Fellow teammate Tom Neumann joined them for a little road riding in the mountains.
After a night of camping in style nearby in the comfy confines of John‘s trailer, the team woke up and drove into Old Fort looking forward to an exciting day of racing.
The race went off without a hitch with a massive neutral rolling start of 500 mountain bikers all set to tackle the 63 mile course with 11,000 feet of climbing. The climbs are punishing double track while the technical single track points almost all downhill. The views are scenic with vistas of mountains, valleys, and roaring mountain streams and waterfalls.
The first half of the race was perfect with refreshingly cool weather until the skies opened up and turned the remaining descents into treacherous mountain streams of cascading water, mud, and muck.
Kitsuma was a joy the first descent as the trails were in perfect condition. The climb up Star Gap gave a preview of what was in store a couple of hours later when they would be descending off of Heartbreak Ridge.
The flowing Jarrett Creek Road single track descent was a nice respite before the long and grueling 9 mile Curtis Creek Road gravel road climb up to the Blue Ridge Parkway. From there they climbed up the Blue Ridge Parkway to the hike-a-bike to start the Heartbreak Ridge descent.
The descent down Heartbreak Ridge to Star Gap took them back to setup the final climb and descent of Kitsuma before heading back into Old Fort for the finish.
Chris Lane crossed the line first finishing in 18th Place Open Men in 06:21:35 (HH:MM:SS) earning him 64th Place Overall.
Marco Demartin was next crossing the finishing line in 30th Place Master Men 40+ in 06:44:24 earning him 90th Place Overall.
Kathleen Sheehan finished next crossing the line in 4th Place Vet Women 30+ in 07:59:44.
John Kromis finished in 74th Place Master Men 40+ in 08:19:24.
Kathryn Hansen finished close behind in 6th Place Open Women in 08:36:50.
Crossing the line together after stopping to provide mechanical support to a rider (with several broken spokes, a broken chain, and a broken rear derailleur) on the Kitsuma descent, Tom Howe finished in 101st Place Master Men 40+ in 09:31:02 while Colin Blanchard finished 61st Place Open Men in 09:31:04
“We are going to die” was the phrase I kept hearing from teammate Tom Howe via Ashville transplant Colin Blanchard prior to ORAMM. It couldn’t be worse than the Patapsco 66 – or could it? Sure enough, three quarters through the race, sheets of rain turned the famously fast trails to treacherous muck. Add ORAMM to the growing list of races to try again next year when the trails are hopefully dry. Still, the testing climbs, gorgeous views and lengthy descents were worth it. Not to mention a weekend spent with friends new and old.
The Off Road Assault on Mt. Mitchell (ORAMM) is a 63 mile mostly off road Bicycle route with 11,000 feet of climbing. From Old Fort you climb over the Blue Ridge Parkway two times and just below Mt. Mitchell on beautiful Forest Service roads and unbelievable North Carolina single track. Mt. Mitchell peaks at 6684 ft and is the highest mountain east of the Mississippi river. The start/finish in the town of Old Fort sits at around 1400 feet. Most of the climbing is on Forest Service roads while most of the single track points downhill!
Do not underestimate the extreme difficulty and danger of this event. The course is extremely demanding and travels over rugged terrain with extreme elevation changes. The forest remains in its natural habitat. It is not uncommon to see wildlife such as a wild cat or a black bear.
This is not your typical race. Regardless of how you finish, you will have competed in the most exciting mountain bike race in the entire Southeast!!!