3 State 3 Mountain Challenge
Chattanooga, Tenn., May 3

Cruise through Tennesee, Alabama, and Georgia during this grueling century ride. Beginning in Chattanooga and heading south, racers should be ready for a number of steep climbs and fast, technical descents. They’ll go up and down three burly mountains – Raccoon, Sand, and Lookout – before catching a break on the new flat homestretch back into Chattanooga. This year, retired professional road cycler George Hincapie and his crew will be returning to lead the ride. chattbike.com

Wintergreen Ascent
Roseland, Va., May 3

That’s right folks, this course is all up and no down. Convene at Devils Backbone Brewing Company and follow the road for six miles up the mountain. Ranging from 7.4 – 14 percent grade incline, this route is a thigh buster for sure. The course will gain 2,626 feet in elevation before the finish line; anyone who starts down the mountain before then will be immediately disqualified. If you work hard during the race, you can always refuel on those extra calories by drinking hard later at the brewery. vacycling.org

Assault on Mt. Mitchell
Spartanburg, S.C., May 19

Since its modest beginning in 1975 by a group of local riders, this century race has quickly grown to become one of the most iconic rides in the region. Starting in South Carolina, the course cruises along the state’s backcountry roads before connecting with the Blue Ridge Parkway and heading into North Carolina to climb Mount Mitchell. With 10,357 feet of elevation gain, be prepared in particular for the last 25-mile stretch: you are, after all, trying to pedal up the highest peak in the East. freewheelers.info

Blood Sweat and Gears Century
Valle Crucis, N.C., June 28

This fully supported road race is an Old North State classic. Winding through the heart of North Carolina’s High Country, the BSG is defined by its hilly terrain and curvy back roads that climb 8,800 feet. The course highlights include 21 scenic miles along the Blue Ridge Parkway, a 4,500-foot climb over Snake Mountain, and a well-deserved 10-mile flat stretch on US-421. bloodsweatgears.org

Six Gap Century & Three Gap Fifty
Dahlonega, Ga., September 28

Whether you’re pedaling over three mountains in the 50-miler or six mountains (yes, six) in the century, if you participate in these Georgia classics, you’re going to be climbing some steep stuff. For over 104 miles, the Six Gap course features 11,200 feet of vertical climbing with one incredibly trying climb in particular: Hogpen. This seven-mile stretch averages a 7 percent grade with some parts as steep as 15 percent. cyclenorthgeorgia.com

Best of the Rest

Snowball Criterium

Chesapeake, Va., March • bikereg.com

Fouche Gap Road Race
Rome, Ga., March 30 • romevelo.net

JJ The Rooster Memorial Road Race
Millington, Tenn., April 5 • buildpeakcompete.com

Tour of Georgia Gran Fondo
Clayton, Ga., April 13 • granfondonationalchampionshipseries.com

Rough Roubaix 109-Mile
Harrisonburg, Va., April 19 • mtntouring.com

Sunny King Criterium
Anniston, Ala., April 20 • sunnykingcriterium.com

Athens Twilight Criterium
Athens, Ga., April 25-26 • athenstwilight.com

Storming of Thunder Ridge
Lynchburg, Va., May 18 • stormingofthunderridge.org

The Georgia 400 Hospitality Highway Century
Roswell, Ga., June 29 • ga400century.com

Hot Doggett 100
Mars Hill, N.C., July 12 • hotdoggett.mhc.edu

Blue Ridge Breakaway
Waynesville, N.C., August 16 • blueridgebreakaway.com

Ride Like a Pro

When professional cyclist Jeremiah Bishop moved to Harrisonburg, Va., he actively sought out training rides that would push him to his limits and offer a sizable challenge. Having toured the world cycling in the industry’s most prominent races, Bishop knew what made a good course. Wanting to start and end in town, he eventually wandered far enough into West Virginia and back out again with a route that covered 107 miles of some of the most scenic and challenging terrain he had ever encountered.

“You pop out into these alpine meadows and it really reminds me of my time racing in Europe,” Bishop says. “I named it the Alpine Loop and since then it’s become an annual pilgrimage of sorts, but at first, no one did it. I couldn’t talk anyone into riding it.”

Bishop eventually let himself “get talked into” hosting an event, something he knew would require a lot of time, effort, and resources. With the help of a number of local volunteers and the town-wide support in Harrisonburg, Va., and Franklin, W.Va., the Alpine Loop Gran Fondo has seen remarkable growth and stands as one of the most respected achievements in the road cycling community. The event also promotes awareness about prostate cancer, giving cyclists an even better reason to come out and support this grassroots race.

With three different course options (32, 75, and 107 miles) the Gran Fondo annually brings cyclists of every caliber to the Shenandoah Valley. The big ride challenges even the most experienced riders with its 12,000 feet of climbing and 17 miles of rough, dirt roads.

When Bishop isn’t training on the Shenandoah Valley backcountry roads, he’s tearing it up on the trail. If off-road is more your style, Bishop recommends the Pisgah Stage Race (the toughest race in the Southeast), Fool’s Gold 100 (his favorite 100-miler), and the Iron Mountain 100K.

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