Tag Archives: little mountain

Tour de Cure, 2013, Little Mountain, SC

All the teams and "red riders" ready to ride.

When I chose Tour de Cure for my first century of the year, I expected it would be a glorious sunny day in early May. Not only was it for a good cause (which was my primary reason for riding), but it would be the best opportunity for an easy and enjoyable century.

That didn’t happen. Although the calendar said May 4th, it felt like February 4th in the southeast. I’m not complaining, as some people had it a lot worse (Tour de Cashiers, 3 State 3 Mountain had some of the ugliest conditions imaginable), but it made for a far more challenging ride than I had expected.

The ride started at 7:30 AM under cloudy skies, in the midst of swirling, heavy winds. Base layers and warmers were on order. I rode for Team Doctor’s Care and Team Sandroid (BCBS). After a number of photo opportunities, all the teams massed together at the starting line, itching to pedal. Many of the participants were “red riders,” people riding with diabetes. We were encouraged to cheer them on when we encountered them in their distinct, red jerseys. Glad to.

I found a few familiar faces from the Tri-Cities weekday rides — Jack, Ricky, Wes, Julie, Dave, and 15-year old Russ from FACT. Most had been training all winter long for Mitchell, so they were in far better shape than I was, but they were good riders and great people. Although I wasn’t sure I could hang with them all day, I appreciated the company.

Drafting off Wes and Julie in the early pack.

Drafting off Wes and Julie in the early pack.

The headwind was relentless. Even though I was on wheelsucker duty, it gave me fits. There were a couple occasions where we would be riding along comfortable, when all of a sudden a gust would smack us in the face. It felt like we were instantly stopped in our tracks. Other times when it wasn’t in our face, it was at our side. At one point, the wind made my bike veer at least a couple feet to the left. We had to be careful to maintain our position and not wobble too much — not easy for someone with marginal fitness and a cracked rib.

Getting frustrated by the constant headwind, Wes wished out loud for a tailwind later. Oh no, I joked. You just cursed us. Days like this never give us a tailwind, although I quietly held out hope.

Despite getting a little tired, I was hanging along fine with the crew. Our average speed was above 20 for most of the early going, then dipped down to 19 as we hit a particularly windy section.

At mile 40, the pace was taking a toll. We hit a hill and a tough headwind at the same time. Ricky was at the front, pushing a big gear to motor his way up. I felt a tightness in my legs, and realized I had reached my limit. I moved to the left to let the rest of the guys pass, as I cracked and fell further behind. They were about 50 feet in front of me by the time I crested. I pushed my weary legs as hard as I could, which wasn’t very hard, but was enough to make up a little distance before giving out again. They rolled away, and I was dropped, riding alone for about 5 miles until the next rest stop.

Fortunately these are good people. They waited for me, and we left together. I heard Jack say that he wanted to make sure I stuck with the group. Appreciate that, Jack. You’re a good man.

Oddly enough, I felt great for the next 30 miles or so. Everyone was getting tired, including me, but I was keeping up without my heart rate spiking too high.

When we approached Lake Monticello, I started to get unglued again. Another hill was my undoing, again with Ricky in front. As the grade turned up, I felt myself drifting backwards. This time Jack stuck with me and gave me a good draft as we crossed the lake. He said he was tired and cracking, but I think part of it was him just watching out for me.

Jack giving me a break from the wind.

Jack giving me a break from the wind.

We regrouped again, still fighting a stiff headwind. As we turned onto Highway 213, our fortunes changed. I felt a gust to the left, and instantly realized the direction it was going. “We’re in business!” I yelled. Julie was in front this time, and she hammered down. It felt awesome for a short while.

After we traveled about 100 feet with the wind at our backs, I realized that there was no way I could stay with this pace. I hung in there for maybe half a mile, pedaling for dear life before I cracked. I fell off the group, at first disappointed, then elated. Alone or not, it felt good to have some help. I could see ahead that Jack had also fallen off from the group. I joked later that his was a sympathy drop.

Even though I was alone and the tailwind didn’t last, I felt terrific. I was maybe 10-15 miles from finishing my first century. At mile 80, 85, and then 95, I still had gas in the tank.

Jack waited with me at the last stop, and then we rode together for a short while until we reached the final climb up Parr Rd. There’s a short section with a 12% grade, which never feels good, either at the end or beginning of a big ride. Jack got ahead of me on the climb, then I passed him later as he slowed down to encourage another rider. Nice job, Mr. Mayor.

