Latest IssueAugust 2011The Long Road: Epic Blue Ridge Cycling Rides

The Long Road: Epic Blue Ridge Cycling Rides

Photo: Richmond Multisports

Put the fun between your legs. August means cycling season is heating up, so get in gear for the long haul.

Tour De Lions
Ashland, Va. – August 20
Cyclists start in the quaint town of Ashland and pedal through the scenic, gently rolling country roads just north of bustling Richmond in Hanover County. Just right for a variety of levels, the ride includes routes of 30, 50, 75, and 100 miles.

WNC Villainous Viper
Asheville, N.C. – September 10
Both the century and metric century options of the Villainous Viper climb Town Mountain before a rolling stint on the Blue Ridge Parkway and a screeching descent of Ox Creek Road. Century riders circle the entire city, including a tough final stretch up Cravens Gap before dropping back into town.

Back Roads Century
Berryville, Va. – September 18
Courses of 100, 65, 50, 30 and 25 miles wind through friendly towns and at times parallel a scenic stretch of the Shenandoah River.  Elevation on each course is relatively moderate, as the full century has approximately 4,500 feet of climbing.

Bridge to Bridge Incredible Challenge
Lenoir, N.C. – September 18
If you’re ready to huff it in the High Country, try this lung-busting ride from Lenoir to the top of Grandfather Mountain. Known as one of the toughest cycling rides in the country, the course climbs 10,528 feet—almost all of it in the last 40 miles. Riders move through the Yadkin Valley to some of steepest sections of the Blue Ridge Parkway, before a final brutal ascent to Grandfather’s famous Mile High Swinging Bridge.

Hilly Hellacious
Asheville, N.C. – September 25
In the full century, sadistic cyclists spin their wheels over 8,000 feet of grueling climbs and winding mountain roads around Lake Lure before looping back through the Henderson County countryside. The big killer here is the rigorous ascent of Bearwallow Mountain. A metric century is also offered.

Six Gap Century Ride
Dahlonega, Ga. – September 25
This challenging route takes riders up and down six of the steepest climbs in the North Georgia Mountains, with more than 10,700 feet of vertical climbing over the 100-mile course. The ride’s hardest climb at Hogpen Gap can break the will of even the toughest riders, with sections as steep as 15 percent. A three-gap half ride is also offered.

Beach Century Bike Tour
Virginia Beach, Va. – October 1
Flat seaside roads and crisply mild temperatures will be what to expect at the Beach Century Bike Tour, which starts in Virginia Beach and winds past the rural marshlands of the Commonwealth’s southeastern coast. This fall ride has 100-, 50-, and 33-mile options. 

Gran Fondo of the Alleghenies
Sheffield, Pa. – October 9
Wind through Pennsylvania’s Allegheny National Forest at the height of foliage season. This colorful fall is perfect for cycling newbies looking to build mileage without a ton of elevation gain. The rural ride starting from the small town of Sheffield includes routes of 30, 60, and 100 miles with the longest ride only gaining 3,500 feet. 

First Century Tips

Former pro racer and current cycling coach Ashley Powell of Greensboro, N.C.-based Coaching Services offers essential tips to finish your first century.

Proper hydration starts days before your ride
Several days before the event drink consistently, so your urine is light yellow. It shouldn’t be too dark or too clear.

Bring fluid in an insulated water bottle or hydration pack
Otherwise, potentially sweltering Southern temps will turn your drink of choice into hot liquid miles before the next aid station.

Wear familiar clothes and gear
Your ride day is not the time to break in a new pair of shoes or shorts that can cause unexpected discomfort.

You can loosen your shoes  
“Some riders think numb feet are just a part of cycling, but they’re not,” says Powell. “Especially in the summer heat, it’s important that feet have proper circulation.”

Don’t set lofty goals that will only add stress  
Many new riders burn out from trying to maintain an unachievable pace. Knowing your limits comes from experience. “The first time should be about the experience,” says Powell. “It’s fine to have goals, but cycling has too many variables that leave many ambitious new riders disappointed and frustrated.”

Places to Go, Things to See: