The Misery Loves Company Team has now completed three training rides. We’ve climbed Hickory Nut Gap from both sides, Bearwallow Mountain from the Fletcher side and Ox Creek. Those of you who know me well will understand that I am squarely in my element when I am climbing. I absolutely love to climb. If pressed, I might admit to being a strong climber. However, I am definitely not the strongest of the group on flat to rolling terrain.
Hickory Nut Gap – Ride #1 38 Miles & 4,436′ Elevation Gain
Training began on March 1 with a 38 mile ride that originated in Black Mountain. We climbed Route 9 to the Divide and then followed Chestnut Hill/Flatcreek/Garren Creek/Hollywood to the Hickory Nut Gap climb. I love to climb this side of the mountain when there are no leaves on the trees because the switch backs are so pronounced you can practically have a conversation with the riders ahead and behind you while you climb.
Jeff and Tom dressed like teammates wearing the same Cane Creek jersey. Bonni proved that she is acclimating well to the mountains of Western NC. Susan and PJ showed how much stronger they have become since March 2013. A good time was had by all – including the little posse of Warren Wilson students who broke a chain within sight of the Velo Girl Rides van & trailer. They were very thankful for the chain tool.
Bearwallow Mountain One Week Early – Ride #2 47 Miles & 4,550′ Elevation Gain
Due to reports of heavy gravel on Ox Creek, I switched plans and we tackled Bearwallow Mountain one week earlier than scheduled. As we rode through Fairview and Cane Creek, David and Jeff lead the way keeping a pace that was fast enough to be challenging for me. The wind made things even more interesting. Bonni, a time trial racer and relative newcomer to WNC, pulled me up to the guys on more than one occasion. She is quite strong and excellent team riding skills. This was a treat and a reminder of the team skill lessons that Wendy Coin & Company teach at the Monday Asheville Racing Bicycle Club/Youngblood Women’s Monday night rides.
There’s a tremendous feeling of support when riding as a team. All members work together for the common goal. If you have ever watched a professional cycling race on television, you know that each team member plays a role. Some are strong sprinters which makes for very exciting finishes on flat routes. Some, like Bonnie, are time trial specialists. Some can climb like billy goats. The team works together throughout the race until it is time for the specialist to shine. For example, on a flat stage of the Tour de France, the finish will be dominated by the sprinters. Their teammates will lead them out providing a draft until they cannot lead any longer. Then the sprinting specialist will take over with a massive burst of energy to try to reach the finish line first. Wendy teaches this skill on Monday nights and I can tell you that it is extremely difficult to perform to perfection…or even to maintain a semblance of order.
Bonni gave me a little taste of teamwork by pulling me through the flats and rollers and giving me a blessing to climb at my own pace to the top of Bearwallow Mountain. She is gaining climbing strength with every WNC ride that she completes and we sure love having her along for the training rides. The willingness to ride like a team is a gift that those with racing skills can give to the less experienced riders around them. I am thankful for people like Wendy and Bonni who teach and share skills rather than complain about riding with those who have not had the opportunity to learn yet. Believe me, I frequently ride with men and women who are like sponges – they are very willing to listen and learn from the “pros” around them.
It was a fun ride and the first summit of Bearwallow Mountain for all of us. Most of the top of the mountain is preserved by a conservation easement but it is open to the public for recreation uses. It truly is a treasure for cyclists and hikers.
Ox Creek – Ride #3 53 Miles & 4,407′ Elevation Gain
We decided to tackle Ox Creek after hearing that there were signs that the gravel had been swept off the road. Misery Loves Company held more misery than company this week. Jeff was MIA, Tom was at a regatta, Susan is traveling, Bonni is sick, Martin still lives in Savannah GA, Wendy and Kristy were racing on gravel, Pattie was filing taxes, and Eric was celebrating his father’s 84th birthday (yes, this is the same person, EK Morley, who completed Cycle To Farm last year and commonly logs more than 1,000 miles in a year). PJ completed a half-marathon last week and was back in the saddle today.
David provided support, but still logged more than 20 miles by driving ahead and riding back to me and PJ. The route covered 54 miles and took us from Swannanoa to the Blue Ridge Parkway and to Asheville via Town Mountain Road. We snaked through the city and followed Riverside Drive to Old Leicester Hwy and enjoyed a quiet and beautiful ride through Jenkins Valley. Then it was time to tackle the mountain. The route was clean and in relatively good shape for the climb…descending would be a totally different experience because there are huge potholes near the top of the climb. I spotted a large turkey on the way up and really enjoyed the climb. Note that the pavement is marked for resurfacing or patching and will soon be out of commission for some time. The results will be worth the wait.
Misery Loves Company Team Notes
For those of you who live too far away to join every training ride and those who missed due to running half marathons, visiting family, riding gravel, etc… the first mile of both Bearwallow Mountain and Ox Creek are a good examples of the grade on both of the major Mountains of Misery climbs – John’s Creek Mountain and Mountain Lake…times three. The upper portion of both Bearwallow and Ox Creek is much easier than these two climbs.
David and I climbed Mountain Lake on Tuesday and, while it is just as difficult as ever, I am very pleased with my results. I felt strong, which based on my history with this mountain, speaks volumes for a March training ride. On MoM day, we will approach this climb after having completed almost 100 miles of cycling. It will most likely be hot and we will be exposed to the sun for about half of the climb. The last 1-1/2 miles will be littered with cheering spectators and cow bells will ring in our ears but the experience will be quite personal as we each make our way to the top. It’s going to be amazing!