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2008 Cherohala Challenge (21 June 2008)

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2008 Cherohala Challenge (21 June 2008)

Old 06-19-08, 05:09 AM
  #26  
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i will be there i think im just doing the metric though due to time restraints,look me up i will be on a black cannondale will probably be wearing a red Krystal jersey
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Old 06-21-08, 06:02 PM
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I'm back. It was good. Rode with NealH. More details to come.
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Old 06-22-08, 10:44 AM
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I should add that for a flatlander riding his first full century, NealH did an impressive job.
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Old 06-22-08, 11:58 AM
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Originally Posted by Velo Vol View Post
You live too far away from the good riding.
As a cycling acquaintence points out: "all riding is good riding ..."
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Old 06-22-08, 04:18 PM
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Heh. They currently have a grainy picture of NealH featured on the SMW website.
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Old 06-23-08, 07:56 AM
  #31  
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Well, I'm flattered! My picture on a website. Probably a good thing it's grainy because I was totally exhausted and am sure that I looked it. I remember seeing a photographer as we were pulling into the Visitor Center after 114 miles and, I gave him a thumbs up because I felt a real sense of accomplishment. But I was really whipped.

I thoroughly enjoyed this ride and, it was a pleasure riding with Brian (Velo Vol). Riding in good company and meeting new cycling friends is the best part of cycling. If Brian had not been there then I would have followed the small group in front of us that took the wrong turn. That ended up costing that group another 20 miles. People yelled at them but, they were so busy pedaling that they apparently didn't hear anyone.

The weather was near perfect for this ride. When we needed some cooler air as we climbed the Cherohala Skyway, we got it. And believe me, when climbing the Skyway one needs some cool air. The support and food on this ride was excellent. I thought the stops were very well timed and thought out.

A few pictures - and I have reduced the size for easier loading:

The Visitor Center in Tellico Plains were the ride started. There were very close to 500 riders registered. I guess about half rode the full 114 miles.


The landscape was flat'ish as we started out. It was mostly valley farmland and very serene.


Velo Vol leads the way down a long and peaceful country road heading to the town of Vonore.


Velo Vol looks spirited and ready to ride. It was pretty easy sailing through these parts.


We had a long way to go so, we were in no hurry. This was a very relaxing part of the ride.


Chilhowee Lake. There are several adjoining lakes that parallel this route. All were scenic and pretty.


Cars on this road were virtually non-existent.


In the distance we get a glimpse of what lies ahead.


Velo Vol cruising along by the Chilhowee Lake and enjoying every minute.

Last edited by NealH; 06-23-08 at 08:33 AM.
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Old 06-23-08, 08:08 AM
  #32  
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It's been about 40 miles and, we are starting to climb as we near the Tail of the Dragon.


Taking a short break before entering the Tail of the Dragon.


I can see why people are apprehensive about cycling this road. Over 300 turns in 11 miles and, full of motorcyles and fast sports cars wanting to flex their muscles. Too bad, because it is otherwise a great route to ride.


A rest stop at the high point on the Tail of the Dragon.


About half way through the Tail and, the NC sign greets us. We start a descent at this point and, it was exhilarating. On this descent we were met by the roaring engines and screeching tires of a Porsche and 300ZX pushing their cars to the limit. We were worried about an accident behind us as the cars roared on. But, on this road one can't take their attention off the immediate road ahead. Just as soon as you get through leaning hard and swooshing through one turn, you lean the other way to swoosh through the next.


Just outside the Tail, we run into a dam and power house along the way.


The main climbing begins as we get on the Cherohala Skyway. At the 2600 foot point all is well.


Some nice views as we climb.


I was still alive at the top of the Skyway but, it was difficult. This was the longest and steepest climb that I have done to date. Here I felt like I was on the top of the world.

Last edited by NealH; 06-23-08 at 08:38 AM.
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Old 06-23-08, 08:11 AM
  #33  
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The vistas were absolutely breathtaking on the top of the Skyway.



After getting back down to civilization, the ride back to Tellico Plains was picturesque too. Lots of riding by river beds on this route.


I have a few more pictures of the ride on Sunday with Wolfpack and BikeWNC. Will post later today.
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Old 06-23-08, 08:31 AM
  #34  
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Nice report. You beat me to it. Now I'll just be redundant.

I'm still surprised that several people left the route. Perhaps they simply followed a local cyclist who was riding in the area?

