Tag Archives: rides

2012 Rides of the Year

Last year I ranked my rides with two lists. One list was for the overall experience, while the other was for the most difficult. This year I’m going in a different direction. The most difficult list is being shelved, and doesn’t have to be on an annual basis. I’m also excising rides that were not new to me. That means that some of my favorites, such as Assault on Mount Mitchell, Assault on the Carolinas, Tour de Cashiers, and Bridge to Bridge are not present here.

The criteria here is not a judgement of each ride, but rather just my favorites based on the entire experience. Of course, the better the ride is organized, the better the experience for the rider.

It was still difficult to narrow these down to 10. Since my passion is riding, these were all fantastic experiences. Choosing between them is almost as ludicrous as choosing a favorite child, but here goes anyway …

10. Blue Ridge Brutal

Blue Ridge Brutal

Brutal is a fitting description. This ride had about as much climbing as the toughest centuries I rode, and then they had a bonus mountain at the very end. The roads were quiet and smooth. The volunteers and their yellow shirts seemed to be omnipresent. Handing out musettes on the parkway was a terrific idea. It was a difficult challenge, especially with Mount Jefferson tacked onto the end, but a memorable one.

9. Tour de Lure

Tour de Lure

What really set this ride apart was the scenery. Through Marion and over Stone Mountain wasn’t much to speak of, but when you turn towards Lake Lure and see the monolithic structures around you, it is breathtaking. The course was more of a challenge than I expected, and it was a good experience and benchmark for me to ride Mitchell several weeks later. This is among the better training ride options for others that are training for Mitchell.

8. Fletcher Flyer

Fletcher Flyer

It was flat, fast, and in the mountains. Who would have imagined? It was also a blast, as we traveled through the scenic valleys in the shadows of 6,000 foot monsters like Mount Pisgah. It was well attended enough that there were packs to ride with at nearly any pace. I settled in with a good group, and managed to finish far quicker than expected.

7. Fabulous 4th Bike Tour

Fabulous 4th Bike Tour

What better way to celebrate independence day than with riding a metric century in the mountains? Unfortunately, my experience at this year’s event was affected by an accident and injury to another rider. After helping out, I lost many of the riders. As a result, we had a comfortable, social ride through the North Greenville, Tryon and Saluda foothills. The best part was the food at the end, which I would rank near the top for any ride.

6. Six Gap Century

Six Gap Century

To nobody’s surprise, this was one of the more difficult rides I experienced. It didn’t help matters that I was riding with a broken hip (which was discovered much later). The starting line experience was among the best as they filtered 3,000 riders through the school parking lot, having riders shout out their hometown on the microphone as they ride by. Support was excellent. The timed climb of Hogpen Gap was a nice touch, not that I had any chance of being competitive.

5. Copper Triangle

Battle Mountain

This was the climax of my foray into Colorado, and what an experience it was! We climbed several passes, finishing with the epic climb up Vail Pass and rolling into Copper Triangle. The ride started in freezing temperatures, but we made the best of it. I rode with and met a lot of people from all over the place, enjoying the blueberry muffins at every stop. The coolest part was rolling into the heart of Copper Mountain resort for a picturesque finish.

4. Fort Jackson Awareness Ride

Fort Jackson Awareness Ride

There may be a little bias for this ride since I helped organize the event, but I feel comfortable including it here after hearing the post-ride feedback. Everyone had a fantastic time. Not everyone can ride on a military base, much less participate in a timed event there. The event exceeded our expectations for riders, and brought out the competitive spirit and camaraderie of the local cycling community. It could not have gone any better. Even though I participated, this was among the most fun experiences on my bike during the year.

3. Issaqueena’s Last Ride

Issaqueena's Last Ride

This was the most surprising entry. I had not heard much about Issaqueena, but was pleasantly surprised by the entire experience. The course was terrific, much of it in neighborhood roads with rolling hills, with the rest of it touching the foothills near the North Carolina border. This probably had the best markings I’ve seen on a road course, and they had tremendous pre and post-ride meals. My experience was bittersweet because a good friend became injured by a charging dog, but she has now recovered and is climbing better than ever.

2. Tour de Leaves

Tour de Leaves

Mother nature deserves some of the credit for this ride’s placement. I’ve ridden these hills quite often, but nothing compares to riding them in mid-fall. We were lucky with the leaf color, riding right around their peak color period for the year. I had previously Green River Cove Rd a few other times, but never had it looked this beautiful.

1. Blood, Sweat & Gears

Blood, Sweat & Gears

As much as I love mountain centuries, I rarely expect to call them ‘fun.’ Blood Sweat & Gears is a challenging ride, especially around mid-way when riders have to fight the snake. The Parkway, George’s Gap, and Schull’s Mill were all moderate and enjoyable climbs. I’m not sure why this was, but of all climbing events, this one was the most social. I met a lot of people and had a great time talking to them. The organizers and volunteers were terrific, meeting all of our needs throughout the ride. I was tired at the finish, but the atmosphere was festive, like a celebration. I look forward to riding it again.

Snake Mountain

Snake Mountain

Blood, Sweat & Gears

Blood, Sweat & Gears

Summer Climbing Series

The View from Chimney Rock

As I’ve mentioned numerous times, the goal this year is to conquer the four most difficult mountain centuries in the southeast. The first one is out of the way, and I’m just now beginning to taper for Blood, Sweat & Gears, which will take place on June 23rd. The other two are in the fall.

