opening stage and were looking forward to better conditions through the rest of the week.

“That’s about as much rain as Pisgah ever sees,” said Sam Koerber, an Asheville-based professional mountain biker who won the first stage. “I was dreading the ride when I was looking at the radar, but it turned out to not be so bad. It was wet, but the trails were riding great still.”

Koerber and the rest of the field spent most of the evening repairing and cleaning their bikes, which took a beating in the tough conditions.

“It was just one big creek yesterday,” Patrick Jansen of the Nederlands said. “There was just a lot of water everywhere.”

Jansen, who is participating in the event for his first time and leading the men’s 40-plus elite division, said he is impressed with the course layout so far.

“There are some beautiful single track sections here,” he said. “I’m looking forward to it being more dry.”

Most of the 75 riders in the field experienced brake failures during the latter half of the ride Tuesday due to the conditions, which made the final descent down Black Mountain even more challenging.

“I’m sure this town is sold out of brake pads because everybody lost their brakes,” Koerber said.

Koerber is battling it out with three-time winner Jeremiah Bishop for first place in the pro division this year. Bishop finished second in Tuesday’s stage.

On Wednesday, however, Bishop was back atop the podium after outpacing Koerber en route to a record-setting pace of two hours and 28 minutes for the 32-mile second stage.

In total, the five-day race will cover 195 miles of trails as cyclists climb more than 28,000 feet in elevation.

Stephen Janes, a racer from Asheville who runs the area’s local Trips For Kids program, said the multi-day race event is taxing, so having a strategy is important.

“It’s five days of putting it all out there, so you’ve got to pace yourself but push yourself enough so you don’t come in last,” Janes said.

Janes said for those not interested in pushing it to the limit, the race offers a great chance to tour the Pisgah National Forest.

Along the way, volunteers hand out food, drinks and other supplies to the riders, which allows participants to go further and faster with less weight than they would be able to otherwise.

“The most important thing is to just enjoy it,” Janes said. “It’s good to have fun with it and enjoy the scenery.”

The race covers every type of terrain: from gravel Forest Service roads to technical single track and everything in between.

The technical aspect of the trails Tuesday proved to be a challenge for Melinda Davie, a racer out of Toronto who is participating for her first time this year.

“It was hugely challenging,” she said. “I’ve ridden all over the world, and I’ve never ridden anything like that before.”

Davie rode portions of Tuesday’s stage three days before when the conditions were optimal.

“Yesterday it was a huge challenge with the water and the mud, and it just didn’t let up,” she said. “It was like riding in a creek the whole time.”

One of the scariest moments on Tuesday for Davie was a river crossing where muddy, fast-flowing water threatened to sweep the cyclists downstream as they forded Bradley Creek.

“The river crossing was the first time that I’ve actually understood how people can drown in a river,” she said. “If you would have lost your footing, it would have just taken you away.”

On Wednesday, cyclists faced another creek crossing during the 32-mile-long stage. The creek crossing Wednesday took cyclists across the fast-moving stream only 20 feet above a 30-foot-tall waterfall. The dangerous crossing warranted a warning from race organizer Todd Branham, who urged the racers to use caution when navigating the crossing.

“If you slip, it could be bad,” Branham said in the pre-race briefing. “We haven’t had any accidents there yet, but I don’t want the first one to happen to-day.”

Branham also encouraged riders Wednesday to take in the scenery of the forest during their ride through Pisgah National Forest on the Carl Schenck Loop.

Devin Gentry, the education and outreach specialist for the Forest Service, thanked the riders for their involvement in the race. Wednesday’s race marked the first official race hosted at the Cradle of Forestry.

“We hope to have a lot more of this in the future,” Gentry said.

Wednesday’s race began at 11 a.m. when Lori Roberts, owner of the Sunset Motel, one of the major sponsors of the event this year, fired the starting gun.

Roberts said the week of the Pisgah Mountain Bike Stage Race is one of her favorite weeks of the year. The hotel is booked for the week with riders from all over the world, she said. Roberts hopes to continue to support events such as this one in order to further cycling in Brevard.

“I’m just trying to make sure that I’m a proponent of cycling and help to take it to the next level so that we continue to attract people like this to come to our area,” she said. “It’s been really good for the community.”

Roberts said meeting the people who participate in the race each year is a highlight for her.

“They’re friendly, they’re warm, they are intelligent and they all are interesting people with a lot to share,” she said.

Branham said experiences such as Roberts’ are what makes the event such a good thing for the community.

Branham said he is glad to see local riders at or near the top of the standings for each category.

Sam Koerber, of Asheville, is leading the pro division. Chris Saint Peter, of Brevard, is in first place in 50+ category, and Kym Schifino of Mills River is leading the women’s division.

The race culminates Saturday with the Cascadia Evening, which will celebrate the Pisgah Stage Race Finish with an awards party that promises to be a good time for the whole family

For more information on the event, visit


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