I started out mountain bike racing in west/central PA around July 2002, but it has taken me many years to actually find the little local races in the area. One of them, the Dash for Cash in Sarver, PA (northeast of Pittsburgh,) has been around for years, but I never did this race till June 6, 2009.

I was talking to local racer Shane Gouldthread the week before the race, and he mentioned how cool it was – unreal climbs, bomb singletrack, etc. Plus a huge pig roast and party afterward. So I signed-up.

The race description said something about “lung busting climbs” and “gnarly descents,” but virtually all races make those claims in order to attract riders, so I took it with a grain of salt (even after my 18-month layoff from mountain biking.)

I figured the ITT format (i.e. mountain bike time trial) would make for an awesome race without worrying about huge bottlenecks going into the singletrack, plus it would give me a chance to have a little more fun on the obstacles without pressure.

[[Fast forward to the race >>]]

This is one wicked race! I don’t have much in the way of a race report, but after that race, I had to write a little something about the course itself. The course description is actually putting it lightly! This is unreal singletrack!

The course starts with a quick ride down the pavement, down a dirt road, into a hay field, then into the singletrack. It starts out with fairly fun, technical singletrack. It’s real twisty with plenty of rock gardens and logs. Then you head through another hay field, then the real technical stuff starts.

It’s hard to believe you could find this stuff on an XC race course. I’ve raced the Michaux races (Carlisle, PA) multiple times, and there is serious rough stuff there, but this Dash for Cash course is way more technical than that!

As the promoter says, it’s “100% rideable,” but that’s easier said than done. Especially in a race situation where you’re going too fast at obstacles you’ve never seen, and possibly delirious from the monster climb you just completed.

The toughest part is that there’s not much space between obstacles, you if you dab on one obstacle, you probably have to walk/run through another 3-5 obstacles before you can get back on your bike. It’s tough stuff!

Example: You’ll come through a tight corner with very little momentum, then you’re faced with a rock the height of your front wheel. Next corner, a pile of big, loose rocks that requires both muscle and finesse to conquer.

Get through that and you get to a super-steep downhill with lots of mud and loose rock, with a 90 degree turn at the bottom. (That was one of the scariest downhills I’ve done in an XC race.)

Somewhere in there you also have a section of rocky trail cut into the side of a hill, which is probably 18″ wide, with a nice drop off on your right side!

If you make it through that, eventually you hit the stream crossing. Spoiler alert: It’s not rideable! The moving water is at least knee-deep, and the stream bed is big, loose rock. Just walking through it was dangerous – I almost twisted my ankle twice where my foot slipped and wedged between big rocks.

After trudging through the stream, you get the joy of a huge dirt road climb. After that, things went a little hazy.

But I do remember a few more hill climbs, which are probably half a mile or a mile long and pretty steep.

Plus, a couple more descents that were quite steep, but much more fun than the first one. These descents let you keep some good speed because they’re slightly smoother and are more open at the bottom. The danger comes from the width of the trail. It has to be under 12″ wide, and the sides are higher than the trail; it’s easy to catch your pedals on trailside rocks and roots if you’re not careful.

Then there’s fun stuff like smaller creek crossings that are rideable, some more cool singletrack, as well as a jaunt across a golf course. You actually ride on the golf course, but watch out – there are golf carts everywhere trying to take you down!

Somewhere in there, there’s a really long tunnel. Hopefully you’re not claustrophobic, because it’s narrow, and pitch black. Plus the cement bottom is slippery due to the moss and other slime. (At least it’s not rocky like the tunnel in the Peanut Butter Festival race that’s just down the road from here.)

Throw in some more rocky singletrack, blind corners, big log pyramids, narrow wood bridges, and other obstacles I can’t really describe, and you have a beautiful 14 mile course. (The 19 mile expert course takes you back over 5 more miles of technical singletrack before heading up a big paved climb to the finish.)

Did that scare you off? Or get you even more excited?

Don’t get me wrong – this is probably the most fun course you could ask for in a joy ride. So much cool stuff. Trying to actually “race” the course takes the fun out of it though (at least when it’s the first time you’ve ridden it.)

So definitely check it out if you can. I don’t think you get much for winning (it’s more of a charity thing,) so just go and have fun!

Speaking of fun, did I mention it’s at a farm and has a great atmosphere? Live music and a HUGE post-race barbecue. Tons of meat, tables full of fruit and snacks, kegs of beer, a Red Bull tent, live music, etc.

It’s actually like a shorter version of the VisitPA.com Marysville Stage Race and Festival Weekend.

Find out more about the Dash 4 Cash at the Bike The Wilds race series website (last I checked that was the current organizer.)

P.S. There is also a 14 mile trail run on the course that starts about an hour before the bike race. If you have a buddy who runs, bring them too. But I can’t even imagine how hard it would be to run on a course like this!

P.P.S. I wish I had pictures of the obstacles, but I don’t. Luckily a blogger named David took some pics and video and has more useful info in a blog post about the Dash for Cash pre-ride. Those are the only published pictures I’ve seen of the course, so study them.

P.P.P.S. Shout out to the Steelers and Penguins, making Pittsburgh the Super Bowl and Stanley Cup champs this season!!

1 Comment
  1. Nice write up on the Dash! I certainly agree that it is more fun to joy ride than to race; at least more safe anyway! But I still had a blast doing the race and was thankful I got to pre-ride it.

    I also wrote a blog about the race if you care to read it, check out http://cyclingchic.blogspot.com/

    See you on the trails!

    Nina

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