2008 Best of the Outdoors : Biking

Shenandoah Mountain 100

One of the first 100-mile endurance mountain bike races, the Shenandoah Mountain 100 attracts the best pros and hardiest amateurs in mountain biking. The course is classic Harrisonburg singletrack and fire roads.

“Many bikers just want to hang out, drink beer, and ride slow—which is great, but the race is tough, no matter what pace you ride. The first one [ten years ago] was epic. None of us knew whether anyone would finish. There are so many more riders doing it now, and every year, they get faster and faster. More singlespeeds too. I’ve been riding it since its  first year, and I’m still getting passed by 50 year olds, so I don’t see why I should quit now.”

—Mike Buchness, one of only four SM-1,000 Club members

2. Night Train, Fontana, N.C.
3. Snake Creek Gap Time Trial, Dalton, Ga.
4. Wild 100, Slatyfork, W.Va.
5. Cohutta 100, Cohutta, Ga.
6. Black Bear Rampage, Ocoee, Tenn.
7. Stump Jump, Spartanburg, S.C.
8. Off-Road Assault on Mount Mitchell,
Old Fort, N.C.
9. Massanutten Hoo Ha!, Harrisonburg, Va.
10. 24 Hours of Big Bear, Hazelton, W.Va.


SORBA (Southern Off-Road Biking Association) is the largest and most successful bike club in the region, with chapters in Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Florida. For decades, SORBA has led the charge for mountain bike advocacy in the Southeast.

Tour de Tuck
This century ride (actually 105 miles) through Western North Carolina is arguably the toughest century in the Southeast. Most agree it’s one of the best. The Tuck has more Blue Ridge Parkway miles of any century in the region.

“Cyclists are masochists. The more elevation gain, the happier we are. Starting at mile 20, you’re climbing for the next 60 miles. It separates the fast pack from those that are just looking to finish. The highlight of the course is the descent from Waterrock Knob to Balsam Gap. It’s a totally unadulterated, no-need-to-put-on-your-brakes downhill. You’re cruising at 40-45 miles per hour the whole way. It’s one of the best descents anywhere.”

—Scott Baker, Sylva cyclist and creator of the Tour de Tuck route

2. Three-State, Three-Mountain, Chattanooga, Tenn.
3. Bridge to Bridge, Lenoir, N.C.
4. Six Gap Century, Dahlonega, Ga.
5. Mountain Mama, Monterey, Va.
6. Cheat Mountain Challenge, Snowshoe, W.Va.
7. Miracle Hill Cycling Challenge, Greenville, S.C.
8. Big Walker Century, Wytheville, Va.
9. Smoky Mountain Wheelmen Fall Century, Loudon, Tenn.
10. Blood Sweat and Gears, Boone, N.C.

1. Sandman Triathlon, Virginia Beach, Va.
2. Nation’s Triathlon, Washington, D.C.
3. Duke Live Center Half-Ironman, Raleigh-Durham, N.C.
4. XTERRA East Championship Triathlon, Richmond, Va.
5. Smith Mountain Lake Triathlon, Va.
6. 3Sports Triathlon, Richmond, Va.
7. Big Lick Triathlon, Va.
8. Tsali Challenge Triathlon, Wesser, N.C
9. Watauga Lake Triathlon, Boone, N.C.
10. Beast of the East Triathlon, Hiawassee, Ga.

Trail Builder Woody Keen

Woody Keen has established himself as one of the leading trail builders in the country. He and his staff have worked in 25 states and two foreign countries, doing everything from building trails to developing trail management plans for land managers. In the Southeast, Keen is responsible for designing and building some of the most popular trails in Pisgah National Forest and DuPont State Forest.

How did you get involved with trail building?
When I got into mountain biking, I started looking at what was working on trails and what wasn’t working, then asking why? Why did certain trails hold up while others eroded? I studied at a number of workshops, one thing led to another, and I started leading volunteer trail days at DuPont State Forest. Then I got a call from Biltmore Estate. They had an expanding trail system with some problems and needed a consultant. We’ve been working with them for six years now. Not a bad first client to have.

