Category Archives: Rides

Dr. Ed Hudson Tribute Ride

Some of my distant readers may remember something that us locals will never forget. We lost one of our own last year, Dr. Ed Hudson. He passed due to a freak accident on one of the evening group rides.

Dr. Hudson practiced at Lexington Medical Center, who holds a ride every spring, and for many, it is the first organized ride of the year. I’ve attended twice, in 2011 and 2012, and would have attended for the third time last year if not for some nasty weather. I’ve been a proud supporter of the event and the charity, and have done some things locally to help spread the word about the ride.

This year they are holding the ride in Dr. Hudson’s honor. You can read about it and register here. I ask that even if you have to drive a ways, please consider participating in this fine event. The roads are terrific, some of the best places to ride in the Columbia area, and it is the least you can do for Dr. Ed’s memory and for our cycing community.

Because of my previous support for the ride, and the tribute post I wrote last year, the organizers asked me to say a few words at the event. My first reaction was no since I never met Ed personally. As I thought about it further, I gave it more consideration, and finally agreed. I even wrote a speech. Unfortunately my surgery recovery is taking a little longer than I expected, so I will not be able to attend or speak. Instead I’ve asked them to reach out to some who were closer to Dr. Hudson.

Since I wrote the speech, I’ll share most of it here. I’m not one to get emotional, but I got choked up writing it. Be warned.

Even though the charity this year is Colon Cancer, the theme is something that affects both Lexington Medical Center and the cycling community at large. As some of you know, we lost one of our own last year. Dr. Ed Hudson was an excellent doctor at LMC and he was part of the cycling community.

Apart from a handful of emails, I didn’t know Ed personally, but I did have a similar bond with him. We were both training for the Haute Route, arguably the toughest amateur cycling event in the world. It was a seven-day extravaganza beginning in Geneva, going through the French Alps, hitting a lot of high points along the way, and ending at Nice, France, along the Riviera coastline.

Neither of us were able to ride last year. I had to bow out due to a serious injury, which I had surgery to correct earlier this year, but that is nothing compared to my teammate.

We lost Dr. Hudson during one of our evening social group rides. It was a terrible, rare and unfortunate accident, and even though nothing compares to how this tragedy impacted Dr. Hudson’s family and friends, it also affected the entire Columbia cycling community. Many of our riders witnessed the trauma of his passing. Whether they knew him personally or not, he was one of us.

My connection is because I wrote a tribute on my blog. My blog has a small following and usually I’ll get a handful of readers, but for this one, it spread like wildfire across the Internet. For many who read it, it was a catharsis. Even though I simply wrote the post, I heard from many who were personally affected as they tried to resolve this horrible tragedy. Many left comments while others sent emails, which to this date I haven’t shared publicly. All of them were moving. I felt like I knew him, and that he was both a great man and doctor. There was one email that really got to me. It was from a patient whose life Dr. Hudson had saved not long before his passing. She just could not reconcile how his healing touch had given her life, yet his was taken by a sheer accident.

I was not able to ride in the Haute Route last year due to my own injury, but the team went ahead, and had the time of their lives. Many were good friends of Dr. Hudson, including Chris McCarty a co-worker at LMC, the Vork Cycling Team, and Brian Curran of Outspokin’ Bicycles. The team rode in Ed’s memory, wearing bracelets in his honor, and cherished every moment of the ride, from climbing high mountain passes to enjoying a camaraderie with people from all over the globe, all with the same passions and goals. Ed was one of these people.

Robert and Gerry wearing Dr. Ed bracelets on a French Summit.

Robert and Gerry wearing Dr. Ed bracelets on a French Summit.

For many of you, this is your first charity ride of the year, and I hope you are enthusiastic to ride for this cause and in Dr. Ed’s memory. Hopefully he is somewhere out there with us, in spirit. He would want us to enjoy ourselves, to have fun and ride hard.

Today we ride for Ed.


