Tag Archives: spartanburg

Tour de Paws, 2012, Spartanburg, SC

Moments after I posted my September calendar, my throat started to feel scratchy. Uh oh. A number of my co-workers had come down with a particularly nasty virus, and I was worried it was my turn. It was. Thursday was pretty rough, but I went to work anyway. I was in bed most of Friday. I was tempted to skip Tour de Paws, but late Friday I started feeling better, so I decided to give it a shot.

Tour de Paws is a metric century put on by the Spartanburg Humane Society. It has a reputation as being a fast, well-organized ride, and I always enjoy riding out in Spartanburg. Not to mention, pet rescues are always causes that I can get behind.

Initially I had hoped to hang with the lead pack. My expectations were tempered by my illness, but after feeling alright warming up, I decided to give it a go. I made sure to take some cold medicine, added some cough drops to my fueling supply, and lined up not far behind the fast group.

The ride began with us charging down the big hill on Reidville Road. I felt fine in the lead pack’s draft. The heart rate was in the tempo range. If I could stay with them, I would be fine.

Spartanburg riders are among the most disciplined you’ll encounter.


After the first few miles, the pack splintered a bit. There were some gaps that formed, and I had to sprint to catch the pack again. At around the five mile mark, the pack was separated even further by some riders who had left early, and were riding two abreast. The group had to move far to the left to get around them, some crossing over the yellow line. By the time we were back in the paceline, the lead pack was 200 feet ahead of us. I charged and was gaining on the pack for a time, yet the distance remained. I would need cooperation to catch them, but none was coming. After a short while I was starting to feel the effects of my sickness. I could not sustain the big efforts that I normally could. The pack was gone.

I found another two riders to work with for a time, but they dropped behind a little bit. I thought I would be riding solo for a time when I was caught by Jim, Liz, and Craig of the Freewheelers. They were all part of last year’s beach ride, and I was glad to ride with some company.

At around the 25th mile, I was not feeling well at all. There was one point after climbing a hill that I even considered calling it a day. I reminded myself that I have never taken a SAG wagon, and now was not the day to start. I shamelessly sat in with the group, taking the role of wheel-sucker, trying to work as little as possible while still remaining at a decent pace.

We rode through quiet, traffic-free country roads most of the day.


Our small group grew as others caught us. We worked together as a group of around 15. It was a smooth tempo, not too fast, not too slow, just comfortable. This was ideal given how I was feeling.

I have to give a shout to the motorcycle teams. They were awesome the entire day. They would ride along with us, either behind or ahead. They would get to intersections, and either let us know if the coast was clear, or stop traffic for us. One of the bikers was Richard, who was also on the Beach ride and has ridden in the Tour Divide. It was nice to have support that is so familiar with these types of rides.

The ride ended with us climbing back up Reidville Road. By now it was the mid-80s and humid, and the climb was nearly a mile-long. I felt pretty weak as the climb began at at a steeper grade, but was able to finish strong when it leveled out.

Even though I wasn’t at my best, I was glad to have participated. Next time hopefully I’ll be feeling better and can stretch my legs with the hammerheads.

Strava GPS Link

September 2012: The Last Hurrah

Last climb of Grandfather

While it is easy to get carried away with my distant 2013 plans, but there are still a few things to be done in the 2012 season. This September will be my biggest month of the year, with two of my A events taking place in the middle and end of the month.

First will be a tune-up to hopefully jump-start my fitness. This weekend will be the Tour de Paws outside of Spartanburg. It is a metric century with rolling hills, which is perfect at this point of my training. My plan will be to try and stay with the front pack. I haven’t been riding as strongly recently, so that might not work out. All that matters is that I get quality miles to prepare me for the following week.

After a short taper, I will be revisiting familiar ground. I’ll be back in Lenoir, NC for Bridge to Bridge. I have fond memories of climbing out of the clouds last year, but this time I am hoping for some better weather for the rest of the ride. I’m not thrilled about climbing Grandfather Mountain again, but I know that it can be done.

After that is a free weekend, and there is a slight chance that I’ll travel to Johnson City, TN for their Climbing for a Cause. This would be a good opportunity to check out some of the riding there, but it all depends on how fatigued and/or broke I’ll be that weekend.

The season capper will be a mammoth ride in Georgia. It will be my first attempt at Six Gap Century, which is often mentioned as one of the toughest rides in the southeast. I previewed some of the gaps not too long ago, including Hogpen Gap, which will be the toughest climb of the day.

Phew, I get tired even thinking about it. The good news is that my season officially ends after Six Gap. There will be some other events, but they are going to be casual rides. This will be the last that I ‘push it’ in 2012.

Hincapie Gran Fondo Announced

Those who mourned the loss of the annual Marquis de Sade ride will appreciate this news. George Hincapie, Tour de France legend and Greenville superstar, has announced his own Gran Fondo taking place on 10/27/2012. It will feature many of the same quad-killing climbs as good ol’ De Sade.

What makes this ride special is the celebrity of Hincapie and perhaps some of his closest friends. He and his jersey company have become the face of Greenville cycling, and hopefully will continue to contribute to the community for years to come. Hincapie should be riding along with special guests. They have not yet been named, but I expect a lot of BMC riders (maybe Tejay, Cadel?), and perhaps some other tour pros. Since this is Hincapie’s retirement year, the inaugural event should be extra special.

The longer ride is 80 miles and features the toughest climbs in the area. It starts outside of Greenville and heads straight to the Tryon/Saluda area. I have long complained about Skyuka / White Oak Mountain in the past. We’ll be reunited again, as it appears to be the first major climb. After that will be its younger brother, Howard Gap. It appears that they have eliminated the dangerous descent, as we’ll take the higher elevation route to Saluda, alongside Interstate 26. From there we’ll descend Holbert Cove, and come back through Green River Cove Road. Since Tour de Leaves is the week prior, that means I’ll be climbing Green River two weekends in a row. Ugh!