What kind of shape are our trail systems in?
We have really bad trail systems in the Southeast. 80 percent of our system is comprised of old timber roads that weren’t designed for sustainability. Literally, most of these trails were built before the word sustainability was even in the dictionary. The problems are exacerbated by high use and extreme weather. Every trail is supposed to be flowy. They should all go up and down because that’s how you shed water, and a trail that changes elevation quickly and frequently is more interesting to be on.

What’s your favorite trail?
Professionally, I think people love Green’s Lick in Bent Creek, N.C. near Asheville. That’s probably our signature trail right now.

Twilight Criterium

A super-fast professional criterium on a loop through downtown Athens, Ga., at night. The Twilight has become the highlight of the USA Criterium Series, drawing thousands of spectators every year.

“I wanted to put on an event that showed bike racing as a spectator sport. So we decided to run it at night for the added entertainment value. We had 40 riders in the first race. Now we cap the pro field at 150 riders and draw 35,000 spectators. Everything feels flashier because it’s at night. The colors, the lights, the riders feel like they’re riding faster. We used to call the race ‘cycling on steroids,’ but we’re trying to get away from that slogan now.”

—Gene Dixon, creator of the Twilight Criterium

2. ING Capital Criterium, Washington D.C.
3. Assault on Mt. Mitchell, Spartanburg, S.C.
4. 24 Hours of Booty, Charlotte, N.C. and Columbia, Md.
5. Tour de Georgia, Dahlonega, Ga.
6. Mountain Road Classic, Kasson, W.Va.
7. Greenville Classic, Greenville, S.C.
8. Wintergreen Ascent Hill Climb, Wintergreen, Va.
9.  River Gorge Omnium, Chattanooga, Tenn.
10. Smith Barney Classic, Spartanburg, S.C.

Tea Creek Mountain, W.Va.

Six miles of super-technical Slatyfork downhill with the South’s toughest boulder garden thrown in for good measure.

“People want to ride the trails they hear about in magazines, but they don’t realize how hard it’s going to be. Tea Creek is fairly technical for the average rider. The big rock garden is fun to try to pick your lines and ride through, but really, it’s all about the descent. It can be fast if you’ve ridden it enough. No one that I know of locally can ride the whole rock garden, except maybe Jeremiah Bishop on a 29er full suspension. I’d like to get him up here and set that up.”

—Kristy Lanier, pro mountain biker and owner of Dirt Bean in Marlinton, W.Va.

2. Squirrel Gap, Brevard, N.C.
3. Pandapas, Blacksburg, Va.
4. Mountaintown Creek, Ellijay, Ga.
5. Pinhoti Trail, Dalton, Ga.
6. Black Mountain Trail, Pisgah Forest, N.C.
7. Torrey Ridge, Waynesboro, Va.
8. Thunder Rock Express, Ocoee, Tenn.
9. Forks Area Trail System, Edgefield, S.C.
10. Raccoon Mountain, Chattanooga, Tenn.

1. Blue Ridge Mountain Adventure Race, Blue Ridge, Ga.
2. Odyssey Endorphin, New River Gorge, W.Va.
3. Goldrush 24-Hour AR, Woodstock, Ga.
4. Lionheart 24-Hour AR, Ohiopyle State Park, Pa.
5. Primal Quest Sprint Series, Various locations.
6. SOAR, Highlands, N.C.
7. Black Beard AR, Outer Banks, N.C.
8. Overmountain Extreme AR, Morganton, N.C
9. Red River Gorge American Classic, Pine Ridge, Ky.
10. Muddy Buddy Adventure Race, Richmond/Atlanta

Will Frischkorn takes the yellow jersey at the Tour de France, proving to the biking world that clean riders can succeed…Jeremiah Bishop wins the national marathon mountain bike title…The final two loops at the Forks Area Trail System in South Carolina are completed, adding almost eight more miles of fast, flowing singletrack to this new system…Peace is settled between hikers, bikers, and land owners surrounding Mountaintown Creek Trail in North Georgia.

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