Swank 65 - Pisgah Forest, North Carolina
The Sycamore Cycles Swank 65k (un)officially wrapped up the southeast mountain bike season yesterday in Pisgah National Forest, NC. With it's mix of beautiful scenery, hard climbs, and fun, technical descents, the Swank always draws a big crowd. From die hard mountain bikers nursing the last of their summer form, to folks in the midst of 'cross season, it's hard to resist a race that's as complete a test of all around mountain bike skills as the Swank.
No matter who shows up though, there's nearly always one name at the top of the results sheet. Sam Koerber has won this (and every other race in Pisgah), more times than one can count, and this year was no different.
Riders set out under gorgeous, sunny skies at 10am. In a twist from past editions, there was no le mans start this year. Instead, riders did an opening parade lap of about 10 minutes in order to spread out the pack before the first singletrack climb up Cove Creek.
Emerging from the start loop, Sam Koeber (Industy Nine) was off the front, with Matt Williams (Epic Brewing) on his wheel. The two had a small gap on a number of chasers including Brad Cobb (Motor Mile Racing), Ben Wiengand (Motion Makers) and Justin Mace (Motor Mile Racing). Koerber upped the pace ever so slightly going up Cove Creek, forcing Williams off his wheel, and headed off on a solo mission. Williams settled into second, with Wiengard and Mace taking up the chase.
At the race's midpoint, with 2 hours of racing down and some of Pisgah's premiere singletrack behind them, the race looked exactly as it had 10 minutes in. Koerber was off the front on his way to a commanding win, with Williams a few minutes back and Mace and Wiengard a further few minutes in arrears. However, the race's biggest climb to the famed Farlow Gap descent promised to shake the race up a bit.
Williams was suffering but holding second. Behind, Mace dropped Wiengard to move into third. By the top of the climb though, a surging Cobb had caught both Mace and Williams, and he dropped into Farlow Gap in second place, with Mace in tow. The two would ride to the line together, with Cobb taking the sprint for second ahead of his friend and teammate. Wiengard would eventually catch Williams, setting up a battle for the minor placings. However, Williams surged up the final climb, and cruised down the Cove Creek Trail to finish in forth. Wiengard rounded out the top five.
The women's race held a bit less drama this year as Rossville, GA based rider Paula Burks took home the win by a huge margin, crossing the line in 4:43:55.
As always, the crew at Blue Ridge Adventures put on a great event. Racers were greeted at the finish line by a warm fire, food off the grill, and plenty of New Belgium beer.
1. Sam Koerber (Industry Nine) 3:37:28
2. Brad Cobb (Motor Mile) 4:02:28
3. Justin Mace (Motor Mile) 4:02:30
4. Matt Williams (Epic Brewing) 4:08:49
5. Ben Wiengard (Motion Makers) 4:09:39
6. Jon Stang
7. Art Odell
8. Shaw Henderson
9. Glen Poupore
10. Nick Bragg
11. Chris St. Peter
12. Chandler Weekes
1. Paula Burks 4:43:55
2. Jana L. Morris 5:32:50
3. Loretta Simpson 5:54:48
4. Mandy Meyer 5:56:24
5. Rebecca Bubp 6:45:32
6. Angela Reed
7. Tiffany Pease