A bright sun greeted us as we prepared for day two of the challenge. Today’s ride went north from Hartwell and did a figure 8, leading us up to Toccoa, GA, where we would face the climbing challenge of Dick’s Hill.
Yesterday I suggested disappointment in the overcast weather. It may be easier to ride, but it obscures a lot of the scenery we travel through. Today can be filed under ‘be careful what you wish for,’ because it was bright and hot just about all day. That would haunt us later.
We started out at a good, steady pace throughout the flat ride towards Toccoa. There were three of us, so we traded off drafting. We were thankful to encounter Tim, who had fresh legs and was training for an Iron Man triathlon. He did a lot of the early pulling. After taking a rest stop at around 30 miles, with the temperature at 80 degrees, I still felt strong, almost as if I didn’t have yesterday’s miles on my legs.
Dick’s Hill was talked about quite a bit yesterday. From the descriptions I heard, I expected it to be something like the Greenville Watershed climb — nothing insurmountable, but still a good workout. As we approached the hill, we could see it from a distance. It looked a lot more imposing than I had expected.
Fortunately, looks can be deceiving. This was hardly a difficult climb. It was a couple miles of around a 5-6% grade, with some flat and a couple downhill sections in between. When I reached the rest stop at the top of the hill, I said ‘was that it?’ I didn’t mean to come off like a braggart, but I thought more might be coming.
The payoff for all that climbing was a nice descent. After doing a number of mountains in the past few months, I have become used to difficult, winding, ‘technical’ descents that require a lot of braking. This one had a number of straight sections and the turns were gradual, so we were able to keep cruising downward as fast as gravity would take us. I achieved a top speed of around 41 mph here just by tucking and coasting down. It was short, but exhilarating.
There was another pretty steep climb waiting for us at the bottom of the descent. It also became immediately clear that the temperature had jumped and was now blistering hot. It was time to work again and that ever-present sun made it tough to turn the pedals.
No problem, I thought. The rest of the way is going to be flat or downhill. We could stand the heat. Turns out I was wrong about the flatness of the course, or maybe it just felt that way after so many miles the day prior. There were a lot of rolling hills, and many of the inclines were around 6% or so grade. These are the types I live for when riding locally, but I cursed every one of them today. In the last 40 miles, we had around 2,000 feet of climbing. That would usually be fine, but today every last one hurt.
I slogged, grunted, pushed, and did all I could to make through those last few miles. Each one was harder than the last, and those last few could have been Mount Mitchell if I didn’t know better.
At last, we returned to Hartwell. Two days, 213 miles, and the last 50 were in 90 degrees. Now I’ll call that a weekend. Now is time for some relaxation.