This one wasn’t on the calendar. I had been planning to relax after Mitchell, but during the week got the itch to do a longer ride. I signed up to do a flat century, thinking it was this weekend. It turns out I registered for a century for next week, leaving my plans again empty. Some friends were doing the Ride 4 Animal Care. Since I like to support charities like Animal Care and cycling groups like Finish Strong, I tagged along. I also happen to love the Tryon/Saluda climbs, and haven’t been back there since the injury.
This is the first year for the event, and they had a surprisingly strong turnout. It was a warm and slightly cloudy morning as we rolled out from North Greenville University.
The first climb came early, and it was a doozy. We turned left onto Callahan Mountain road. I saw the familiar words “GRUNT” written on the pavement, and dug in for a tough climb. This one is short and steep. Real steep. Because of the injury, I am still trying not to climb out of the saddle unless absolutely necessary, which hurts me on climbs like this one. Fortunately the lightning fast descent on the other side was a nice reward.
Next on the menu was the Greenville Watershed. My hamstrings were a little tight from the seated Callahan climb. This affected my performance even though Watershed isn’t a very challenging or steep climb. I lost most of my group, and would be riding most of the rest of the way on my own. Once I was across the NC state line, I was mostly warmed up and able to climb without soreness.
They had a rest stop setup in Saluda at the new Bike and Hike shop, which would be used for mile 20 and 43. The shop has only been open for 5 weeks, and is a welcome addition to a terrific cycling town. I wish them a lot of success.
The last two climbs would be the toughest. We descended Holbert Cove Rd, and looped around to Green River. The last 2.5 miles are among some of the toughest climbing in the area. I’ve found that it gets easier every time I ride, although this was probably far from my best performance (Strava did not match the segment). I had long heard that there were 17 switchbacks, but I had never bothered to count them. This time I counted as I rode along. Why not? Yep, 17. The middle section is the steepest and gave me the most trouble, but overall the climb did not bother me too much. The view at the top was fantastic as ever.
I knew that the next climb would hurt. We rarely ride up Fork Creek for this reason. It’s just misery. At least we were able to descend 176 down to Pearson Falls, which is always fun, before turning upward again. The early portion of Fork Creek is the toughest, with mostly steep grades around 13-14%. After roughly a mile or so, it becomes less consistent, with some lighter grades (maybe 6%) and occasional double digit pain.
I was relieved to reach the state line again, knowing that the big climbing was over. The long descent down the Watershed was a blast, as always, and a relief to the afternoon’s punishment. Hot temperatures waited for me at the bottom, somewhere between 85-90 degrees. That made the last few miles a test, and I was surprised to be hurting on the Vineyard climb near La Bastide (now owned by the Hincapie brothers).
Even though I am familiar with just about all of the climbs, this was a tough ride. Kudos to Vince for picking out a formidable route. I’m glad the inaugural ride was a success, and hope it continues for years to come.