Hincapie Gran Fondo, 2013, Traveler’s Rest, SC

50 minutes to go

Hincapie was going to be one helluva season capper. I know the big Tryon and Saluda climbs well, and knew that it would be a quad crusher. Injuries ended my season earlier than I had preferred, and it was a bummer to have skip this event. Since we had made accommodations at a nice Greenville hotel, my wife and I decided to make a weekend of it anyway. I drove up Saturday morning to Les Domestiques to check everything out, see some familiar faces, and see everyone off.

What I didn’t expect was the temperature. It was freezing, literally. As I drove towards the event, I noticed the temperature gauge in my car ticking downward. It was 29 degrees when I arrived, and would settle at 30 when the ride began.

Fortunately the sun was out. When I arrived it was hiding behind the mountains, but it crept higher before the ride. That gave the illusion of it being warm, even though it was pretty freaking cold.

As the callouts started, I made my way to the front to see George and friends. Despite the cold weather, they were in a playful and jovial mood. As Christian Vande Velde was introduced as this being his retirement ride, he emerged covered in heavy clothing from head to toe. George saw him and laughed. “Are you going cycling or skiing?” he joked.

There were numerous photo ops, and I was fortunate enough to be positioned near the front. Just before scooting off, they had everyone wave. That was a cool shot.

The ride begins going uphill. That’s the Vineyard climb, another one I know well. In most cases a big climb is not fun to begin a ride, but I have a feeling the riders appreciated the opportunity to warm up. There would be plenty more to come.

I believe the final count of registered riders was between 1,500 – 2,000. Some undoubtedly didn’t show due to the low temperatures, but there were probably close to 1,500 there.

Big George and Rich have put together the hallmark event in the North Greenville area. I appreciate all they do for this event and Greenville cycling in general. I’ll be there next year, and this time I mean it.

Here are several photos:

This was the rider parking lot. Yes, that is frost on the ground. It was freezing.

The rider parking lot just outside of the hotel.

The bike racks were full at the staring line as riders warmed up.

The bike racks were full at the staring line as riders warmed up.

I saw lots of friends and familiar faces. This was Jack and Tracy.

I saw lots of friends and familiar faces. This was Jack and Tracy.

The sun was starting to come up as riders lined up in their corrals.

The sun was starting to come up as riders lined up in their corrals.

The first rider corral.

The first rider corral.

There were so many riders that one picture could not capture them all.

There were so many riders that one picture could not capture them all.

Another shot of the riders bunching up, with ride marshals getting into place.

Another shot of the riders bunching up, with ride marshals getting into place.

George must have needed another cup of coffee.

George must have needed another cup of coffee.

This was right after George made the skiing joke.

This was right after George made the skiing joke.

Four of the pro special guests. Unfortunately I did not catch their names.

Four of the pro special guests. I did not catch their names.

Rich Hincapie giving pre-ride announcements.

Rich Hincapie giving pre-ride announcements.

Photo op with the pros, which included Tommy Danielson, Christian Vande Velde, and of course George Hincapie.

Photo op with the pros, which included Tommy Danielson, Christian Vande Velde, and of course George Hincapie.

Everyone gives a wave for the last photo op before rolling out.

Everyone gives a wave for the last photo op before rolling out.

The Hincapie Devo team starting the ride.

The Hincapie Devo team starting the ride.

One of the other teams rolls out together.

One of the other teams rolls out together.

This was a flying camera. Very cool.

This was a flying camera. Very cool.


Tour de Paws, 2013, Spartanburg, SC

Here is a guest report from Berry Mobley, my riding partner on the Tour d’Apple a couple weeks ago. You might also enjoy a report from the front of the pack by James Tobias at his new blog, Packfodder.

Tour de Paws is a Spartanburg area ride that the Freewheelers have been hosting since 2002, partnering with the Spartanburg Humane Society. It’s a great ride, one that I rode first in 2005 – although that was the 27-mile route on a mountain bike with slick tires. It’s a great warm-up for the MS Breakaway to the Beach ride which is generally (and also this year) about two weeks later.

