When I was young, I watched a documentary on Mt. Everest, the highest elevation on earth. I can vividly remember thinking to myself, “one day, I’m going to climb that … how awesome would it be to say ‘I’m on top of the world?!'” Well, as I’ve grown older, I’ve also grown smarter, and I certainly realize that I could probably never afford to even attempt climbing to the top of the world. That knowledge won’t keep me from climbing the highest elevation in the United States east of the Mississippi River, though. That’s exactly what I will set out to do with about a thousand others on our bicycles on Monday, May 20 this year.
At this time last year I had never heard about this bicycling event known as “The Assault on Mt. Mitchell.” In fact, I first learned about this challenging century ride from a new friend Jim Simes from South Carolina when we met to do the “Redbud Ride,” a century bicycle ride in Kentucky in April. He surprised me by accepting my invitation to join me at that ride. And now I will return the favor by accepting his invitation to join him at what some call “the toughest ride in the southeast U.S.”
With official registration set to open in just a few days, the anxiety has already begun to build for me. Luckily, for me, I learned a very valuable lesson on preparation when I traveled to South Carolina in October to ride in the “Hincapie Gran Fondo.” That lesson is: mountains are night and day different than hills! We have some very challenging hills in my home state of Kentucky, but I can’t ride anywhere near my home where I can find 10-15% grades for more than about a mile or two at the most. And yes, we certainly have some 20+% hills around here too, but that’s just what they are. Hills. Not Mountains.
My mindset to complete the “Assault on Mt. Mitchell” is simple: Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance. I have set some lofty goals for my 2013 cycling season, and I’m glad, because it has kept me stoked to train hard through this off-season. I must admit, though, as much as I look forward to enjoying this season, I’m a little more focused on climbing Mt. Mitchell, than any of the other rides right now. My official training outline is also pretty simple: 1. Lose Weight, 2. Strengthen My Core, 3. Cycle, Cycle, Cycle! And on May 20, when I roll up to the starting line, my plan for success is pace, hydration, and nutrition.
I jokingly tweeted back in the fall that I not only intend to climb Mt. Mitchell, but I planned to finish with a couple of guys Jim Simes and Aaron West who both finished right around 7 hours last year. Believing that, is almost as far fetched as thinking I will climb Everest, but I have no doubt I will complete the “Assault on Mt. Mitchell” and when I reach the top, I will be proud to say, “I’m on top of the eastern United States!”
Join me in my quest to climb Mt. Mitchell, if you dare:
Last year Renaissance And Masher closed out a grand cycling season with a “gran fondo,” or big ride! We took on the challenge of the Blue Ridge foothills at United States pro cycling legend George Hincapie’s retirement ride. The Hincapie Gran Fondo in South Carolina was a great way to bring the good weather, busy part of the cycling season to a final downhill, but not before we climbed a few uphills at this venue. There were a few negatives, but mostly positives. All in all, we highly recommend putting this ride on your 2013 schedule if possible. Scroll down the page a little to read our official review from last season, and definitely check out the cool video posted by Renaissance Man.
This year the event boasts some new features including early registration discounts, VIP packages, and a cross country 5K run. Sign up before March 1 and save $$$ on fees. The Gran Ride (longest route) includes a very nice cycling jersey. The VIP packages are limited, and not for us, but I’ll guess they will sell out. For more info, please visit the official site & tell them RAM Cycling sent you:
Before departure on another leg of the Kentucky Century Cycling Challenge from downtown Frankfort, the bluegrass state capital, I enjoyed a cup of coffee while chatting with some cycling friends from our local club, the Bluegrass Cycling Club. Among them were Fran, Richard, Curt, John, Chuck, and then I ran into Ed and Troy as I walked over to pick up my registration. Finally, I hooked up with Chris and Toby for the start and our wheels were rolling around 7:45 AM, about fifteen minutes or so behind the “mass start.”
There’s only one way out of downtown Frankfort, as it lies in a beautiful valley with the Kentucky River flowing through, dividing the north from the south. We found our way out around mile 3 as we turned onto Louisville Rd at the end of 2nd Street and headed up, winding around a cliff side and pulling into a clearing near the top where it opened up with a nice overlook of the capitol building. I grew up in Frankfort, and know this was a generous route away from downtown, probably the easiest grade possible, and it wasn’t long after that we got to enjoy a fast descent into the Benson Creek valley. From there it was pretty much up and down to the county line, where Toby managed to capture the “green jersey” on a very sly pass with on coming traffic and another cyclist strategically placed in the middle of our lane. He earned it, none the less, and finished with it winning the last county line race uncontested, which was just around the turn from our last rest stop.
I heard the official number was around 600 riders total, and was more than triple the field that rode this event last year (not confirmed). This was only the third year for the ride that is organized by Preservation KY, and the first time they offered a century route, which helped establish part of the KY Century Challenge. The ride moves to a new venue every year, which is one way to ensure the routes always change. I enjoyed the century route, there was a few areas with some traffic issues, but certainly nothing major, we only witnessed one close call. The trip was definitely challenging as it heated up in the early afternoon, plus the early climbing wears on your legs later in the ride.
