Pretty sure they saved this bed for me:
Stage One: Coburn ~ 36.9 miles, 4,015 feet of climbing
Before the race, I'm pretty sure the start would be similar to what I've seen in the past. I'm wrong. Instead of a nice grind out on gravel from camp, we are slingshot-kapow right into the woods after a neutral start that lasts as less than fifteen seconds. I still think we are neutral (hard to tell on a single speed), and before I know it... bang. We're in the woods on tight singletrack with no room to move up. Gaps start to form as people ahead of me have a hard time in the twisties. I have no idea where my competition is. It's a long week. Stay calm'esque.
Anyways, pop out of those woods and know the real work is in front of me. No way everyone was caught sleeping like me. The heat is oppressive. That will get some people deep into the sads. My allergies are impressive. Snot is pouring out of my nose-part like a mountain spring. Not for nothing, but it's fascinating.
I think the first time I see Dan Giroux, he's coming past me around mile 22. He's screaming "enduro!" as we tear down Poe Paddy Drive. Less of a "road" and more of a mine field of buried rocks. I'm picking my way down in tire-conservation mode. I hate flats.
Make it down without any bad things, and start trying to claw my way back up the 1,000 ft/9 mile "climb." I catch Dan. Put him away, "dammit, Dicky" as I roll by. I find myself working with Aaron Albright and Kaysee Armstrong. Using the term "working" very loosely. Our paces only matching up occasionally with all of us surging in different manners.
Axel Kiermaier (fifth place on day one) is staying at Eagle Lodge, my eternal residence at TSE. His bike interests me to no end.