Tag Archives: hincapie

All In for Hincapie

starting line

My main regret about last year is that I missed out on the inaugural Gran Fondo Hincapie. A great many friends and readers rode, and everyone I talked to had an amazing time. There were several VIP guests, over 1,000 riders, and they had pretty good weather. The course itself was as brutal as I expected, with some of the most challenging climbs in the southeast, and I understand that despite the suffering, it was a jovial, festive atmosphere.

Just recently when looking at my busy fall schedule, I was on the fence on whether to participate at Hincapie this year. At first glance, it just seemed like too much. After seeing what they are doing this year, I’ve decided to take the plunge and ride.

What really swayed was the latest news update about what they are adding to the 2013 ride. You can read about it here. To be honest, they could rest on their laurels, relying on George Hincapie’s celebrity to draw riders, and just phone it in. This shows me that they are genuinely doing everything they can to make this a memorable experience.

There are a couple changes I really like. The expanded packet pickup is going to be a major help. If I remember correctly, last year they required that packets get picked up Friday night in Greenville. Getting there on a Friday would be logistically challenging when people are coming in from out of town. Additionally, they are moving the start time to 9am, which will make it easier for same-day travelers. Not to mention, that’ll help with the temperature on this late October day.

Many of these changes are logistical, and they probably learned from their first experience last year. They will have full SAG support, and I am betting it will be superior to other rides, closer parking, shuttle service, and more. It sounds like smart event planning to me.

Another spectacular view from the climb.

Green River Cove Rd

They are also adding fun stuff like a 5k, Beer School (!), and by marking off the switchbacks on the Green River Cove Climb. Having ridden Green River a number of times and counted the switchbacks, I’m curious what sort of fanfare they’ll add to spruce up the climb.

I’ve heard a couple complaints about the price. True, it is more expensive than other rides. My first reaction last year was the same as many others. That’s a lot to spend to ride a bike all day. This year my perspective on event prices has changed simply because I’ve met a number of ride organizers, and learned what goes into these events. Many will lose money the first year. These things aren’t cheap, especially when you have state of the art timing systems. Hincapie is a premium ride, and given the high percentage of people who have registered for the VIP package, it seems that price is not that big of a deal.

I’m going to ride, and I’m already getting excited. The colors should be beautiful. I may get to meet a few of my cycling heroes. And this will be a fitting finale to a great season.

See you in a couple months, George.

Swamp Rabbit Trail, Greenville, SC

swamp rabbit north

With a couple free days in the upstate, I needed a ride that would be interesting, and not so strenuous that it would impact my injury. Day one was washed out completely, leaving Friday as my only opportunity for some riding.

I chose the Swamp Rabbit Trail for a few reasons. First of all, I have been on the trail before, but always as a way to get somewhere else (like Paris Mountain). It is flat and pleasant, and it takes you from the heart of Greenville to the outskirts at Traveler’s Rest. Because of obstacles like road crossings, bridges, tight turns, runners and plodding mountain bikers, you really cannot get any amount of speed. On top of all that, the trail makes Greenville stand out as a southeastern cycling community, and I wanted to pay tribute by experiencing it all for myself.

I parked not too far from the Greenville Zoo to begin my journey, not realizing that this and downtown would be the most crowded sections. I navigated through the dog walkers and sightseers near the zoo, and entered the confusing downtown district area of Falls Park. This was great for warming up because no matter how much I wanted, I could not go fast. It was also frustrating because I wanted to get around everyone. There were lots of starts and stops.

The other side of Falls Park, downtown Greenville.

Falls Park, downtown Greenville.

The trails are tough to follow through downtown, and I missed a couple of them en route to the northern Swamp Rabbit Trail. Finally I picked it back up and began the trek toward Traveler’s Rest. The northern part was not nearly as crowded, and I was able to get a little speed. There were only the occasional walker and slow biker that I had to maneuver around.

While the trail is mostly flat, heading northbound is ever so slightly uphill. We are talking modest grades of 1-2%. They were made a little more difficult on this day because of a 10 mph headwind. That was enough to get the heart rate going and make this a challenging, if not overwhelming section.

As I approached Traveler’s Rest, I could see Paris Mountain in the horizon. It was tempting. I was feeling good, and the injury was not bothering me. Moreover, I had the itch to push harder. That’s the itch that I shouldn’t be scratching. As I headed north, I shelved the idea of climbing the mountain, at least going in this direction. I would head to the end of the trail and decide when I came back.

This marks near the end of the north trail.

This marks near the end of the north trail.

The trail ends unceremoniously just north of Traveler’s Rest. According to the mile markers, there are more than 20 miles of trail remaining, but apparently they are not yet paved. They will be pretty cool when (if?) they are finished, as I imagine they would drop you off not far from Caesar’s Head Mountain.

As I made my way south, my pace picked up because of the slight descent, and I had a tailwind at my back. My heart rate dropped, and I was able to appreciate the sights. This felt like coasting. No complaints.

Paris Mountain beckoned again. I was still tempted, but decided against it. When I’m in climbing shape, I’ll make up by riding up both sides. Next time.

After buzzing through Greenville’s industrial and commercial district, I was back in downtown. Now the sun was shining bright and the tourists had multiplied. My BSG kit stood out among the polo shirts, khaki shorts and cameras. Again, I just wanted to get by. There was one instance where I had to walk my bike down a steep grade because of the throng of pedestrians in front of me. That part hurt. Eventually I made it through, and was back to the zoo area.

Now south of the city, I had just a little bit of trail left to navigate. I came across the Hincapie Path. That was cool. Did he donate, or just lend his name? I’m not sure.

Hincapie path is a short section of the southbound trail.

Hincapie path is a short section of the southbound trail.

Once past the zoo and the dog park, the south trail was not as congested. In fact, it was often desolate. I was able to lay down the hammer yet again, obstructed only by the winding trail that often would bank along the road, and sometimes share space with sidewalk.

As the trail passed by Greenville Technical College, I was surprised to see a few hills. These were nothing compared to Paris Mountain, but they were enough to give me a little test. I noticed one of them had a 6% grade, nothing fierce, and the hill at the very end of the trail was at 10%. Steep grades are still a challenge for me at this stage of my training, but I’m going to have to get used to them.

The trail ended again without warning, this time at a busy intersection. As I made my way back, I realized that this was actually quite a ride. By the end, I had 31 miles, and felt pretty amazing.

Well done, Greenville. I hope the community continues to embrace the trail, and that it can be developed further. I’ll definitely be back.

Strava GPS Link