Besides being one of the prettiest venues anywhere, Ducktown is the SERC race that closest resembles the old NORBA/NMBS national races, and it’s setup a lot like the current U.S. national championships. Why? Because you go straight up, then you go straight down.
What makes Ducktown better is that nearly the entire race is on singletrack…no extended climbs on fire roads, no descents down ski hills. There is a paved section that bridges the final descent to start/finish, and there is a fast and flowy Jeep road that drops riders onto the final singletrack descent, but that’s it.
It’s that final singletrack descent that Ducktown is famous for: the Thunder Rock Express. It’s steep, rocky in places, and the turns will catch you off guard. You don’t enjoy it much on the first laps, because you know as soon as you hit the bottom you have to climb that damn thing all over again.
For the second year in a row the Yellow Wave had the privledge to do the Thunder Rock descent in a downpour. After a gorgeous blue sky day for a lap and a half, the thunder came booming just as I topped the mountain on the second lap. The rain came down in buckets and I couldn’t see a thing.
The only thing I could make out was the trail (caramel colored), the sides of the trail (darker brown), and I think the green colors rushing past were trees. I got knocked around a lot, hitting the rocks and roots I couldn’t see. And I’m not sure how I got down as fast as I did, or got down at all, but it was good to hit that paved part before the finish.
At the end muscles I didn’t know existed hurt. But the mud and the pain made me smile anyway.