Another great weekend of riding up in WNC!! I arrived kinda frazzled Friday evening - traffic was awful. So, there was no riding on Friday, which probably was a good thing.
The route for Saturday, except we cut out part of it - went from MM65 to MM77/78.
Saturday morning we were to be out and riding around 8am, but someone didn't get up till 7:45am!! I quickly got some great leftover pasta from the night before, topped off the water bottles and Andy & I headed out to Franklin to start our ride. The route sort of followed the Tour de Franklin metric route (I think) and then some additional loops. The terrain was gently rolling for the first hour - we set a nice easy pace and I was making sure to eat (gel) & drink (Perpetuem) about every 15min. After this hour, we come to the first climb - Buck Creek, which is about 10 miles in length. I climbed this one in just a little over an hour - 1:12. Not too bad I don't think. Will have to check when I get home to see what the numbers for both climbs were....
This climb was not too bad at all. Not as hard as I expected. I guess I've come a long ways in 10 months! I would never have been able to do this climb 10mo ago. Anyways, I just set a pace that I knew I could sustain and didn't bother trying to keep up with Andy. He never got too far ahead of me, maybe around a hundred yards. The scenery up there was just gorgeous and traffic was minimal.
After this climb, we had a nice descent on Hwy64, IIRC. As we were descending, we passed another rider ascending...it was one of Andy's friends Ludwig...this guy is awesome, rides all the time. As I was looking around to see if Andy was going to stop & talk or anything, I almost wrecked! I turned around and I was on the white line and headed towards the ditch. There is NO shoulder. I thought "oh shit" but leaned to the left as much as possible and got back on line and headed in the right direction. That was really close. And, it would not have been pretty had I wrecked.
We passed Bridal Veil Falls as we headed down US64 and the Cullasaja Gorge. After the near wreck, we reach a little store and get some water, heading on down the Gorge. I let Andy lead the way, as he wants to stop at Dry Falls & get my picture, but work is being done on the parking lot so we have to skip it. We stop at an overlook (well, really, just a pull off) and take pictures of Cullasaja Falls. The drought has really hurt this area....the last time I was there, back in '05 maybe, there was A LOT more water flowing. Took a couple of pictures and headed on towards Highlands.
Once we got to the Highlands area, we skirted through some neighborhoods until we came to a T-intersection and he says he doesn't know which way to go! LOL. We turn around and go ask some guy working in his yard. Get back on track and then it's nice rolling terrain again until we come to the second climb of the day. South Skeena Rd. This one was pretty short, only about .75mi in length, but the grade was much steeper than Buck Creek. I think I was pretty slow up this one. The temps were getting hot, my IT band left knee was hurting, and I was getting a bit tired. I managed ok though. It took me 13 minutes to do this climb.
Finished that climb with a nice long downhill on some road that I can't remember the name of...take a left and we do the Standing Indian climb, take a right and we stop for water and head on back to the car. We opted for the right since it was getting on up towards 3pm and we had plans for that evening - meeting some of Andy & his wife's friends on the Parkway for a picnic. We finished up the ride on Hwy 64 - nice wide shoulders and the cars generally moved over to the left lane as passing.
Overall, that was a great ride. I was a bit disappointed that we didn't have time to do the full 95 miles or even 100 miles, but I'm sure there will be other times. Maybe I'll head back up there in August and we can attempt to get in the full distance. I felt soooooooo good Saturday. I paced, ate/drank well, and it really showed. That nice long warmup was key too. Only problem I had was my left IT band was killing me at times. I couldn't get out of the saddle to climb later on because it was just excruciating. I'm going to really have to work on this over the next 2 weeks before Roan Moan....
Sunday was pretty much a wash as far as riding. We were starting at the overlook where the SEBF Fall ride started last year and planned to ride up to Richland Balsam & back. But, the weather had other plans. Last year, when we started this climb, I was in trouble immediately - looking down to see if there were any more gears. This year, 10 months later, I never went to my 28 cog. At least 1 or 2 below that. And, I felt like I was flying up this climb...probably was compared to last year. 8.2mph vs something like 6mph. I was also putting out higher watts and not suffering. I was holding the wattage in the high 180's to low/mid 190's for all of the climbing. For me, that's sorta high. Maybe my FTP has increased.
So, we made it up to about 4.5 - 5 miles and the rain was starting to come down pretty good. Decided to turn around because it does not get any better the higher you go. Heading back down was not as fun because of the wet roads. Back down at the car, it was quite balmy and much less rain coming down. Packed the bikes up and headed back to the house to change & pick up Andy's daughter and then get some lunch.
After lunch - I had to pack my stuff up and head home. :( It's so beautiful up there! I really wish I could find some work up there with the DOT and move. But, that move won't be this year...I have to at least wait till my kid graduates high school next year....
That's all...I'll try to remember to post some pics later this evening.