O'Dea Diary: Fool's Gold behind the scenes, Sponsor change, and Racing again

The second ever Fool's Gold MTB Races and Festival was an amazing success. We were just beginning to recover from our trip to the US 24 Hour Nationals when it was time to start the final preparations for the event. Namrita & I went up to Dahlonega, Georgia, on Wednesday with a truck load each of prizes, a PA system and various other supplies. We then spent some time planning out how to mark the 50 mile course and set up the start/finish venue. We ran out of daylight quickly and headed for downtown Dahlonega to have a few beers with Jason Mead of Pivot Cycles.

On Thursday, Namrita drove and marked the first 12 miles of the course while Dave Muse, our course designer, marked the Bull Mountain section and Jason & I marked the finishing singletrack sections. I borrowed a demo Pivot Mach 4 for the ride and really pushed it hard (when I was not dropping course marking arrows all over the place). Two hours into the ride, we saw a large black bear just 20 yards to the side. All three of us (Jason, I, and the bear) stopped and stared for a brief moment, each contemplating our next move.

The bear exited noisily into the brush to our left, but only 30 feet or so. I was not about to continue until he was far enough away that I could not see or hear him. I began yelling to scare him away, "That's right and don't come back!" Smack talking the bear seemed the most appropriate thing to do for some reason. We continued this display of false confidence for a few minutes and heard the bear move further and further away. Finally, we rode on, still yelling as we went. The rest of the day was fairly uneventful, but I ended the day with about nine hours of riding and at least three more hours of other manual labor.

The participants started rolling in early on Friday afternoon, some just to check in, and others to stay for the weekend. My brother finally arrived with his two sons and that was huge relief. They put in so much work over the weekend, taking a huge load off of Namrita & me. The 9:00 pm check-in cut off finally came and went. Namrita was still planning to race the 100 mile race but I was feeling really nervous. We had 125 racers in 2007, and this year we were up to 350+ people including racers and festival participants. I was going to need help to pull the event off without disaster. I had to ask her not to race and she kindly, if not reluctantly, agreed. We retired to the party surrounding the kegs of Terrapin and Sweetwater.

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