2011 Rides of the Year

With a brand new year right around the corner, it is a good time to wrap up my three-part best of the year series. Click to read parts one and two.

This year I had the opportunity to participate in a number of wonderful rides. Some were a lot of fun. Some were just hours of suffering. Some of them were both fun and miserable at the same time.

It is difficult to rank the rides since they are so different. You cannot really compare a flat ride near the coast to a tortuous ride at mile-high elevations. I have divided the rides into three categories.

2011 Favorite Rides of the Year

These are the rides that I enjoyed the most, whether it be for the best scenery, an exciting environment, or just the thrill of the ride. You’ll notice that many of my my mountain expeditions don’t fall under this category. That doesn’t mean they are not fun. They are, but they are more of a challenge that I work for. They also enable to be in top fitness that helps me enjoy the ‘easier’ ride.

Blue Ridge Breakaway

1. Blue Ridge Breakaway – While this was a challenge with a couple long climbs, it was not nearly as difficult as Mount Mitchell, Bridge to Bridge, or any of the other big mountain rides. That’s not to say it was easy. Not by any stretch. But it was exciting and the long descents down the Blue Ridge Parkway and then Maggie Valley were exhilarating and the best single experiences I’ve had on a bike this year. Not to mention this was probably the most organized ride I participated all year.

2. Bike MS: Breakaway to the Beach – This was also a challenge because it required endurance to ride 200 miles in a weekend, but that is not why it is here. It is my favorite because of the camaraderie in working with a team. Even though we got caught in the rain on that first day, we had a lot of fun with it. Beer after riding Saturday and a walk to the beach on Sunday didn’t hurt.

3. Assault on the Carolinas – Like Blue Ridge Breakaway, this was a challenge, but the scenery was overwhelming. This one also had a lot of crowds who cheered us as we left and came back, plus had a party with a live band and good food afterward. The city of Brevard really brings it for this event and made it one of the most memorable.

4. Freewheelers Beach Ride: Spartanburg to Charleston – This ride can be described in one word: EPIC. It’s not everyday you can ride across the state for 250 miles at near 20 miles per hour, laughing and having a good time all along the way. It felt great to start in the hills and end up at the beach in a beautiful cabin.

5. After the Bridge Run Ride – This ride was insanely flat and fast. I was still rough around the edges and would improve a lot over the months to follow, but this was an exciting test of my abilities. I held on with the lead group as long as possible, then waited for friends and rode back with them.

2011 Toughest Rides of the Year

Blue Ridge Parkway sign

1. Assault on Mt. Mitchell – This is a tough call. All of these are very difficult and some had tougher climbs than others. I’m going with Mitchell as the final one because that long, grueling climb was a beast on tired legs. It lived up to all of my expectations and my legs were almost dead when I reached the top.

2. Tour de Cashiers – This has more total climbing than any other ride and a lot of people had told me that it’s a tougher ride than Mitchell. It was no slouch, but I still say it is a hair below Mitchell. Even though the climbs are insane, you get to descend and take breaks in-between.

3. Marquis de Sade – It lives up to the name. The Freewheelers throw in the most difficult climbs in the Tigerville/Tryon/Saluda area. White Oak Mountain and Green River Cove were among the toughest climbs all year. Mini-climbs like Packs Mountain and Callahan were no slouches either.

4. Bridge to Bridge – Aside from Grandfather Mountain and the long climb up 181, this was not bad. This year was a easier because the weather forced us off the Parkway and we missed the Linn Cove Viaduct climb. The other climbs were either moderate or rolling.

5. Hot Doggett 100 – Compared to the others, this ride was under the radar. I knew it had climbing, but had no idea it would be so difficult. It wasn’t just the major climbs, but there were steep mini-climbs all over the place, even towards the end of the ride down from Sam’s Gap back to town.

2011 Local Rides of the Year

I write a lot about the mountains, but not many people know that I reside in Columbia, SC. Although I tend to commute for a lot of my adventures, there were some great rides at home.

1. Bike MS: Breakaway to the Beach – This is a local ride in a loose sense. It begins in Camden, just outside of Columbia, and ends at a NC beach.

2. Tour de Lake – This was a nice route across the dam and then around Lake Murray. There was also an option for people to ride around just half the lake and take a boat back, which a nice, different touch.

3. Ride2Recovery/SVPC Habitat for Humanity – I am including both of these together because they were the same route and shared many of the same organizers. For Columbia, this route is a nice challenge with some good climbing.

4. COPS: A Ride to Remember – Even though an unusually cold day scared away some of the attendance, there was nothing cooler than following a police cruiser for 60+ miles.

5. Colon Cancer Challenge – This was the first major local ride of the year, which goes around the Peak and Little Mountain area. Because it was so early, we had a good crowd and I found a good riding group.

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