This year, I rode the metric, and had a great time. The route has changed this year, so there is about 800 feet less elevation gain on the metric, and the roads have less traffic as well.

The ride starts at Tyger River Presbyterian church in Moore, and they are always a good host. This year there were more than 300 riders for the three routes, 28, 48, and 62 miles. It was good to see a few Columbia people at the start.

I headed out about mid-pack, not really sure how I was going to feel after being Aaron’s anchor last week in Hendersonville. There were lots of abilities, though, and I soon hooked up with a good group. We rolled along pretty well, but the group kept getting smaller at each turn. We got to the first rest stop at mile 15, and it seemed like the whole group pulled in. I was feeling great, though, so I kept going. After the turn, a couple of riders caught up with me and we worked together for a while. One of them was Jim, who I ended up riding with for most of the rest of the day.

The next rest stop was at mile 25, but our small group (about 6 riders) kept going. The ‘back half’ of the metric was an out-and back with a loop, so somewhere before mile 27 we saw the front pack coming at us – fast. There were a couple of chase groups, too. I was in the back of our group of four by then (people who ride with me will not be surprised by that statement) and the first three rode past a left turn, distracted by the oncoming riders. I was yelling “LEFT TURN!” pretty loudly, though, so they didn’t go too far out of the way. I mentioned to Jim afterward that the markings were way better than last week’s ride at Tour d’Apple, and Jim said he’d read about it on SteepClimbs. (Hi, Jim!)

We managed to stay on the course the rest of that loop and got started back, riding with a couple of Finish Strong riders that I talked to about the Ride for Animal Care that we did earlier this year. We got back to the rest stop at mile 39 and I made my only stop of the day. Jim didn’t stop as long as I did, and went on, so I rode with Kim and Becky from the northwest corner of the state. We caught Jim in a fairly big pack after a few miles, and I rode in with him until the last couple of hills. That’s the only ‘complaint’ I have about this ride – it ends uphill! At the end, though, they have drinks, and hot dogs, and chips, and massage therapists, and puppies! I didn’t take any puppies home, though.

I got home and uploaded my Garmin data, and it turns out I was 85 minutes faster than last year. I expect that has a lot to do with the fact that I’ve already ridden 700 miles more this year than I rode all of last year — and I’m at least 20 lbs lighter than last year’s ride.

All in all, this is a great ride, very well supported, extremely well marked, and it benefits a great cause. I’ll be back next year!

Strava Link


Tour d’Apple, 2013, Hendersonville, NC

bearwallow view

Three day weekends are awesome, and even better when they are capped with a wonderful day of riding in the mountains. This Labor Day was the inaugural Tour d’Apple ride, coming at the tail end of the Apple Festival. Several hundred riders converged to tackle a metric or full century around Hendersonville, NC.

All new rides experience growing pains. Mistakes are going to be made. In my opinion, the difference between success and failure is learning from those mistakes, and making adjustments the following year. Just about everything was perfect –- plenty of volunteers, rest stops, and a gorgeous route. However, the main issues had to do with road markings and directions. There was a lot of confusion about where we should be going. I’ve already reached out to the organizers, and they are going to make this their focus for next year. Going forward, I expect this to be one of the top rides in the area.

I began the day feeling good, but not wanting to push my injury too hard. I rode with Berry, a friend from home. His pace is not the same as mine, and he joked that he was my ‘anchor.’ He was protecting me from myself. We would ride together in between the climbs, and then climb at our own pace. I would usually wait for him at the top.

The first major climb was up to Sugarloaf Mountain. It started out gradually, up Lamb Mountain Rd, and then steeply pitched back up after a short descent. The last several hundred feet were a double digit grade, a good test of the legs early in the morning.

Mine responded. I could tell already that this was going to be one of my better climbing days. I waited for Berry at the top. It wasn’t his day, and he was already considering switching to the metric route. Since the routes didn’t converge until after Bearwallow Mountain, I convinced him to finish that climb before making a decision. Sometimes it takes a little longer to warm up.

