Thanks, Pre-Ride (And Bathrooms): Will Unger’s Peak2Peak Story


Norte Youth Cycling’s Will Unger submitted this entry on the benefits of a pre-ride. Will and the Norte squad were out in force at Peak2Peak, and their strong performances were the result of months of training, careful preparation, and a well-timed team recon of the course. 

A few weeks ago, the Norte Varsity team did a Peak 2 Peak pre-ride. The pre-ride showed us how it is totally possible to complete Peak 2 Peak. It also showed us where the bathrooms were (more on that later).

    Fast forward to race day, Kyan had been up since 4:00 am wearing his “comfy clothes” (his Norte kit) with his “heart beating faster than a machine gun.” Everyone was nervous, but no one knows why. If we hadn’t done the pre-ride, I probably would have passed out when I saw the 287 feet long, 7.1% grade Crystal Climb.

    The 45 minute drive to Crystal was almost as interesting as race day. I knew that it was going to be a wacky car ride when my pre-race pump up music was screwed by one of my Dad’s geeky podcasts that he listens to. After the podcast was over, he turned on Self Esteem by The Offspring and asked me if it made me want to “cut the gnar.” By the way Dad, it’s “shred the gnar”, not “cut the gnar.”  

    As soon as we got to Crystal Mountain, I well acquainted myself with the bathrooms that I wouldn’t have been able to find if it wasn’t for the pre-ride. I know that I’m supposed to talk about other important aspects of the pre-ride, like how it helped me understand how doable the Crystal Climb is, but the bathroom location was just too darn helpful.

    We started lining up ten minutes before our start time, so we were almost right up on the line. Our plan was to have Julian Hilt and Carter Schmidt pull Alex Schwartz, Will Haap, and I until we got to the singletrack. As soon as we were off, it was just too chaotic to maintain our plan. We ended up just chasing Carter, who was passing people left and right.

    When we made it to the woods, Julian, Carter, and I were together. Haap and Alex nowhere to be seen. A rider for Mclain named Chuck Hathaway was in front of us and he was like our coach for the ride. He told us when a section to pass was coming up and he would always be cheering us on. When we broke back onto a gravel road, Carter, Chuck, and I passed a bunch of people while Julian was trying to catch up to us. Shortly after our rampage of passing, Carter dropped us and it was just Chuck and me. The grade started increasing and I knew that the Crystal Climb was coming.  

    We made it to the Crystal Climb, I was ready. I knew I could do it. By the time we were half way up the hill, I was already tired. I looked back and couldn’t find Chuck. I kept going knowing that he would catch me on the downhill. I made it to the top, happy that I was almost done with the first lap. Right before the finish line, there was a switchback. Remember when I said that Chuck would catch me on the downhill? Well, I was going a decent speed and all of a sudden, I couldn’t pedal anymore. I looked down and my spare tube had fallen out of my saddle bag and got wedged between my chainring and frame. I ripped it out and put it in my bag, but it wouldn’t zip up. As I was standing on the side of the switchback, Chuck came flying down and asked if i’m alright. I replied, “Yes, go on without me,” Luckily Mrs. Schwab was standing on the sidelines and offered to take my tube. Without hesitating, I tossed her the tube and off I went.

    Then came the second lap, I spent most of my time working my way back up to third place. First, I drafted behind a guy with a sweet lime green Pivot for the first mile or so as I recovered. I finally got to a good spot to pass and continued to push up. I saw a Hagerty rider in front of me, he looked really familiar. Oh my gosh it’s “the Jack Mcnamara”! Jack and I rode up the first half of the Crystal Climb together. Then I saw Chuck! Chuck was a huge help throughout the race and I definitely couldn’t have done as well as I did without him. Then came the downhill. Having already done it in the first lap and the pre-ride, I did it confidently and it felt “flowier”.

    Looking back at Peak 2 Peak, I want to thank Norte for putting on the pre-ride. I am already looking forward to next year’s Peak 2 Peak and of course Iceman!

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