The 2015 Swank 65k kicked off amidst cloudy skies and occasional showers on Sunday, making for a wet and treacherous edition of the Pisgah classic. As third place finisher Nick Bragg (Piney Flats Cycles) put it, “The Swank lived up to it’s reputation as a soul crusher of a race. The rainy conditions meant slick roots with leaves covering all the trails. Loose!”
In the men’s race, it was Ben Renkema who lit up on the first climb of the day up the Daniels Ridge trail, leaving the rest of the field to suffer behind. However, Matt Champion (Sycamore Cycles) made a move on the Daniels descent, and began to bridge back up to the leader. Behind, Scott Hoffner and Bragg were battling it out early for the third spot.
As the race approached it’s crux, the climb up to Farlow Gap and the famed, harrowing, descent back down, Champion had finally made contact with Renkema. “I didn’t catch him until we were halfway through Butter [Gap trail],” Champion said later. “We rode together until we started the gravel climb up to Farlow. From that point on I started to pull away on the climb and didn’t see Ben again until he finished. Farlow was insane with all the leaves and wet conditions. I wasn’t expecting the race to be fast, but somehow it was faster than Dave’s time from last year. It was a lot of fun and most of the rain held off until the first few riders finished.”
Renkema would hang on to finish 2nd behind Champion, while Bragg made a move behind to ride himself from 5th at the top of Farlow to 3rd by the bottom. “Descending down Pisgah’s most techy trail, Farlow, was nothing more than one long graceful trip, slip, and fall,” Bragg said. But his effort was good enough to land him on the 3rd and final spot on the podium.
The women’s race was an open and competitive affair, with defending champ Nina Otter (Liberty Bikes) not in attendance. Stepping up with a big ride this year was Brevard local Megan Hutton, who was able to cruise home to the finish in Cove Creek and take the win by nearly 9 minutes. Rolling through in second was Angela Paterna, with Jessica Burger is 3rd. Last year’s runner up, Emily Watts, had to settle for 4th.