While these climbs will certainly be painful, they should be equally gorgeous. The fall leaves should be at their brightest in late October. That’s a worthwhile trade-off for the cooler temperatures, which from my experience will most likely (hopefully?) require arm warmers and little else.

There have been a lot of rumblings ever since the event was announced. One of the reservations people have is that this is a Gran Fondo, meaning it is timed. That timing chip tends to attract the hardest of the core, but with a 3,500 rider maximum and a difficult course, I expect there to be a healthy mixture of paces. Regardless how fast or slow you are, there will probably be many others right with you. I know that when I’m going up Howard Gap, the timing chip isn’t going to get me to the top any faster.

The other thing is the price. This is an expensive ride. The longest route is $170, and it scales down from there. A jersey is included in the price for the long ride, so there is that, but it’s a lot more than most. Mitchell is close, but with all the logistics to get people and their bikes up and down the mountain, it makes sense. That said, I think the price is fair for this type of event. Copper Triangle was similar. It was close to the same price, also included a jersey, and was superbly organized. I expect the same, if not better, from Hincapie. However expensive, this event could immediately become a major attraction, putting the area on the map for many.

Hincapie Gran Fondo

New Section: Routes

A lot of the stuff I add to the website are things that I would want for myself. For example, my Climbs section was started because I was spending a lot of time looking for interesting roads to climb when training for my first Mitchell. It grew from there.

The Routes section came from the same place. When I am in the Blue Ridge area, I often don’t have time to seek out group rides to show me around. I am always looking for convenient routes that I can take by myself. I find a lot of them on the internet, and some I make for myself. It would have been amazing had there been a single resource where I could find them all. If I cannot find it, why not create it?

This section was conceived a few months ago when I was training for my second Mitchell. It would have been too time consuming to put together a list of cue sheets like the Blue Ridge Bicycle Club has done to perfection. Instead I decided to use newer technology and use RideWithGPS links. Because people all over use this software, the content is vast and limitless. It also allows people to view the route on a map, see the elevation profile, and download it to their GPS device.

To begin, I asked a few friends if I could use theirs. Special thanks go to Neil Turner, Michael Powell, Scott Baker, John McSwain, and Jeff Dilcher for providing a starting point.

As of right now, we have routes that begin in Spartanburg, North Greenville, Brevard, Sylva, Tryon, Atlanta, and the North Georgia Mountains. In time we will add plenty more.

I am looking for a good source of content for routes out all over the Southeast, but I would specifically like to find some from Asheville, Boone, and Roanoke. If you know of anyone who creates these for your town, please send them my way.

Keep an eye on this section as I expect it to grow. Keep in mind that there is danger in undertaking any of these routes. You’ll notice a disclaimer on every page for a reason. Do your research and make sure you are equipped before trying these. While some are easy, others are epic rides that few people can accomplish on their own.

Steep Climbs Routes

South Carolina Routes
North Carolina Routes
Georgia Routes

Mitchell Postscript

My wife took the video below of the Mitchell start. Now that is a lot of riders!

This has been a crazy and exciting week. After I returned from Mitchell, I received an overwhelming reaction. Many people congratulated by calling, emailing, or Facebooking. Many were impressed with my time. The website also blew up a little bit. I had the top two days of traffic ever on the website, approximately 2,500 views combined (including pictures). Thanks to everyone who contacted me.

I was pleased to congratulate a lot of friends and blog readers who also conquered the mountain, many of them for the first time. Some of them did amazingly well. Others barely managed to make their way up. A couple bailed out on the climbs due to cramps. Hopefully they learned what went wrong and will give it another try. All who participated should be proud. Most people would not even be able to conceive of such an event, much less get off the couch and give it a try.

Even though I am extremely pleased with my results, especially given how much I improved over last year, I cannot help but think that I left a little on the table. I could have done better. The (obsessed) competitor in me has thought about this over the last few days. I have a good idea what mistakes I made and what can be done to correct them.

Get in the right group: This was something I was very conscious of when beginning the race. I tried to get as close to the front as possible. I was probably about 4-5 rider rows back, which apparently was not enough. The front group hammered early and I could see them get further and further away. With many riders in the way, there was no way I could catch them. Next time I will get closer to the front and try to hang on.

Ride with my group: This was a major mistake. I felt pretty good on the way to Marion and had a tendency to outpace my group on hills. After the hills, I found myself on the front, continuing to work hard. When I was just riding in the pack, my heart rate would be low. Surprisingly, I found out on Strava that I was in Zone 4 for 61% of the entire ride. A lot of that was on the way to Marion. After I burnt a few matches during the rolling hills, I fell back from my back and couldn’t hang on. That probably only cost me a few minutes, if that, but it might have added up and tired me out on the climbs.

Drink, drink, and drink more: I had two bottles in my cages and one in my jersey. I didn’t touch the one in the jersey, then ditched in Marion when I needed it most. Next time I will make it a point to drink more. I may even bring along a couple supplements.

Watch the heart: Once I got into my groove on the Parkway, I was able to control my heart rate. I think this is part of the reason I was able to finish strong. When it went above 170, I would slow my pedaling and breath deep. There was one stretch where I made myself recover, watching the heart rate drop slowly to the 160-162 range. Once I caught my breath, I could go a little harder and make up time.

And that’s it. Now that Mitchell is over, I will slow down on the intense training and enjoy riding. There are still some big events on the summer calendar, and I will ramp up my training as I get closer, but I’m not concerned with time. Mitchell is the only ride that I’ll use as a personal benchmark.