After some marking confusion, we found our way to Bearwallow Mountain. I may be in the minority, but I really liked this climb. It was quiet, with heavy foliage and a lot of scenery on the way up. The grade was mostly manageable, with a steep section midway through that gets up to 12-13%. Again, I was feeling good throughout this climb. The legs were fresh and flexible. I was still careful not to open it up, and climbed at a comfortable pace.

Climbing Bearwallow Mountain.

Climbing Bearwallow Mountain.

When I bumped into Berry, I found that he wasn’t as fond of Bearwallow. The moment he saw me, he uttered one word – “Metric!”

I understood.

We lost each other on the descent and I waited at the rest stop. And waited. And waited some more. I was starting to get worried. I sent him a text. No response. After waiting a bit longer, I had to go. There was a cutoff time, after all. I found out later that he simply took a wrong turn. His metric ended with 70 miles.

As I rolled through Hendersonville, reality struck. Since I had spent a considerable amount of time off the road, I was well behind the pack. I encountered a group, but I was a little stronger than them. It wouldn’t work to ride together. It looked like I was going to ride the next 60 miles on my own. It turned out to be only the next 20.

The route took us through Hendersonville. From there we traveled through familiar roads. We went down Mine Gap, and zoomed through Zirconia and Tuxedo, to the base of Pinnacle Mountain.

Ugh. Pinnacle Mountain, my nemesis. It has been nearly a year and a half since I last encountered that beast, but I had not forgotten her. I was not looking forward to climbing her again. The cue sheet was not clear which part of Pinnacle we’d be riding. I was just hoping that it would not be the 25% grade.

The climb up there was via Cabin Creek Rd. Just like Bearwallow, it was mostly mild save for a steep section. It totaled four miles, a little longer than I expected. My strength started to wane, possibly because I had been riding for 60 miles by myself, and possibly because the sun out and the temperature was rising. I found myself thirsty towards the end, and grunted through the last mile or so. When I reached Pinnacle Mountain, I was thrilled to turn right.

Thankfully, we turned right.

Thankfully, we turned right.

Guzzling a couple Gatorades at the rest stop got me refueled and refreshed, and I felt strong again for the remainder of the ride. The best news was that a small pack of riders caught me. It was there that I met Laurie from Charlotte, whom I soon found was riding at about the same pace. She had accidentally missed the Bearwallow turn earlier, and added six miles to her ride. We were both behind the big groups, and made for fitting riding partners.

We descended Pinnacle Mountain through Sky Top Orchard, rode through Flat Rock and by the Carl Sandburg Home, before making way to the final climb – Jump Off Rock. This was the climb I was looking forward to the most, but we took an unusual way to get to it. Rather than going straight up Laurel Parkway, we took some side roads that went up and down. Again, the markings were precarious. I had to pull out my iPhone and say: “Siri, give me directions to Jump Off Rock.” I would hear the turn-by-turn instructions as I rode along, which gave me confidence we were heading in the right direction.

When we reached the top, we were surprised it was so desolate. Where were all the riders? Were we that far behind everybody? Not at all. We found out later that most people had missed the turn to get there, and had inadvertently skipped it altogether. Laurie and I ended up with more than 100 miles, whereas most others had somewhere around 95.

The descent back down to Hendersonville was a rush, not too steep, just right. Laurie was tired, having already ridden a century by that point. To her, the ride seemed never-ending. Still feeling strong, I took some extra pulls towards the end.

Despite the hiccups, this was a terrific ride. We encountered apple orchards and scenic mountain vistas all day. I’m confident the organizers will iron out the details and make this a ride to remember. I will look forward to coming back.

Strava GPS Link

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Flight of the Dove, 2013, Clinton, SC

Tri City group shot

Of all nearby metric rides, Flight of the Dove probably has the best reputation. I’ve heard many people tell me that this is their favorite ride, either because of the organization, the social interaction, or the opportunity to ride extremely fast without stopping. This year I finally had a chance to see what all the fuss was about.