While I cannot say it was a terrific day for the elements, any day is a terrific day if you can ride nearly one hundred miles. I’m blessed to have recovered enough from my injuries to complete what turned out to be an extremely challenging event.

Thanks to the Tri-City folks for carrying me most of the way!

Strava GPS Link


Six Gap Eve

Earlier this week, my amateur diagnosis was that I had a Hip Pointer. I can now rule that out. It is most likely a hip flexor strain of some sort. It probably began at Bridge to Bridge, and I aggravated it further on the next couple of rides.

I have been resting my legs as much as possible, icing my hip occasionally, and taking an anti-inflammatory drug. At times this week I have noticed significant improvement; at others, it has felt more painful than ever. On Friday, I told someone that my chances of riding were 50/50.

Over the last day, I have improved a great deal. I have more flexibility, which is good. There is still pain when I extend my leg outward, which is not good. Even though it remains an issue, I will definitely ride tomorrow. I should finish too, but maybe not as quickly as I would otherwise.

This morning I dropped by the Assault on Little Mountain to help with registration, and get them off the road. They had a good turnout, over 100 miles. It was easier this year to not ride, knowing what awaited me the next day.


After a three-hour drive, I was in Grand Central Dahlonega. It was a madhouse, but in a good way. I parked far away, grabbed my packet, schmoozed around the expo, had some ice cream (!), and watched two Criterium races. Before I knew it, the entire day had passed by.




It was a good day. Very organized, and a lot of fun. Tomorrow will hurt.

Tour de Midlands, 2012, Lexington, SC

At last year’s Spring Valley Presbyterian Church ride, my intent was to ride with the lead pack. That plan quickly evaporated when a small pack stormed out of the gates and vanished out of sight. I’ve always been a slow warmer and wasn’t ready to chase. It turns out I couldn’t have caught them anyway. I found out later that was the JB Express.

Jeff Brandenburg is a local Iron Man triathlete and one of the strongest riders around. He once finished Assault on Mount Mitchell in the top ten. He prefers to ride in his aerobars in the lead. He rides so fast that others do not complain. They are fine riding in his draft.

For this year’s Tour de Midlands, my last big ride before Mitchell, I knew that the JB Express would be riding out front. My plan was to try and stick with them as long as possible. I also didn’t want to burn myself up too much. With 9 days until Mitchell, I wanted to keep something in reserve.

In the first few miles of the ride, we somehow missed a turn. We ended up at a dead end and had to circle back to the other riders. We then missed another turn and frankly had no idea where we were going. We were sitting in the middle of an intersection, looking at cue sheets, trying to figure it out where in the world we were. Finally one of the SAG vehicles pointed us in the right direction. Even then we weren’t sure. Another rider who seemed to know what he was talking about pointed us in another direction. We took his advice and got there all the same, but that splintered the pack and slowed us down somewhat.

As we crossed over the dam and headed towards Peak, I started to ease in. My heart rate was in zone three and I was comfortably cruising along at a fast pace. Jeff is training for Ironman Coeur d’Alene. His goal was to keep his wattage steady in the low 200s for the entire ride. That meant that although he was riding fast, the effort should be consistent. That was the case most of the time. I noticed that we took hills comfortably, maybe even a little slow. The only time it was a struggle was after cornering, where sometimes I would have to sprint quickly to catch back on.

My one worry was fueling. I had plenty of food, but only two bottles of water. Hydration was going to become an issue at some point. Jeff wouldn’t stop, but as luck would have it, we encountered a train crossing at the Little Mountain rest stop, which allowed us to refill our bottles.

I watched the miles tick by, amazed that I was able to keep up. We passed the 60 mile marker, then 70 miles, 80, and then made the turn back towards Lexington to take this thing home.

At mile 90, Jeff surprisingly moved off the front and Gordon took over. I didn’t know Gordon too well, but assumed he would be keeping the same pace. Umm, no. I hardly noticed the extra effort until we hit a section of hills. All of a sudden my heart rate started rising and wasn’t getting an opportunity to recover. It turns out Gordon is a Cat-2 racer and he was tearing us up. With every hill it hurt more and more.

