Course Description: Stage 2 up Hope Pass is a bit of a monster. It's the shortest day, but tough nonetheless. You start out running up a gradual grade for about 2miles. At that point, you start the 3mile-ish climb up Hope Pass topping out around 12,600ft. Then you drop down the root and rock covered descent that is by far and away the most technical portion of the entire week. Once at the bottom, you spend the next 5miles on rolling, winding, rocky single track all the way to the finish.
What Happened: Day 2 started out similar to Day 1.. at a pretty steady clip. Mike and I sat at the back of the pack most of the first 2 miles. At that point, we started to maneuverer our way to the front before we hit the single track climb. The first 1/2mile of the climb was led by the Inov 8 guys. We had heard that they were awesome climbers, so I wasn't too surprised. As the trail started to really "jack-up", Mike and I whipped around them and took the lead. We were hoping to put some time on the field during the climb, so that we didn't have to work as hard on the steep down hill portion.
As we gun our way up to the top, we are putting bits of time on the field here and there. We have about 1mile to go and as we look down, we see the familiar faces of Team Bend staying about 45sec back. We were hoping to have more time, but we didn't panic, we just kept pushing. A few minutes later as we grind our way to the top and the gap between us and second is opening up a bit more. At that same time, I feel this hand hit the small of my back and then.. SHOVE.... 2 seconds later.. I feel it again.. SHOVE.. We are crushing it and Mike has the energy to push me up the Mountain... no other way to put it.. IMPRESSIVE...
As we crest Hope Pass, we have about 2min on Team Bend and the Salomon Boys from Europe - Tom Owens & Ricky Lightfoot. It's time to hang on for dear life...
As we hammer our way down the backside, we are trying to keep the pace under control as we know it's going to be a long week and we wanted to save our quads for the later stages. Next thing we know, we here what sounds like "hooves" clomping down the trail. Through the rustling branches, Team Salomon literally flies by us. It was a sight to see. They seemed to have taken the form of wild animals as they swiftly strided down the rugged terrain. I wish I was carrying a camera because the sight was definitely picture worthy.
Once we get to the bottom, we begin to press the pace in hopes of closing the gap on Team Salomon. About 1.5 miles down the winding, rolling single track, we saw Team Bend and they were closing fast. Before we knew it, they had flown by us whipping around the turns on the single track. How tight they took the turns and clung to the ground reminded me of Sonic the Hedgehog. In response, we pushed the pace a bit and closed the last few miles pretty hard.
At the end of the day, Team Salomon won Stage 3 and we finished in 3rd place. Their time was 1hr 52min 50sec while we finished in 1hr 54min 47sec. Over the same course last year, the winning time was 2hr 4min 45sec. Despite taking 3rd we still had a 2.5min lead over Team Bend. Now the focus is on recovery and regrouping before we hit Stage 3.
Mike & I Pushing Up Hope Pass