105mi, 12,600ft vert, 6:00hrs
We were trashed getting up this morning. Hitting most of the climbs in threshold zone yesterday did this. Brett and I didn't know how we were going to ride, let alone ride 5+ hours with thousands more feet of climbing. Mark's brother Tom was coming in late in the morning, so our plan was Brett and I would ride out on the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP) to mile zero and back, hopefully meeting Mark and Tom on the way back without having to descend all the way into the valley. We rode up to the BRP at Love Gap, a gentle 900ft climb. Climbing to the BRP on Reid's Gap, the gap we are staying on, is not an ideal way to begin a ride on tired legs. It has sustained 17% grades.
Views along the first 17 miles of the BRP are phenomenal, probably much like those from Skyline Dr in Shenandoah NP. The high point is 3200ft, about 1800ft above the valley. Several dips along the way pile up accumulated vertical. We nicely met Mark and Tom coming up to the BRP as we reached Love Gap. We had 40 miles and over 5000ft of climbing in our legs by this point, a warm up to the real ride.
The deal was, Tom was coming down somewhat fresh. Mark didn't do the first 40 miles with us (but he had already logged 20 hours out here this week). Brett and I were feeling cooked already. I had early signs of cramping coming on. Now the four of us were heading out to do another 100km with some serious climbs. We rode south on the BRP to Tye River Gap and dropped down to Versuvius. What an amazing descent. We hope to climb it in the next two days. Non-stop curves, all fairly steep, cliff on one side, stream/guardrail on other. Kind of scary actually, as rocks that fall from above are scattered across the road around blind corners.
I was completely cooked, out of water, long out of calories at this point. There were no stores along 10 miles of Rt 608 on our way to the next climb. Brett was in need of replenishments too, and Mark and Tom were gracious enough to continue south on Rt 608 with us into Buena Vista to look for food and water even though they were pretty much just starting out. What a difference a bag of Frito Lay Corn chips (640 calories, but more importantly, 640mg of sodium) and a Starbucks Frappacino makes. I was now good to go for Irish Gap.
Irish Gap is reached via Irish Creek Rd, paved, very gently climbing for about 10 miles. Then at fork, we go right on Pedlar River Rd (Rt 605), which climbs more earnestly on dirt. Brett seemed to find his legs back on this one and rolled away from us. I was getting my legs back too. Eventually we catch Brett and I ratcheted the pace up a notch. This strung us out over a couple minutes for the two mile dirt climb. The gap is reached at a really cool stone arch and passes under the BRP.
The climbing doesn't stop after reaching the BRP. There's still another 1000ft to go or so over 3 miles. We kept a pretty rigorous pace on this, and Brett paid for his earlier surge here. After several more fairly big rollers (hundreds of feet each), we reach an amazing 4 miles of BRP that we climbed yesterday. It is the descent down to Love Gap. It is giant sweeping switchbacks that can be ripped at 40mph and no brakes. I don't know who started it, but we all took turns attacking on this descent. It hurt worse than the hour of climbing it took to get up here. We also knew the ride was essentially over, all down hill back to the cabin. What a fantastic way to end 6hrs in the saddle.
The weather cooperated perfectly today. A little cooler than yesterday, probably staying below 80F in the valleys, and 60's up top. No rain either, but we hit a little heading out for local Mexican joint for supper. The BRP is an amazing place to ride this time of year. There is minimal traffic on it. In fact, it is common to ride 10 minutes at a time with no cars in either direction! It is like a 20ft wide bike path through the woods on a ridgeline. Just amazing. Cyclists on the BRP probably out-number cars 5:1. Many groups are here on spring training. Lots of recreational riders too. Another epic day, and two-day total climbing is 24,000ft. I believe this is a two-day PR for me, but not Brett, as he finished the Everest Challenge last fall with 29,000ft in two days.