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Presented by East Coasters of Roanoke & Blacksburg
Sunday, April 6, 2008
Dragonling at the Grouse Trailhead, April 2008.
Lore: When the mighty Smaug crash-landed in Craig County, 'round about 27,345 B.C. on a Tuesday, he tore the ground up pretty good. When the townsfolk covered up that nasty carcass, a new ridgeline was created that left a craggy scar on the horizon silhouetting his horrible spine. But don't frolic in the autumn mist¾this ain't no land called Hanna Lee. It's awe-inspiring, trepidation-building, fire-breathing mountain bike country.
The infamous Dragons Back is a true fire-breather if there ever was one. The course is a figure 8, with only a 2 mile singletrack (climb!) duplicated. Here is a real skill-riders dream, with the singletrack marred and pocked with granite, shale and Smaug's scales. We thought mud wasn't possible, but after 1998's epic, we graciously pull that claim back. Generally, it's rocky enough to prevent unsightly mud build up.
The Drama Unfolds: Start on a Wildlife road before taking a left up the rise to the top on pure singletrack (Grouse Trail). Once upon the dragons very back, the first time, take a right. After a mile of sweet gnarliness, take a right on what we refers to as sidehill trail, this one known as the Deer. This is a 1500' plunge with hellbent-hairpin switchbacks. Once back on Wildlife Road, take a left, then a quick right on a neat one-mile trail, the Ring O' Fire. Back on Wildlife, take a left and head a mile or so back to the Grouse. This time it's a right, and back up the all-too-familiar climb. Back on top, this time hook a left, and ride the rocky narrow single-to-quarter-track ridge until you reach the Turkey Trail about 3 miles hence, which provides gratifying gravity release. Take that plunge 2 miles off the rascal and your back on Wildlife road again, only youve passed the starting line while on top of the ridge. Hang a left on Wildlife Road, ride 2 more forest road miles, and your home again.
An authentic adventure under your belt.
Fast experts will complete the 18 mile course at just under 2 hours. Beginners do a shorter loop in 1 ½ hours. XXC will clock in at around 5 hours (course untested).
Because of the remote nature of this outstanding venue, bring with you all that you might need. In the case of 1998 and 1999's adventures, this means just 2 words: GORE-TEX! Temperatures and conditions can vary violently at times.
To get there: Take exit 141 off of I-81 north of Salem/Roanoke to 311 north. Follow the 311 signs towards New Castle. Travel on 311 about 12 miles. Prior to New Castle, spot a dirt road on the right with the brown forest service sign WILDLIFE ROAD, which is also known as FS 224. Travel down this winding, rolling road for 5 miles. Staging is on left in a gated field 1 mile past the Grouse trailhead (on right across from boulder-lined parking area).
Here's a map to get you here.
Accommodations: Woods camping is free. Use any field along 224 (there are many). Quality Inn at exit 141, Salem, is the closest hotel. Please call now for reservations: 540.562.1912 & 540.562.2717.
Race Date: Sunday, April 6, 2008
Registration: 8:30am to 11am
Course Length: 18 miles, XXC 35 miles
Race day $30, $35 pro/semi-pro
Race Begins: XXC Ultra endurance classes start following a 9AM rider briefing, with 8 hour time limit.
All remaining classes begin on one minute staggers starting at 11:30 EDT. Starting order divided by 1-2 minute intervals.