Ride 4 Animal Care, 2013, Tigerville, SC

One of the 17 brutal switchbacks on Green River Cove Rd.

This one wasn’t on the calendar. I had been planning to relax after Mitchell, but during the week got the itch to do a longer ride. I signed up to do a flat century, thinking it was this weekend. It turns out I registered for a century for next week, leaving my plans again empty. Some friends were doing the Ride 4 Animal Care. Since I like to support charities like Animal Care and cycling groups like Finish Strong, I tagged along. I also happen to love the Tryon/Saluda climbs, and haven’t been back there since the injury.

This is the first year for the event, and they had a surprisingly strong turnout. It was a warm and slightly cloudy morning as we rolled out from North Greenville University.

The first climb came early, and it was a doozy. We turned left onto Callahan Mountain road. I saw the familiar words “GRUNT” written on the pavement, and dug in for a tough climb. This one is short and steep. Real steep. Because of the injury, I am still trying not to climb out of the saddle unless absolutely necessary, which hurts me on climbs like this one. Fortunately the lightning fast descent on the other side was a nice reward.

Next on the menu was the Greenville Watershed. My hamstrings were a little tight from the seated Callahan climb. This affected my performance even though Watershed isn’t a very challenging or steep climb. I lost most of my group, and would be riding most of the rest of the way on my own. Once I was across the NC state line, I was mostly warmed up and able to climb without soreness.

They had a rest stop setup in Saluda at the new Bike and Hike shop, which would be used for mile 20 and 43. The shop has only been open for 5 weeks, and is a welcome addition to a terrific cycling town. I wish them a lot of success.

The last two climbs would be the toughest. We descended Holbert Cove Rd, and looped around to Green River. The last 2.5 miles are among some of the toughest climbing in the area. I’ve found that it gets easier every time I ride, although this was probably far from my best performance (Strava did not match the segment). I had long heard that there were 17 switchbacks, but I had never bothered to count them. This time I counted as I rode along. Why not? Yep, 17. The middle section is the steepest and gave me the most trouble, but overall the climb did not bother me too much. The view at the top was fantastic as ever.

The view is always rewarding.

The view is always rewarding.

I knew that the next climb would hurt. We rarely ride up Fork Creek for this reason. It’s just misery. At least we were able to descend 176 down to Pearson Falls, which is always fun, before turning upward again. The early portion of Fork Creek is the toughest, with mostly steep grades around 13-14%. After roughly a mile or so, it becomes less consistent, with some lighter grades (maybe 6%) and occasional double digit pain.

The 13% grades of Fork Creek are not fun.

The 13% grades of Fork Creek are not fun.

I was relieved to reach the state line again, knowing that the big climbing was over. The long descent down the Watershed was a blast, as always, and a relief to the afternoon’s punishment. Hot temperatures waited for me at the bottom, somewhere between 85-90 degrees. That made the last few miles a test, and I was surprised to be hurting on the Vineyard climb near La Bastide (now owned by the Hincapie brothers).

Even though I am familiar with just about all of the climbs, this was a tough ride. Kudos to Vince for picking out a formidable route. I’m glad the inaugural ride was a success, and hope it continues for years to come.

Strava GPS


14 responses to “Ride 4 Animal Care, 2013, Tigerville, SC

  • bgddyjim

    Funny thing is, now that I’ve photographed some decent climbs – and know how flat they look taken with a camera – I can now fill in the blank and see how steep that one on the switchback is. That looks like a really scenic ride. Counting the days.

    • aaronwest

      The camera rarely does climbs justice. Even though it captured the switchbacks pretty well, it doesn’t compare to dealing with them in person. It’s no fun when you have to climb that inside ramp.

      Counting the days as well. The injury news has been good lately, which bodes well for having some good rides in July.

  • exmaschine

    Damn, that Fork climb look gorgeous and brutal. 13%! Yikes. I don’t think I could manage that. Awesome job! Such great roads down by you! Speaking of hamstrings…mine have been killing me this year. Despite the stretching, they are not cooperating…

    • aaronwest

      We have a lot of steep ones here, which is a good thing for training, but can be pretty challenging on the muscles.

      Hamstrings are always a problem for me. They take awhile to warm up, and tend to be the most sore after a day of climbing. Hopefully I’ll learn some things during my upcoming physical therapy, which of course I’ll share here.

  • exmaschine

    Awesome, I would appreciate any info on the hammys you may discover!
    Yes, HP NJ is another great place to visit/ride Aaron. Big climbs up in Sussex Co. I haven’t made my way up there yet, but it’s on my to-do list!
    Fiddlers and Iron Bridge are probably the two toughest climbs in NJ.
    Very cool you are working towards a history degree!

    • aaronwest

      Thanks, Geo. I’m a sucker for history, and should finish up by next Spring. I’m on the 20-year college plan, but fortunately have a great job that supports me. 🙂

      Can’t wait to climb in NJ someday soon.

  • berry

    I talked to the Saluda Bike & Hike guy – turns out he lives in Columbia and goes up there on the weekends! Small world.

    • aaronwest

      Very cool. I didn’t realize this. By the way, we were talking about Keith’s old shop before the ride. I found out that Keith works for him during the week, which is great.

  • Brian Lube

    The Vineyards near Le Domestique are always challenging, because you get cooled down descending the watershed, and get fooled by the first 2 rollers. If I hit that stretch of Old 25 still trying to keep the 20mph pace I started with, I’m toasted before Chinquapin Road for sure.

    I do love that someone numbered the switchbacks, even if the last number is 3 for some reason. It gives me something to concentrate on while I’m telling my legs to shut up.

    • aaronwest

      That was pretty much what happened. Thinking we were close to home, I passed on that final rest stop, forgetting about the Vineyards bump. Had to take a breather afterward.

      Counting the switchbacks was surprisingly therapeutic, but I still managed to tell my legs to shut up as often as possible. 🙂

  • Gerry

    Nice work, Aaron. Even with your injury you seem to be getting more climbing than me!

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