Race Report: Rougher Than Expected - The Pisgah Stage Race

Apr 14, 2019
by Burke Saunders  


The Pisgah Stage race has grown a reputation as one of the most difficult stage races and endurance events in North America because of the rough and relentless terrain of Western North Carolina. Riders from around the country and the world convene on Brevard for the five-day event that covers 140 miles, with 20,000 feet of climbing. The route takes you on a tour of the entire forest. A few years ago Blue Ridge Adventures introduced an enduro aspect to the event which features some of the best descents you could ask for with long, fast, technical, natural terrain that adds up to around an hour of racing throughout five days.


Pisgah Stage Race
Dylan Johnson was first to come through half way down on the first enduro stage on Daniel Ridge

Pisgah Stage Race
Local legend Wes Dickson making the slippery conditions look effortless

Pisgah Stage Race

Pisgah Stage Race
Conditions on the first day were dark and damp with periods of rain while riders headed up to Farlow Gap

Pisgah Stage Race
Jason Luque hauling into the top section
Steep wet rocks

Pisgah Stage Race
Line choices galore

Pisgah Stage Race

Pisgah Stage Race
Rocks and roots were covered with slime mixed with mud making it 'exciting' to ride
Some perspective on the terrain...

Pisgah Stage Race
Very few riders made it down this section because it was so slick

Pisgah Stage Race
Jen Nielson making it through the thick of it

Pisgah Stage Race
Tristan Cowie headed down to the infamous waterfall crossing on Farlow & on his way to a stage win
Pisgah Stage Race
Although you can't tell from this picture, this is atop a sizeable waterfall


Pisgah Stage Race
Tristan making that Stumpy work while putting in a solid lead on the field
Pisgah Stage Race
Kerry Werner making the crux corner on Lower Black that makes or breaks your time

Pisgah Stage Race
Local ripper, rally racer and fan favorite - Nick Bragg

Pisgah Stage Race
Eric Nielson

Pisgah Stage Race
Tunnel vision is a common theme here
Pisgah Stage Race
...And out the other end

Pisgah Stage Race
Racing is tight across all classes

Pisgah Stage Race
Pisgah Stage Race


Perfect morning start on day three

Pisgah Stage Race
Pisgah Stage Race
It's all good times and laughs

Pisgah Stage Race
'Till that clock starts

Pisgah Stage Race
And for most it stays that way

Pisgah Stage Race

Pisgah Stage Race
Taking the inside line on the XC rig is no easy task - Nick Bragg

Pisgah Stage Race
Winding down the ridgeline on Bennet Gap

Pisgah Stage Race
Some things just aren't worth trying...

Cypress leading Tristan into the drop

Pisgah Stage Race
Evidence that something went down on the drop...

Pisgah Stage Race

All smiles

Pisgah Stage Race
After some visual evidence at the finish we found out who's blood that was and that the front tire burped on impact off the drop. Ouch!

Stage four had to be shortened due to rain and high river crossings which meant that the pace was turned up on day four

Pisgah Stage Race
Rainy morning peloton with eveyone B-lining it to Laurel

Pisgah Stage Race
Cypress and Tristan pushing each other down one of the rockiest and most physically demanding trails in the forest

Pisgah Stage Race
Pisgah Stage Race

Your switchback game has to be strong to do well on this one

Pisgah Stage Race

Pisgah Stage Race

Pisgah Stage Race
Pilot has got some exposure

Pisgah Stage Race
Jason Luque linking it all together

For those that made it through The rock garden, the stoke was high


Pisgah Stage Race
With rain from the day before the dirt was perfect for stage five on Bracken

Pisgah Stage Race
Tristan coming through on Bracken just after Cypress

Pisgah Stage Race
Brevard College recruits some serious talent on their cycling team. 19-year-old Tyler Clark nipping at the heels of the leaders on day five

Local Annie Pharr pumping her way down Bracken to solidify her 3rd place in the enduro & the overall

Pisgah Stage Race
High-speed trains just waiting for the opportunity to pass - Kerry Werner

Pisgah Stage Race
Back to that Brevard College talent thing... (no dropper)

Pisgah Stage Race
Guatemala's Quan Beatriz
Pisgah Stage Race
Missy always havin' fun

Inside line pass sequence
Olympian Georgia Gould with the inside pass on the final stage solidifying her overall enduro win