At mile 96, we hit the toughest hill in the stretch. Mark, who was riding in front of me, gave up midway through the climb. He dropped and motioned me to go by him, and I tried, but the gap had developed and I didn’t have the energy to close. After cresting the hill, the gap had extended. I pushed to try to catch it, burning the last of my remaining energy. The pack was slowed at an intersection and I caught them briefly, but had already spent my last match and didn’t stay on long.

Phew. I was exhausted and not too disappointed to ride in alone at my own pace. My speed average dropped a little bit and I ended with a 21.5 average, which is close to my personal best for a century.

Strava GPS Link


Tour de Lake, 2012, Irmo, SC


The plan this weekend was to do a trial run from Marion to Mitchell. An ominous weather forecast scared me away, so I decided to do the Tour de Lake ride again. I remember from last year that it is an exciting, scenic and challenging ride. The ride has three options. The full century circles Lake Murray via Peak, Little Mountain and Prosperity. The 40 and 62 mile options take you about halfway around the lake, and then return you via boat (with food and beer!). The boat was tempting, but I opted for the mileage.

A funny thing happened before the ride. There was a reporter from Columbia’s local paper, The State. Columbia. She was asking the riders questions as they were getting ready. I rolled up to the area to ask a friend to pin my number on my jersey. Apparently the reporter had questions about speed, so a number of the riders pointed her in my direction. She was a nice lady, but I was little caught off guard. She asked me a few questions and I rolled away to finish getting ready. A few minutes later I was back near the starting line and she flagged me over. She started asking more questions about speed, like how long it would take me and what would be my fastest time. I told her that I was shooting for a relaxing 6-hour pace, but probably in best conditions, I could manage 4.5 hours.

Moments later the ride started and I gave it more thought. Four and a half hours? What was I thinking? I mentioned the exchange to a rider friend, who thought it wasn’t completely unreasonable, but we laughed it off, thinking it wouldn’t be printed. Well guess what, she printed that quote and the main picture is me getting my jersey pinned on. Here is the article.

Truthfully, after another heavy week, my goals and expectations were not high. I didn’t intend to ride this one fast, just take everything in stride and see how it felt. Turns out that was somewhat fast.

The ride began in confusion. It had been foggy, misty, and we left under heavy cloud cover. Someone (or everyone) near the front missed the turn out of Saluda Shoals Park. The entire ride found itself at a dead end within the first mile and had to turn around and find the course. This scattered a lot of the riders and there really wasn’t a sprint at the start.

I just went at my own pace until I settled into a pace group. A relatively quick one was established within the first five miles and I stuck with them. That turned out to be the lead pack.

One thing I noticed was that every time this one guy got in the lead, the ride became more of a struggle. I met him later. James Tobias, who also happens to read the website. James is a beast, pure and simple. I realized I was dealing with a serious cyclist when he told me his Mitchell time of last year, 5:30. Wow! He was shooting for a top 10 finish this year. Wow again! I think he has a good shot.

Also in the pack was local bike shop proprietor and a previous top-ten Mitchell finisher, Brian Curran. He said this was an off year for him. I saw evidence to the contrary.

As we maneuvered out of the hills of Peak and Little Mountain, I noticed our mileage per hour gradually increasing. By the time we first stopped, we were at 20.5. That 4:30 comment didn’t seem as unreasonable. Problem was, all of my mileage from earlier in the week was starting to catch up and the hills were starting to hurt, especially when James was on the front.

At around mile 60, we hit a patch of rough hills. There was one short hill that peaked at a 12% grade, which pretty much broke the group. Three of the riders were all of a sudden at the top, two of whom were Brian and James. The other two were back with me.

We pushed to catch up, taking turns pulling. Through a combination of our effort and their slow pedaling, we finally caught them. Almost immediately the road turned up and we had to fight another hill. This one was a little longer with maybe a 5-6% grade. We dropped again, and this time I was ready to give up. But they waited again. Appreciate that guys. We would drop for good around mile 80 as we were traversing busy Highway 378. We never saw them again, which was actually a relief because we were chewed up at that point.

Us three remaining victims rode in together. Ben and Jennings were very strong riders, but had not done a lot of long rides. Once I had recovered from the James/Brian onslaught, I felt pretty spry again and tried to take some longer pulls.

Even though we slowed down at the end, the final time was 4:53. Phew. My off-the-cuff remark to the reporter was not too far fetched. On a better day with a little taper, 4:30 would have possible.

Strava GPS Link