You are correct that the weather worked out well. That climb can be brutal under a hot sun. The only downside to the cloud cover was that visibility of the mountains was not very good.
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Last edited by Velo Vol; 06-23-08 at 08:41 AM.
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Old 06-23-08, 10:57 AM
  #35  
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awesome pics Neal! maybe i'll be able to do this ride next year!
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Old 06-23-08, 06:33 PM
  #36  
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Sunday I met up with BikeWNC and Wolfpack. I was not going to ride at first as my legs were still sore from the Cherohala climb (so was my butt) but, I could not resist after hearing how nice of a cycling area the Burningtown Loop is. So, we selected a piece of the Loop for a recovery ride and set out.

This is the first time I've been on this route and, now that I've ridden it I would have to say it's one of the best cycling routes that I've ridden. Traffic was notably absent in this area and, the roads wind through mountain valleys offering up a peaceful and relaxing perspective. BikeWNC rides these roads quite often since not only do they offer a wide variety of effort levels depending on the particular roads chosen in and around this route, the temperatures in this area tends to also be milder in the winter months. So, it's a popular riding area for the cycling mountaineers up this way.

Here we are starting out Sunday morning. The weather this morning was particularly nice.


Immediately the picturesque landscapes through the valley are evident.


A lonely horse doing what we like to do.....eat.


Typical farmhouse stuck in the trees and out of the sun. Living looks easy out here but, it probably isn't especially in the winter.


Some distant hills in the background. The valley floor, although flat'ish, still has enough hills to keep the legs warm. And, one can always choose a piece of this route with more demanding climbs.


Crossing a bridge. I forgot the name of the river but, it was nice.


Another river view - probably thriving with trout.


This was Sunday morning and, as expected the local Church was having service. These churches in remote areas tend to always be small yet well attended by the locals.


BikeWNC with Wolfpack following up.


Wolfpack enjoying the ride. I hate that this picture came out blurry but, I guess I was panning the camera too fast.

Last edited by NealH; 06-23-08 at 08:30 PM.
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Old 06-23-08, 06:40 PM
  #37  
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Wolfpack taking a breather. We just stopped every now and then to chat about this, that and the other.


Heading back to where we started, with BikeWNC leading the way on a nice descent.


Another shot of BikeWNC, the guy that brought us here. Its easy to see why the local cycling mountaineers like this area so much. We wrapped things up, stopped to have a quick lunch at Wendys, and then headed back East - regretfully.

Last edited by NealH; 06-23-08 at 06:43 PM.
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Old 06-23-08, 07:01 PM
  #38  
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Glad you had a good weekend Neal and could join us on Sunday. Nice pics.
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Old 06-23-08, 08:02 PM
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Great pics from Sunday Neal. Glad you got to come out and ride both rides. That Sunday route (or parts of it) is one of my favorite routes up there.
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Old 06-24-08, 09:19 AM
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NealH, I thought you were going to lobby to do the Ring of Fire on Sunday. What happened?

Where is Burningtown?

Yet another motorcyclist died Monday on the Dragon.
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Old 06-24-08, 12:12 PM
  #41  
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No, no ring of fire for me on Sunday. I needed a mild recovery ride. I'll lobby for the ROF on a future ride up there.

I believe Burningtown is a community on the NW side of Franklin. Several roads around it carry the name "Burningtown" as part of their individual road name. The area lies to the NW side of Franklin just off Hwy 28 (I think this is correct). Its a really nice area as it's in a mountain valley and, to call it "uncongested" would be an understatement.

I could not get the link to open in regards to the motorcylcle fatality on the Dragon, I guess it's not surprising they way they drive on that route. Anyway, I'm sorry to hear this as any fatality is tragic. I think that area needs more policing as we did not see much in the way of law enforcement there. Maybe it would not do much good though. The way those two sports car came through there on our descent, I don't think they would have stopped for anything short of a road block.
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Old 06-24-08, 03:11 PM
  #42  
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The area had been heavily patrolled over the last year thanks to some special funding the Highway Patrol got. I'm not sure if it's still going on though. I saw one patrol car when we went through. I remember going to one of the various sites dedicated to the Dragon and they would post videos of Highway Patrol cars breaking laws... sort of their way of getting back at them for cracking down on them. The other two years I did this ride I never saw a single police officer, so seeing one this year was amazing.
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Old 06-24-08, 03:16 PM
  #43  
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They could easily shut it down with several license checks in the area. Just set one up every couple of miles. Besides, they might pick up a few perps too.
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Old 06-25-08, 09:58 AM
  #44  
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NealH already posted the highlights, but I'll toss in my photo ride report.

I thought we might have a problem finding each other, but we ran into each other on the way to the registration table. Great timing.

