I haven’t done a lot of race reports here on DC, mostly because I’m not much of a racer. But when Eric from Pisgah Productions called and asked me to jump in the van for a few days and help our with the Icycle event, I couldn’t say no. Even if I don’t really care for the act of racing, I really enjoy setting up and organizing a race (party). I was more than happy to offer up any help I could. It was one hell of an off-season party in the woods and I am stoked to have met so much of the local riding community in one weekend. Here is a little story about how it all went down
The Icycle is a long-standing winter tradition in Western North Carolina. Every year, on the last weekend of January, the local mountain bike community descends upon the property of Fontana Village Resort to do a little off-season racing and throw a party in the woods.
The race is held in an area steeped in history. From early Native Americans and loggers to a small copper mine boom in the early 1900’s. Eventually culminating with the construction of the Fontana Dam by the Tennessee Valley Authority in 1942. With no cell phone service and a lot of area to explore, it has a distinct primitive and remote feel. A curious mountain biker could be busy out there for a long time. These days, the area is home to a quaint resort village that welcomes mountain bikers with open arms. The self-contained convenience of the resort combined with a plethora of private trails (and some National Forest) makes it a perfect venue for a mountain bike race.
Icycle consists of two events, an XC race during the day and a downhill race held at night. The cross country course is a brutal little 7 mile loop boasting nearly 1,500 feet of climbing every lap. Where the downhill course is 2 minutes of speed and fun…in the dark!
Recent snow storms had competitors worried that the course would be a sloppy and slushy mess come race day. But unseasonably warm and dry weather the days leading up to the event left the course about as good as you can get for January. Stories of frozen toes and ice beards of years past hardly seemed possible as the racers toed the start line at 11am to bluebird skies and spring-like temperatures. All the racers crossed the finish line visibly worked over but they were greeted with cold post race beverages provided by Oskar Blues Brewey. Pisgah Productions is notorious for having some of the hardest races around and this course seemed to be no exception.
The downhill course overlapped a small section of the XC course so practice didn’t open until 3pm. Once the shuttle started running, the course was filled with dozens of smiling faces as everyone tried to get in as many daylight laps as possible. Race runs started at 8pm and the bottom course was filled with so many spectators that it more closely resembled a Cyclocross race than a downhill. Full suspension trail bikes were the weapon of choice, but with categories for singlespeed and “hard ass” (full rigid) the mood wasn’t exactly serious. That definitely didn’t keep a lot of racers from going incredibly fast.
It is safe to say that high quality, grassroots racing is a live and well in the southeast and Icycle is a worthy addition to anyone’s calendar. Cheers!by