This ride was not really a race for me but a challenge to see if I could complete it. I have ridden this distance several times but on the road and not nearly this much elevation.
My bike is a Giant TCX which I bought a month ago with SRAM apex 1x11. 40 tooth front 11-42 rear. This is the main issue I had on steep climbs as I could have used a lower gear or two. Both tires are 700x43 and worked great.
The ride started out great with my adrenaline going and me wanting to race up the first climb. The night before it had rained a lot and had made several sections squishy which made pedaling efficiency a little more challenging. I had never ridden any of these roads (Rich Mtn road in the Smokies is the only gravel riding I’ve done) and by mile 8 had realized this was going to be a survival ride. I guess the biggest surprise to me was how steep the road would get at times and how rough it was. I made it over the first climbs good dealing with fresh loose gravel. When I started up North River Road I was dreading the largest climb up to the N.C. Line. The climb up really was the easiest climb of the day for me. Maybe because I was mentally prepared for it. The road followed along the river and was beautiful especially with all the rain making the water level rise.
So I finally made it up to the Cherahola Skyway and it had started to rain and was very foggy. I was very disappointed thinking that the climbing was over when I got to the pavement and was frustrated I had to go up more. The ride down the mountain was the worst part of the day especially since I was looking forward to bombing down the hill. It had started to downpour soaking me and I couldn’t see 50 feet ahead with the fog and rain so I had to ride my breaks for much of the descent. Made it down and around Indian Boundary lake which is nice and stopped at camp store and resupplied drinks and food. I couldn’t stop shaking trying to eat lunch as I was cold from the rain and descent.
I headed out and down Citico and turned off to do the next big climb. It was really nice the first half of the climb beside the creek but then it got rough and steep. This climb felt like it was never going to end. It was also rough going down and I had to ride breaks for most of the decent. Made it on down and turned off to do the last climb up above Indian Boundary. I knew it was going to be a rough ride because it was a locked gate service road. It had a lot of short steep climbs and was in rough shape. What a feeling it was to get to the last part and go mostly downhill. When I made it back to river rd it felt like I was riding on a soft cloud. Made it to the falls which was flowing hard and cruised downhill to the finish.
Hopefully this will help someone thinking about doing this ride. I knew the climbing would be hard but the biggest challenge for me was how rough it was.