I was busy getting ready to ride across the street and didn't see everyone assembling for the "mass" start. So we started out a couple minutes behind the main pack and never caught up with it.

Once we got going:



Starting off in Tellico Plains



Early morning mist on the plains



A quiet Monroe County road



Monroe Country: America's breadbasket

We stopped briefly at the first rest stop at Vonore. Then it was a couple miles along US 411, riding through Vonore and over the lake. 411 is a main highway, but there's a wide shoulder available, if you don't mind dodging debris.



A heavy police presence on hand to deal with traffic chaos in Vonore



Crossing Tellico Lake

The route leaves 411 and heads east on TN 72. There are a few more rolling hills to contend with, but the terrain remains easy. We encountered very little traffic on this road.



Along TN 72



Heading to the mountains

The course joins US 129. There's an up-tick in motorcycle traffic, with several miles of flat riding along the lake.



Chilhowee Lake
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Old 06-25-08, 09:59 AM
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After about 10 miles, U.S. 129 heads up into the woods in a section frequently called the Tail of the Dragon--made famous due to its 318 curves in 11 miles. It's a unique place to ride; unfortunately the experience is marred by the heavy motorcycle traffic--particularly by the riders who treat this as a personal race track. Luckily, there didn't seem to be as many a-hole bikers out as there were last year.



Posing at the Calderwood Dam overlook



One of the 318 curves in the Tail of the Dragon



Real bikers and motor bikers mingle along the Dragon



Cyclists refueling at rest stop # 2 at the end of the Dragon



Deals Gap at the Tennessee/North Carolina state line

After the Dragon, US 129 descends sharply past Cheoah Dam (made famous from a scene in The Fugitive), then follows the quiet Cheoah River gorge upstream (1%-2% grade) for several miles.



Cheoah ("Fugitive") Dam



Following the river upstream on Tapoco Road

After rest stop #3, the course turns onto Joyce Kilmer Road, an extremely secluded road that skirts Santeetlah Lake. There's a few short climbs in this stretch--just enough to give you a taste of what's ahead.

At Challenge mile 70, the route turns onto an access road and begins an unrelenting 12-mile climb. Much of the ascent is at a 6%-7% grade, but there are stretches of 8%-9%.



The long climb begins

]

View where the route turns onto the Cherohala Skyway
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Old 06-25-08, 10:00 AM
  #46  
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If you like climbing, the Cherohala Skyway is a great road for riding. Traffic is light, the pavement is good, the grades are challenging, and the scenery is spectacular.

Fortunately, it was relatively cool and mostly cloudy during this ride. Climbing this road under a hot sun can be brutal. The only downside to conditions was that the haze hampered visibility of the surrounding mountain ranges. The pictures here don't do the Skyway views justice.



Along the Skyway



Self-portrait climbing at 6%



NealH comes to a screeching halt at rest stop #4 after rocketing up a 9% section



The Madone takes a break from climbing









At the top of the Cherohala Skyway (rest stop 5)

It's a great feeling to reach the top. I sat there in a pensive mood for a while, soaking in the experience.

Most of the last 30 miles is downhill. Some of it is very fast. You want to be sure your brakes work well on this slope. But there are three or four short "sawteeth" climbs along the way, lest your legs want a bit more punishment for the day.



Mountain haze



The Tellico River
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Old 06-25-08, 10:02 AM
  #47  
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NealH and me after the post-ride meal

I really enjoyed this year's ride. The weather was good, the climbing was good, the traffic was good, the road surfaces were good, the support was good, the company was good, and everyone around seemed to be in a good mood. I'm already looking forward to doing the Cherohala Challenge again.

Ride stats

Distance: 113.8 miles
Riding time: 7:28

(Report cross-posted at my blog)
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Old 06-25-08, 10:32 AM
  #48  
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very nice pics Velo! i do believe i will have put some serious consideration into riding this next year!
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Old 06-25-08, 01:35 PM
  #49  
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Great pictures and report VV. Good detail on the ride. Just looking at these shots makes me want to ride it again. It was really nice. When I loaded my Garmin 305 into Training Center, it reported the elevation gain as 9400 feet. So, it added about 500 feet to what the 305 read immediately after the ride. Which figure is correct I don't know but, regardless there is a lot of climbing on this route. I'll never forget that relentless Skyway climb. And, screeching to a halt at rest stop #4 was pretty easy. All I had to do was stop pedaling on that 9% grade and the bike didn't move forward another inch . That particular rest stop was a welcome sight.

I can only imagine what the views would be on a clear day. They were pretty awesome even with haze.

Last edited by NealH; 06-25-08 at 01:45 PM.
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