The support was awesome in my opinion, every rest stop was nicely placed where you had the option to skip and roll on, or stop, rest and refuel, when needed. The volunteers at each stop were very friendly, and offered to help in any way they could. There was also an abundance of energy and fuel for the ride available at all the stops. I also loved the finish meal which consisted of buffet style salad, sandwiches, chips, and pasta inside the KY History Center, in an air conditioned dining room. I couldn’t recommend a better way to finish (unless you want to add ice cream to the dessert).
Along with the century route, that totaled 108 miles, Preservation Pedal 2013 also offered two shorter routes of around 50 and 25 miles. I’m not an overly critical person, in fact, I always look for the good in an event and let it overshadow the bad. I can’t find much to criticize about this ride. It was an all around great event, I would recommend it to anyone interested in road cycling. I know maps and cue sheets are given out with registration at nearly every ride, but there were a couple of turn direction issues on this ride in the downtown areas of Frankfort, New Castle, and Shelbyville. I like the painted arrows/marking, I’m not a fan of the tape arrows. Some of them were either missing, faded, or not properly placed for easy visibility. I did enjoy the route and had a blast riding with Chris and Toby, and I hope that if Preservation KY moves this event next year as it has previously done each year, another organization will step in and host this ride again. It is worthy of repeating!
I’m finding that as this year goes on, my climbing is the greatest improvement in my cycling effort. I’m guessing the ride in the Blue Ridge mountains up Mt. Mitchell helped get that ball rolling. I’m not sure what’s improved more: my ability or confidence, but I am enjoying these challenging rides as a result of it. Last year, I rode these tough rides and made them tougher, struggling to finish sometimes because of my fitness level. My threesome completed the third leg of the century challenge with another average pace around 17 mph, and we plan to do the fourth, final leg in September on Old KY Home Tour from Louisville to Bardstown.
Preservation Pedal 2013 century route finished nicely as we descended back into historic downtown Frankfort and made a victory lap around the state capitol building, before cruising down Capitol Ave and back across the KY River to the finish line. Many Thanks to all the volunteers, supporters, sponsors, and especially the event organizers, I sure hope this ride continues to grow.
In Part I, I talked about a transformation that is taking place within myself, involving my health and fitness, on and off the bike. Now, in Part II, I want to discuss what it takes to transform my community into becoming bike friendly. Previously I defined transformation, now let’s define bike friendly: a manner in which those who ride bicycles are made to feel welcome and respected as an intricate part of a local existence by those who do not ride bicycles.
When Tim and I first decided to begin this RAM Cycling website adventure, I had huge dreams for how we would affect bicycle awareness in my community. Wow, in reflection, I must be somewhat of a dreamer. But if you can’t dream it, you can’t achieve it, some have said. Now, nearly two years later, our hometown has new dedicated bike lanes through downtown, numerous bike art statues located all around town, a group of citizens committed to extending “The Legacy Trail,” a dedicated cycling/pedestrian paved path, into town from its current stopping point at The Kentucky Horse Park, which would connect us to downtown Lexington via a trail with no traffic, and the Bluegrass Cycling Club (our local group of cyclists) now offers group rides with support to multiple paces twice weekly from right here in downtown Georgetown. Considering all these changes, one would think our community has begun to fully embrace the bicycle friendly state of mind.
That’s exactly what my heart wants to believe, however my association with non-cyclists and some other harsh realities are unfortunate reminders that we’re just not there yet. I will offer a couple of examples. I have been told by local elected officials that all they have heard about the bike lanes on Broadway St. are complaints, and they are going to ask the state transpo dept to conduct safety studies to determine if the lanes should stay or if it would be safer to revert back to a four lane highway going through the center of downtown. Yeah, a four lane highway for cars through a residential and multiple schools zone sounds much safer than two lanes for cars and two for bikes?!
The next example is a little more unsettling. Our most recent victim to lose their life on their bike was about a month ago, when an avid seasoned cyclist was struck by a car on his daily commute home from work. I will not comment on the details of this specific accident because I was not, nor have I spoke with a witness. But I will say this: there are two sides of the story in any accident, and unfortunately we never get to hear the cyclist side. What I will comment on, is the statement that was left by an individual at the conclusion of the accident report on a local news website. The comment stated: “Cyclists in my town have a death wish. I hope they get what they deserve.” If that doesn’t make you question the level of bike friendliness of your community, nothing will. The sad fact is, that person is probably not alone in their sentiment.
Well let me say this in response, “I am a cyclist in my town, and I too, hope all cyclist get what we deserve! What we deserve is spelled out above in the definition of a bike friendly community. While I fully understand there is a risk of a fatal accident every time I choose to ride my bike on the road, where I belong, no cyclist deserves to die for making that decision to ride. And certainly no spouse or child deserves to learn the news that their spouse or parent or loved one was killed while riding their bike.”
I will always have hope that we will continue to grow as a more bike friendly community, and that one day those who embrace the idea of bike friendly will be the majority. In the mean time, we will proceed to do our part in our commitment to raise awareness for bicycles and fight for bicycle safety here at RAM Cycling. This transformation is possible, all it takes is effort, and given the changes we’ve made over the last two years, I’d say we’re headed in the right direction!