Women's Enduro Overall podium
Pisgah Stage Race
Men's Enduro Overall podium

Women's Overall podium
Men's Overall podium
Overall podium images courtesy of Icon Media

For full results & more information check out Blue Ridge Adventures





MENTIONS: @BurkeLawrencePhoto




26 Comments

  • 57 2
 High posting it in lycra with no pads at race pace in greasy conditions on some of those descents is just nuts.
  • 18 1
 Love the coverage PB. Pisgah is our treasure here in NC.
  • 8 0
 If you guys want a taste of this before you bite off 5 days worth, try ORAMM or Pisgah 111k:
www.blueridgeadventures.net/oramm/race-4
www.pisgahproductions.com/events/pisgah-111k-mtb-race

Pisgah is rad, you can definitely ride it on a XC bike with high post (done it) but a little more travel and a dropper will definitely help reduce the Code Brown frequency.
  • 4 0
 +1 for the Pisgah 111k. That race is no joke. The P55K is also a great race if you don't want the full 111K.

The ORAMM I didnt like as much... its much easier terrain than the P111K being mostly gravel and roads but its in July and that southern heat/humidity gets to you.
  • 6 0
 Ive said it once ill say it again, Pisgah dont care pro or joe, your in for a work out when touch down on the trail. She is a cruel mistress
  • 11 0
 Holy shit those are some huge days
  • 1 0
 They really are.
  • 4 0
 It's the past and the future all at once. A mix of 'old school' rocky rooty, gravel road, flowy, bermy, steep, gnarly and hike a bike. It put's the down in down country and the endurance in enduro. The fastest XC guys are also winning the enduro sections and some of these sections are DH worthy. Be prepared to get off and on the bike ALLOT both up hill and down, they are not afraid of mixing in serious hike a bike sections to get you to the gnarliest sections of trail. I ditched my usual get up of baggies and jersy for lycra, it's just too wet and muddy to mess with excess material and the back pocket for carrying stuff was essential. Such an awesome race, my first time there and it's an experience i would recommend this stage race to anyone who loves mountain biking! I will definitely be back.
  • 7 1
 XC racing requiring a full face. I love it.
  • 4 0
 Rode this area for the first time last week. Riding it at pace in the wet is serious business, amazing job by everyone that made it through.
  • 6 2
 Don’t let the Lycra fool you. These guys put down some blistering times on the technical descents that rival enduro riders.
  • 3 0
 Man great pictures, I've ridden each of the trails on the race and no pics videos seem to do a good job depicting how gnarly it is but the photographer really nailed it on the farlow and pilot pics.
  • 2 0
 "Taking the inside line on the XC rig is no easy task"

I believe that's the spiral staircase on Bennett's gap. The outside line is already pretty gnarly! I dumped a shiny new Pivot demo bike there last summer Wink I've never even thought about just dropping right down the middle!
  • 4 0
 The bike in "Some things just aren't worth trying..." pic clearly has no saddle. Must have snapped right off!
  • 3 0
 Saw it happen in the pisgah enduro last year guy had 2 stages left and had to drop out. Pisgah dont play
  • 3 0
 Saw that too. Dude needs some duck tape and a proper sized log to finish the day.
  • 4 0
 Naturally seeing a much higher concentration of Industry Nine goodies among the racers there!
  • 2 1
 I look terrible in Lycra... the aminals run away crying .. MY EYES!!

This being said, Lycra jokes aside, pretty tough conditions and impressive riding skill!

I’d be happy on my raked out enduro rig I wouldn’t ride that on an XC rig.. Good job ????????
  • 4 0
 This looks raw and rad!!
  • 3 0
 Man, so many people hiking the best part of Farlow
  • 1 0
 Are the enduro times just the blue indicated? Do they have to ride the whole 30 miles per day, and then is the overall the whole time?
  • 3 0
 Just the blue is the Enduro stage, ya gotta ride each stage each day to complete the race(both Enduro and the actual stage), the overall is calculated just like an Enduro adding up timed sections.
  • 1 0
 @saundersbl: Thanks BHB! Wink
  • 2 0
 Looks like fun. Tempted to try it!
  • 2 1
 Hand built trails with rocks and roots makes me drool but not when it's slippery and on the clock!
  • 1 0
 Awesome!

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