We started at Wintergreen Resort, with sunny temperatures, smiles on everyone’s faces, and a feeling of anticipation. For the group photo, I said to say “Ow!”. That proved to be the mantra of the day. If you’re going to do the Parkway in six days, it’ll be hard work.
This ride started out with a bang. After a steep descent through the resort, there was another steep climb up to the parkway. Very steep. It was not the way to ease into the ride, but at least it was short. Once on the parkway, the riding was up and down, with scenic vistas, gorgeous Fall colors. Some felt it was rough, others thought it was not so bad. It was a nice, easy introduction to parkway riding. It let everyone get settled in for a long, adventurous week.
The fun started after the long, gradual descent down to the lowest point of the Parkway, James River. From there, it would be uphill for a long, long time. The big climb of the day would be the biggest climb of Virginia, to the highest point in Virginia on the Parkway.
We had two pro cyclists to help with the Bobby Sweeting, the organizer and ride leader, who stayed with the front group. Christian Parrett stayed at the back. Both rode like champs, helping out the riders by pulling them up, coaching them on what to do, and being their moral support.
As expected, the pack separated quite a bit on the big climb up to Apple Orchard. It was lengthy, approximately 13-14 miles. The grade is moderate, but that doesn’t make it much easier. It goes on and on, and everyone had to slowly grind it out.
The temperature was on the warm side, and that combined with all the climbing started to take a toll. A number of riders had cramp problems. One rider had it so bad that we had to send the van back to get some extra hydration. Even though everyone struggled, and battled the mountain in their own way, they all made it to the top.
From there we skidded by the infamous Peaks of Otter. Because of this government shutdown, the gates were closed and we could not access the visitor center. Maybe the next trip.
After reaching the Peaks, the day was almost over. The descent down the parkway was long and exhilarating. Did I say long? The turn to the bed and breakfast was nine miles off the parkway, which will not be fun climbing back up.
Our bed and breakfast is at low elevation, but we have a pristine view of the Peaks. Here we’ll relax, refuel, and get ready for the second day, which promises to be not only one of the toughest days, but also one of the wettest. There’s a high chance of rain in the morning. Hopefully we’ll get lucky again.
(Got amazing pictures that will be uploaded soon when we get better wifi)
Strava Link (Thanks Chuck!)