My local riding group, Tri-City, drummed up participation and we had a sizeable turnout. Note the terrific group picture above. This was a good start, as it’s always nice to ride with familiar, friendly faces pretty much everywhere you look.

This year they implemented a little something different – a shooting range. Yes, you are reading correctly. They had a shooting range at a bike ride. Yes, shooting. With guns. Rifles.

Only in South Carolina, right?

You had 5 shots for $5, which would take place at the mile 38 rest stop. Having never fired a gun in my life, I took a pass lest I accidentally endanger nearby cyclists. Berry, a friend of mine, gave it a “shot” and showed off his impressive accuracy after the ride.

Berry, locked and loaded.

Berry, locked and loaded.

I was looking forward to a fast and fun ride. As they made the pre-ride announcements, they warned of some rough roads at mile 19. Noted. I lined up near the front. As we rolled out, I did my best to navigate through the pack to stay with the lead guys. The weather was cloudy and in the mid-60s all day. That didn’t give us much opportunity to see the sights, but was perfect for riding

As a small group of maybe 25 emerged out front, the pace picked up. I had forgotten my heart rate monitor, but I know it must have been through the roof. We were tearing it up, and I was doing everything in my power to hang on. After we would turn a corner, the pace seemed to accelerate.

This was not sustainable. I held on for 5 miles and then purposely backed off. We had been at around 25 mph by that stretch. Too much for me.

I slow pedaled to wait for the next group. I found two triathletes, both of whom were strong riders. We rode as a threesome for a short while, but I could tell that my cold remnants were started to come back, so after putting in a pull, I bid them adieu.

The next group was the big one. I heard the rumbling behind me and waited to be enveloped. As the first few riders past me, I saw familiar faces. “Jump on in, Aaron. We have a good paceline.” Gladly. It was with them that I cruised for the next dozen or so miles.

Remember that warning about the rough road? I had sort of forgotten, but never would have expected it to be this bad. Entire sections of the road were missing. People screamed like bloody murder as we got closer, and the only way to avoid the bad stuff was to veer carefully into the left lane. That’s not an easy task when riding with a 50-person pack. I managed to get into the other lane, but that was not enough to avoid catastrophe.

Pffffft, I heard from my tire. In an instant, I knew I was flat. I saw another guy just a few feet away, also flat. Apparently about 5-6 guys got flats on that same section.

The SAG guy was right there, and he changed our tires in haste. He must have been expecting this. As he noted, until recently this road was among the best in the area for riding. All this mess just appeared in the last week. It was not the fault of anyone but the weather. This type of stuff happens when you have the wettest season on record.

Thanks for fixing my flat!

Thanks for fixing my flat!

As I recovered from my flat, I looked for a good group to ride with. I found one at the next rest stop. Jack, Ricky, Vince, and Jim were waiting. We rode the rest of the way together as a group of five.

Even though this is a fast ride, it is a surprisingly challenging course. There are some hills, and they get fiercer as you get closer to the end. In the last 10 miles, they keep coming and coming. On their own, they are not so bad, but one after another while trying to maintain a brisk pace makes things difficult.

To make the ride a little more interesting, we saw two hand-cyclists and a skateboarder doing the shorter route. Yes, a skateboarder rode 30 miles. We saw him finish later and he practically collapsed. Kudos, dude!

This guy skateboarded 30 miles. Now that's hardcore!

This guy skateboarded 30 miles. Now that’s hardcore!

Believe it or not, I felt great. I could have gone much faster if not for the flat. Maybe not as fast as the lead group, but probably in the 21 mph vicinity. I settled for just under 20.

Our ride ended with a sprint section. I was feeling good and gave it a go. Thinking I had won, I eased back. Then came Jack Daniel, who had previously been complaining about cramps to take the sprint at the last section. “Sandbagger!,” I yelled out. We had fun with it. Always a pleasure to finish a long ride with a few laughs.

Strava Link

IMAGE GALLERY