Major weather related nastiness was bearing down on the southeast again this morning. After talking with Jon from Chapel Hill area (who we hoped to ride with on Mt Mitchell this morning), we decided it might be better to wait until Sunday. Besides, Brett needed a breather from two days of threshold efforts. I'm going to hide his PowerTap to put a stop to this madness.
So we opted to ride right from the hotel early, head up Town Mountain Road to the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP). Our goal was to beat the rain. When we first booked this trip, we were not aware of a closure on the BRP between Asheville and Mt Mitchell. It was about 20 miles out. We planned to ride to the closure, maybe explore one of the side gap roads depending on weather and legs.
Starting out on Town Mountain Road was steep. Brett seemed to take right off. If this was going to be recovery day, I was going to go as easy as possible. I was in my lowest 34x27 gear and still going upper end of tempo pace for about 1000ft of vertical. The grade levels off about 1200ft above our hotel. Town Mountain Rd rolls for a bit, then drops a few hundred feet down to the parkway. The parkway resumes a more rolling nature before it kicks up at 4-5% grade for the next 10 miles or so.
The green line, somewhere around 4000ft I'd guess. Trees above here have not started budding yet.
The closure on the BRP is due to rock/mud slide, maybe from a hurricane a few years ago. Not sure. It was gated and posted closed to bikes a few miles from the actual repair sight. Brett and I decided to ride past the gate. Seems locals do the same. After another long tunnel, we come around the bend to see equipment and men on this Saturday morning. Didn't need any trouble from them, so we quickly U-turned and got back out of sight. This was about 3300ft net gain from our hotel and 20.5 miles out. It still hadn't rained but it was looking ever more threatening.
Looks like fair game to me. Another pristine three miles of riding/climbing was to be had after the gate.
No more than beginning the descent, it started spitting rain. Fortunately, it never really did more than this. The road never got completely wet. The tunnels we climbed through were far more scarier bombing at 35-40mph than climbing at 10-12mph. One tunnel was maybe 0.2mi long. It was nearly black in the middle. There could have been a car sized rock fallen out of the ceiling and we wouldn't have seen it. Unnerving to say the least. Plus your sense of balance gets screwed up without the normal visual cues. Peripheral vision was completely dark. The only cue was light at the far end.
The upper tunnel we rode through, around 5000ft.
Before rejoining Town Mountain Rd, we decided to see where Elk Mountain Scenic Hwy went (up, of course). It gained about 400ft before leveling off. We turned around, still hoping to beat the rain back.
The final descent down Town Mountain Rd was a blast. I took a little more risk on this descent than the others. Only a little braking was required, as many of the turns were nicely banked. There was not a straight meter on it. Wicked fun. This pops out nearly downtown Asheville and less than 2mi from our hotel on the east side (through another tunnel on Tunnel Road).
The mythical, elusive Mt Mitchell in distant center of image. The road reconstruction area was just around the bend. Mitchell is really there. But is it really 6684ft above sea level? Hopefully a New Englander can answer this question once and for all on Sunday.
We beat the rain with less than an hour margin. It never rained hard as of 3pm, and it probably didn't rain at Mt Mitchell until much later in the afternoon if at all. You can never tell what the weather is going to do in the mountains, even an hour from now. You just have to go out and ride. I'm a little bit bummed we didn't do Mitchell today. Tomorrow is do or die. Forecast looks the crappiest yet of the four days we're here. Could be a six hour monkey butt inducing rain slog.
For today, we ended up with 44 miles, 4865ft vertical, in 2hrs, 52min riding time. Great recovery ride, eh? So here's our trend:
Thu: 80mi, 9000ft, 4.8hrs
Fri: 64mi, 7100ft, 4.1hrs
Sat: 44mi, 4800ft, 2.9hrs
Looks like Sunday should be about 20 miles, 3000ft and sub-2hrs. Last year in Virginia we logged 33,000ft and 15hrs of riding in the first three days. Mitchell should minimally net about 7000ft of climbing. I'm hoping we can do the full 100+ mile loop with over 10,000ft of climbing. Haven't gotten even one ride of dubious training value in yet on this trip. Hill Junkie trips are usually chocked full of dubious training value rides.