On Saturday I rode in a cycling event called 3 Mountain Madness. The ride is 75 miles long and involves 9280 feed of ascent according to their websites GPS statics. At the start, they announced that 550 riders had registered. The event was extremely well supported with people at every major road crossing and left turn, well stocked rest areas and showers and lunch afterwards.Riders can sign up for one of three routes: yellow, orange and green. Yellow for now climbs, orange for the 75 milers and green for the folks that thought 75 miles and three climbs was too easy.
The ride started out pretty well. I averaged about 19 mph approaching the first climb. At mile 17, things changed. Someone in the group behind me said, "It's a sharp uphill at the beginning and then it levels out some." The yellow arrows went straight. I made the right turn onto Sauratown Mountain Road and saw what the other rider was talking about. The climbing seemed to go on and on and on. Then there was a sign that said, "Road Ends 500 Feet" and I knew that I had made it. I saw my riding friend Jim at the turnaround and stopped to get a drink and say hello. I took his photo and then braced for the descent. I had been worrying about the descent for several weeks after learning that a fellow rider, Danny Thomas, was seriously injured coming down Sauratown.
One down, two to go.
I made it down Sauratown fine and ran into some friends at the rest stop shortly after Sauratown. I went on to the second climb of the day. A short 15 minutes later I was at the bottom of Hanging Rock. Wow, 15 minutes was not a lot of time to recover for this flatlander. Hanging Rock was the shortest peak of the three climbs but only a short time after Sauratown, it was not easy. There was an event photographer on the climb. That could be a scary photo! On my way down Hanging Rock, I could see the expressions of the climbers. People were really working.
At this point, it became kind of interesting. For some reason, I was under the impression that it would be flat to rolling between Hanging Rock and Pilot Mountain. This is not the case. Climbing Climbing Climbing. I spent a lot of time under 10 mph during that time. I felt like it was slow more than difficult.
I made it to the rest stop at about mile 60., the final "big" rest stop before Pilot Mountain. One person that I ride with frequently said to me, "Pilot still intimidates" when I asked him if he was doing the 75 mile route. I stopped and chatted with some riders and refilled my water bottles. I was told that there was a rest stop at the bottom of Pilot but it was pretty much a water only stop. Someone else had advised me that Pilot is 2.4 miles. She said, "Remember Pilot's only 2.4 miles long. Yes, the longest 2.4 miles you will ever experience, but still only 2.4 miles."
At the ranger station I checked my odometer and did the appropriate math. I had been advised that the first 1.6 miles were the worst. I began to pedal up the mountain. I was going very slowly -- often 4 mph or less. Pedaling. Pedaling. One mile, gone. Nearly halfway. Another switchback and another. Oh now. This is the part that people talk about. The riders in front of me have gotten off their bikes and are walking. Pedaling. Pedaling. I pass the walkers and they are encouraging. I know that if I can make it around the next corner, the grade will ease up some, and it does. It is just as I was told. The tree canopy opens above me and the grade eases somewhat. I pedaled up Pilot Mountain. I did it. I rode to the overlook but there was no view. It was too hazy. I asked a rider who was resting to take my picture. Yes, it may look like a picture of me in a parking lot but it's me in a parking lot at the top of Pilot Mountain.
From there it was "just" the descent and about 10 more miles. It was on the descent that I saw the warning sign for trucks -- 10% grade. I knew that I was in business when I rejoined with the yellow route.
The event was really fun! I've already added it to my calendar for next year -- May 30, for those keeping score.