My focus this summer is to simply maintain my fitness, and have a good time doing that. The events I’ve lined up for the summer should be a blast, most of which are new to me.


Fabulous 4th Bike Ride – Even though this ride covers familiar territory in the Saluda/Tryon/Tuxedo area, it is my first time participating. This one is organized by Katie Malone, who has previously directed the Assaults. I’ve heard good things. The difficult part is that the 4th falls on a Wednesday. I’ll have to leave pretty early in the morning and return the same day. That’s not my favorite way to ride, but I think this one is worth it.

Raptor Ride – A group of us are heading to North Carolina for the Yadkinville Raptor Ride (not to be confused with Pendleton Raptor Ride on 10/6) at Brandon Hills Vineyard. This ride is in the foothills, not far from the Blue Ridge Parkway, and should be a lot of fun. While I’m there, I’m hoping to check out some of the climbs in the surrounding areas. There are a couple good climbs from nearby Elkin, NC to the Parkway. If I’m lucky, I may also get to check out some of the climbs near Winston-Salem (Pilot, Sauratown, Hanging Gardens).

The Colorado Trip – This year’s vacation is going to be Colorado. We picked a date that coincides with a mountain ride (thanks wife!), and I hope to do some more riding in the week beforehand. We’ll be flying into Denver at the end of July, where I’ll start acclimating. If that goes well, I’m going to take a stab at climbing Mount Evans, the 14,000 behemoth that towers over Denver. From there we’ll head to Breckenridge, where I’ll try to get a few rides in, and then participate in the Copper Triangle on August 5th.


Blue Ridge Breakaway/Brutal/Dove – Last year I thoroughly enjoyed Blue Ridge Breakaway and, in fact, named it my 2011 Ride of the year. This year I am torn because it falls on the same day as Blue Ridge Brutal, which I want to try someday. Brutal is also a little closer, and I have some friends who might be doing it. On top of that, there is an extremely popular SC ride on that same day, Flight of the Dove, which most of my local riding friends will be participating. This will be a tough decision.

Race to the Rock – This will be my first time trial. Usually this would not be my type of ride (race?), if not for the high rising finish. It ends with a short climb up to Chimney Rock. I became hypnotized by the scenery when riding the Tour de Lure, but unfortunately they do not let you climb the big hill most of the year. They open it up only for this event, a 25-mile time trial, which ends at the top.

2012 Season Schedule

My schedule for this year is now finalized. Guess what? I’ll be spending a lot of time in the mountains. I am thus far registered for eight mountain events and a couple smaller, local events.

This year is a little different from last in that I am skipping a lot of the smaller century rides to focus on training for the larger, more challenging events. Last year when I was figuring myself out, I used these smaller rides as training (and a way to accumulate lots of T-shirts). I have since found that I train better on my own and prefer the flexibility to choose my rides. I’ll still probably ride in a few of them, but I am not going to bother registering in advance.

The four target rides are the same. Assault on Mount Mitchell is still my key ride, which I have been training for all winter and will continue throughout the spring. Blood, Sweat & Gears will be my summer challenge. I’ll end the season in the fall with Bridge to Bridge and then Six Gap Century within three weeks of each other.


Colon Cancer Challenge
Tour de Lure*
Assault on the Carolinas*
Tour de Lake
Issaqueena’s Last Ride*
Tour de Cashiers*
Tour de Midlands
Assault on Mount Mitchell
Blood, Sweat & Gears
Copper Triangle*
Blue Ridge Breakaway*
Bridge to Bridge
Six Gap Century

Looking Ahead …

Mitchell state park sign

Now that my ride across the state is done, I am officially declaring the training season over. I’m done. Spent. Kaput.

That doesn’t mean I won’t be riding this Fall and some in the Winter. I have three rides remaining, however I am not pushing my training for them. This weekend’s Carolina COPS ride will be a quiet, social ride, as I am still recovering from the long ride. The weekend following will be the Tour de Franklin aka ‘The Halloween Hunard,’ which is a mountain ride with considerable climbing, but again, not going to push myself. I’ll take it easy and enjoy the scenery. On 11/5 will be the Orangeburg River’s Bridge Ramble, which is a flat-as-a-pancake century ride. I might try and go fast for this one, just for fun.

With the season mostly over, I am now looking towards and training for next year. It looks like we will have a good sized group for Mitchell training, so that will occupy the early going. From there I would like to do some mountain rides that I didn’t get the chance to do before. I have my eye on Roan Moan, Blood Sweat and Gears, and Six Gap Century. I would also love to ride Three State Three Mountain in Tennessee, but there might be calendar conflicts because it comes right before Mitchell. I am also making tentative plans to ride in Colorado in early August. I am looking at Cooper Triangle, but a lot can change before then. The rides I did in 2011 that I would love to do again are Blue Ridge Breakaway and Bridge to Bridge.

That leads me to the Fall and Winter. At first I planned to get off the bike completely and complete the P90X program. Due to other time commitments, I am now moving away from that plan. Winter is a great time for strength and cross-training. Weight training won’t be a problem, and I’m already in the process of re-upping my gym membership. Cross-training, on the other hand, could be an issue. I will probably have to run. Even though I am in great shape, I’m still wary of injuries, so we’ll see. I will be riding occasionally as weather permits and spending some time on the trainer. This will mostly be to maintain my riding fitness and not gain more. Once the weather starts warming up, probably in February, I will start putting on base miles again and start hill training shortly thereafter.