Bridge to Bridge Preview

Mile High Swinging Bridge

Mile High Swinging Bridge

Here I go again. In a few more days, I will be embarking on my last big mountain adventure of 2011 — the Bridge to Bridge ride out of Lenoir, NC. They call this the “grand finale in the annual trilogy of century cycling events in Western North Carolina.” I’m not sure what the other two are. Mount Mitchell has to be one and maybe Cashiers, maybe Hot Doggett, or maybe Blood, Sweat and Gears. Someone this past weekend told me that Bridge to Bridge is considered one of the ten toughest century rides in the US. That sounds high, but it is possible.

When looking at the elevation chart, it looks similar to the Assault on Mount Mitchell. It should start relatively flat with maybe a few rollers early, then the real climbing will begin around Mile 50. I believe that is when we head up Schull’s Mill Road and up to the Blue Ridge Parkway. From there it will be typical parkway riding with moderately steep climbs and fast descents, until a super steep climb to reach the top of Grandfather Mountain. The last push of 100 yards will be in the 20% range. I have seen the climb and know that it’ll hurt.

The weather will be interesting. It looks like in lower elevation the lows will be in the 50s and highs in the low 70s. In higher elevation, the highs could be in the upper 50s. The top of Grandfather Mountain could be in the 40s, similar to Mitchell a few months ago. This may be ideal for me since I perform poorly in heat. I’ll bring arm warmers in case it gets too cool, but these conditions could be ideal. Heat does not agree with me, so no complaints here.

One drawback is that I caught a little virus this week. It had me out of work one day and not 100% on the bike. Right now I am feeling a little better, although still slightly congested and it has made its way to my chest. With three days remaining, I am hoping the crud works its way out of my system. As long as it is not in my lungs, I should be alright.

I’m still up in the air on how to approach the ride. For my Mitchell ride, I went out at a moderate pace and didn’t start pushing myself until the climbs. It was a difficult ride, yet I felt afterward that I still had something left in the tank. Of course if I spend that fuel early, I could end up tired on the climbs. The last thing I want is to wear myself and make it tougher at the end, especially since I am nursing a head and possibly chest cold.

I probably will take a similar approach. Now I have improved tremendously since Mitchell and should be stronger, but I’m not going to get overconfident and jump out with the lead pack. I’ll ride at a moderate and comfortable pace and not worry about time. It would be nice to finish faster than my Mitchell time, but it is not something I am going to push to achieve. I will do what my body tells me and enjoy the ride.


6 responses to “Bridge to Bridge Preview

  • Theresa @ActiveEggplant

    Do you seriously have to ride across that bridge? There’s no way in hell you’d catch me doing that. …I may or may not have an irrational fear of bridges…especially suspension bridges.

    Seriously, hope you have a great ride & that the bug you had didn’t do too much damage. Can’t wait to hear how it goes!

  • tootlepedal

    That looks like a very serious second half of your ride. Your plan not to overdo it in the first half looks very sound.

  • John Sellinger

    Good luck on the ride. I’ve done it a few times, the last time up to the top of Grandfather Mtn was in 2007. The ride is pretty fast for the first 50 or so miles, so definitely try to get in with a group that you can comfortably stay with. Most groups fall apart once you get to the long climb up to the Blue Ridge. It’s not too steep, just long. It’s not unlike the Assault on Mt. Mitchell portion along the Blue Ridge, around 7-9% grades. Try to make sure you eat once you get to the Parkway and while you circle back to Grandfather Mtn. In the past, there were 3 rest stops once you got to the Parkway and before you get to Grandfather Mtn, stopping briefly at least 2 would be a good idea. As you head up Grandfather Mtn, the grade gets a lot steeper, and that’s where I used to run out of energy. Make sure you have at least 1 full bottle as you go up. There are spots where you can stop and catch your breath, just in case you need to, and there is one right at the bottom of the last steep ramp up to the finish. That ramp is definitely steep, but there are a lot of people you cheering you on, and your desire to finish will get you just fine.

    For me, the Assault on Mt. Mitchell was a lot harder than the Bridge to Bridge, and I bet you won’t have any real problems making a good time.

    Have fun, and I look forward to read how it went!!

  • aaronwest

    Appreciate the great comment. I had heard that Mitchell is a lot harder, but that a lot of people confuse B2B for being too similar and they don’t leave enough in the tank for the Grandfather Mtn climb. I’m trying not to make that mistake.

    I think the long stretch you are referring to is Schull’s Mill Road, right? I have driven that and it didn’t seem too bad. Just long, like you said. I have ridden the stretch of the parkway up to Linn Cove Viaduct, and it wasn’t so bad either. Grandfather is the big unknown. Hopefully my legs will hold out.

    Thanks again!

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