Many of us have cycled in various places in the United States to include other countries and on various types of roads, terrain and environmental conditions. What was your greatest ride/achievement? Here's mine:
After retiring, my wife and I decided to live in the mountains of North Carolina. Asheville is where we settled, a beautiful and diverse town of approximately 70,000. We couldn’t have chosen a better retirement area. Our home is located just below the Blue Ridge Parkway.
As an avid cyclist, I thought I was in pretty good shape until I started to cycle in the mountains. In particular the Blue Ridge Parkway with its magnificent scenery, no wonder cyclists love to ride the Parkway! Upon arriving in Asheville, it took me nearly 8 months to get the legs to ride in this terrain. For me, it was those early morning training rides up to Mount Mitchell (highest point east of the Mississippi). With very little traffic, I love hearing the birds singing as they awaken and the occasional low clouds or fog settling over the mountain ridges like a cotton blanket. And of course, the variety of temperature changes as you increase in altitude. Those are the rides that make you feel alive and bring a smile to your face regardless of the uphill climb pain!
I had heard about the Assault on Mount Mitchell cycling challenge. An arduous 102 mile event. After some research, I just had to rise up to the challenge. My first mountainous cycling challenge. I entered the 32nd Assault on Mount Mitchell (2007). My training began in the Fall of 2006. Training on the Blue Ridge Parkway that time of year is absolutely wonderful! But you have to get an extremely early start due to the tourists attracted to the Fall Foliage Leaf Color Show. The leaf show is absolutely spectacular! While training and stopping at the many overlooks on the Parkway, there are ocean waves of reds, oranges, purple, browns and greens simply frozen in time. There is no better way to stop for a breather!
My personal training was over and my first Assault on Mount Mitchell was about to begin. There were many riders from all over the country all around me. The starting line looked like a carpet of a thousand colors. You could feel the tension as the many cyclists anticipated the 102 mile trek that would end atop the highest point east of the Mississippi. The ride began and my strategy was simple – power management. I wasn’t going to bonk early so I stayed with a relatively fast pace line that remained about 15 minutes behind the lead group until Marion.
I’ll never forget the rest stops. Plenty of food, water and sports drinks - a vital necessity for all of the riders. The rest stops were all strategically located to best suit the riders and terrain. The most important aspect for me was seeing all of the volunteers who came out to ensure the cyclists were taken care of. Without them, this ride would not be available. Thank you volunteers!
Here is where the Assault on Mount Mitchell gets its name. The final 27 miles are essentially uphill with the exception of a couple of miles. The climbing started. I never knew how happy I would be to take that left hand turn on the Blue Ridge Parkway to head south to 128 and finally to the summit. But, I still had many miles of climbing to go. A total of over 12,000 feet of accumulated climb.
I began to pass many cyclists as they began to slow down due to fatigue. Some were simply running out of energy while others were dealing with a cyclist’s worst enemy – cramps! It appeared that my power management was paying off. I felt good and kept pushing the pedals to the pavement. There was no time for sightseeing on this journey.
There I was about to turn on 128 to head to the summit 4.8 miles to go). I was very familiar with 128 and therefore felt comfortable and knew how long it would take me. As I neared the summit, maybe ¼ mile away, I remember a lady who was yelling encouragement to me as I rode by. I was energized by this and began to increase my speed. I felt good at the top and turned up the speed in the final 100 yards. I crossed the electronic timer plate (7 hours 3 minutes including rest stops), stopped, handed over my bike for further transportation and then “smiled.” I made it! And, I felt like I was standing on top of the world at the same time!
I'm truly impressed after reviewing the websites you provided. It's so interesting to meet fellow cyclists from around the world and to see their respective accomplishments. You should be very proud! Cheers!