Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Sept 18 -- Bridge to Bridge Irregular Style

Five Irregulars participated in the Bridge to Bridge cycling event Sunday, Sept 18. Ags, BobH, Iva, Norris, Tito. Also in attendance were wives Kim (Tito), Bren (Norris), and Mary Kay (Bob). The eight of us met at The Sagebrush steakhouse Saturday night and had a good time. Tito had raw tofu, water (no ice), and a piece of lettuce.

The Route
The race (or is it a ride) starts in Lenoir, NC and goes east before doubling back towards the mountains. The first 50 miles are relatively flat until it hits Hwy 181 north of Morganton. That starts a 10 mile 2500 foot climb to the community of Jonas Ridge. Normally, the ride then joins the BR Pkwy, but this year, due to construction, they closed the parkway to the ride (not good). Instead it went up through Linville and west of Grandfather Mt down highway 105. Near Banner Elk there is a steep downhill segment (1000 feet four miles) that passes through the community of Foscoe before turning onto Shulls Mills Road near Hound Ears Resort. This was a definite downgrade from the BR Pkwy because 105 is heavily traveled.

Leaving 105, thank goodness, the route then goes by Hound Ears Country Club and starts a 10 mile 1800 feet beautiful climb from Hound Ears to the BR Pkwy / Hwy 221 intersection. From there it’s rollers and hills and bigger hills on Hwy 221 to the Grandfather Mt entrance.

By the time you reach Grandfather, you’ve ridden 100 miles, and you face a really tough, tough climb. It’s 900 feet in two miles with the average not a true description. The first part is doable. Then, there are about four switchbacks were I had “trouble” (see The Ride). In terms of length and elevation, it’s similar to Pilot or Hanging Rock, but seemed harder (see The Ride). Maybe it isn’t. I suspect the preceding 100 miles had something to do with it.

The ride info says 10,580 feet of climbing. My Garmin said 8,926.

The Ride
We five met at the starting line at 0800 ready to go. Kim had gone on to Grandfather to wait. Bren and Mary Kay were there to see us off. At the gun, that’s the last I saw of Tito and Ags till much later.

Norris, Bob, and I started off together and then got caught in different pace lines for a good while. Somewhere around the first rest stop (25 miles) we got back together and pretty much stayed there for awhile. We climbed together on Hwy 181. BobH was in the lead most of the time. Norris was climbing well despite his own admission that he had not been doing much hill training. The climb seems to go on forever with few flat spots. Look at the elevation profile to see what I mean.

Somewhere still on 181, but after the steepest part, I had my first chain incident. When I shifted to my small chain ring, it would get thrown off into the frame – not every time – sometimes. I lost Bob and Norris and the others when I stopped to fix it. We got back together at the next rest stop.

Finally, we got to Linville and over to Hwy 105 and the long downhill. I talked to Bob on the phone afterward and he said he hit 41 mph riding the brakes. He said Norris hit 50. And, this was on a busy road with the wind blowing. In this stretch, we also something we rarely saw all day – blue sky. The warm sun felt great on my back.

After this, we all were in a nice 10 person pace line going past the exclusive Grandfather Mountain Golf and Country Club and onto relatively flat ground when I had my second chain incident. Again, I lost the pace line to stop and fix it. Now I was totally by myself. I got to the point where I thought I may have missed a turn, but finally I saw Shulls Mills Road. This went by the beautiful Hound Ears Golf and Ski club and started another long, steep climb back to the pkwy / 221 intersection. It was still beautiful weather.

Once on 221, the weather socked in again but worse. Fog reduced visibility to 100 feet if that. This was about mile 90 and I was ready to exit the bike. I was cold and damp and tired. I was riding with this (I thought) nice guy. I told him about my chain problems and said “ok. I’m getting ready to shift down. It may throw”. I found that if I was real careful, I could do it. But, this time it threw and I busted my posterior. Unlike before, when I had some forward momentum, this time I was going up and came to an immediate halt. A bicycle quickly loses its stability as its forward momentum slows. Down I went. I threw myself to the ditch to avoid falling into the fog shrouded mist in the middle of the road. The ditch, about a foot deep, nicely accommodated my rear end. My head slammed into a rock embedded in the cliff, but fortunately, my bike helmet did its job. AMEN on bike helmets. This is one of several times I’ve said I’m glad I have a helmet on as my head encountered something hard. My “friend” kept on riding. Maybe he didn’t see me. I had been seeing cars coming south on 221 with people who had finished the race. One of them stopped and asked if I was o.k. I got myself untangled from the bike and said thanks, but yes. Now, the fun of clipping in on an upslope began. Finally, I managed that and continued on somewhat angered at myself for not having my equipment in top shape for such a ride. Another lesson learned.

Later I learned that Bob and Norris got to the GF Mt gate about 8 hours elapsed time. Their plan all along was not to tackle GF Mt, but to go on to the Meadows where the shuttle from the top was taking people. I arrived at the gate about 8:15 elapsed. For awhile (8 minutes), I considered going to the Meadows myself. But, then I said what the hell and took off up the mountain. For a while, it wasn’t bad at all. I was saying what’s the big deal. But, that changed quickly. I started seeing people pushing their bikes. I started zig sagging across the road. Kim and Tito passed by me in my car going downhill. Tito yelled for me to meet them at The Meadows. Finally, I got off myself and started walking with a young guy. We were leaning into our bikes like pushing a heavy wheel barrow up a ramp. Then we would get to a “flat” spot and remount. Then get off again. We repeated this process till finally we saw the finish line high above us. No way could we get on our bikes so we walked and pushed our way to the top.

My elapsed time was 8:56. Both Ags and Tito stayed on their bikes the whole way. They both had great rides with Ags at 6:56 and Tito at 7:38. I hope they can comment to give their perspective on the ride.

The winner in 4:51 was Bruce Humphries from S.C. Bruce is a cat 1 racer who rides on the Hincapie Green team. Soni Dyer, whom some of you may remember from N.C. triathlon days, came in seventh at 5:04. The first female was a 17 year old in 5:35. The first sixty year old finished in 6:16.

Is this harder than Assault on Mt Mitchell? I’ve answered both ways since the ride. I didn’t have to dismount at Mitchell. But, Mitchell was longer and more elevation gain. I think The Bridge had a lot of gain at one time or another whereas Mitchell was more steady gain. At any rate, I’m glad I did it.


  1. Iva, thanks for sharing and nice write up. Bummer about chain and fall. Robert

  2. Thanks for the ride report. Congratulations on a tough course. Depending on your seat tube diameter (and whether your frame is carbon which generally flares out a lot near the BB), you might try a "jump stop" (http://www.gvtc.com/~ngear/) to keep the chain from dropping off the small ring. I've used them for several years.

    ... Bob

  3. Thanks Biker Bob. I'll ck it out. IvaHawk