I got an early start driving from Chattanooga and was clipped in by 8am. The outside temperature was about 54 degrees… I started with arm warmers and kept them on for the first 2 hours!
I’d never been to the Tellico area before (I recently moved to Tennessee) and didn’t know what to expect out on the route, so I was a bit nervous about how remote it might get and even what kind of wildlife I might come across. I’d also never done a ride with 10k+ of elevation gain before… but I packed plenty of food, planned out my water, knew the map well, and was out there more for a “Funnest Known Time” than a “Fastest Known Time”.
Mentally I broke up the ride into 5 sections
- Start to turn off onto North River Road (~20 miles)
- Turn off to top of North River Road climb (~10 miles)
- Downhill to Indian Boundary (~12 miles)
- Farr Gap to the piped springs (~20 miles)
- Jake Best and the rest (~23 miles)
Start to turn off onto North River Road
Felt great to finally be out and pedaling. The surface was pretty good, there were some great views, and I was feeling pretty good, but around mile 15 I looked at my average speed and it was already below 10mph so I was thinking, this is going to be a pretty long day. The descent on Bald River Rd was also slower than I would have hoped, but soon enough I was at River road where it flattened out, got a bit smoother, and was really enjoyable… and the next thing I knew, I was at the turnoff with plenty of water and food so I didn’t stop at Green Cove Angler or the Game Check Station.
Turn off to top of North River Road climb
Cycling along the river was amazing, I was having a ton of fun and I like long climbs. At some point I heard something behind me and it was another cyclist (who I later learned was Travis Jolly) getting ready to pass me… not just pass me, but FLY past me. Then I noticed he was on a single speed! I knew the top times on this route were in the 6.5h range and I figured he was probably doing the ITT and likely going to get a time pretty close to that. Overall the climb was fantastic, and it was fun to see the sign at the top as I entered North Carolina.
Downhill to Indian Boundary
It was really nice to get back out on pavement, mentally and physically. There were some fantastic views of the mountains and pretty much no traffic so it was smooth sailing all the way to Indian Boundary. It was Monday around noon so there weren’t many people on the lake loop, but I could imagine it getting crowded with walkers. I stopped at one of the bathrooms near the lake to fill up on water, but just jumped back on the bike and kept going. This was my first stop of the ride and it took me about 3 or 4 minutes.
Farr Gap to the piped springs
The climb up Farr Gap was a bit chunky, but the surface was pretty grippy. I did not have the right tires for this ride (700x40 tubed Schwalbe Marathon Mondial with 2,400 miles on them) and had been riding them at about 35psi to avoid flats. For some dumb reason, I decided to let a bit of air out of them at the top, I guess just because I was getting pretty beat up and I wanted to soften the ride a bit. Well, no more than 5 minutes later, I got a flat right at the start of the Farr Gap descent. I had everything I needed, but I realized that I had only packed one spare (and patches) and I still had about 30 miles to go. I was super cautious the rest of the ride, continuously thinking about how far I’d have to walk if I got another flat. Anyway, I continued down Farr Gap and rode to the second piped spring to fill up… but again, being a newbie to the area, I had no idea if the piped springs were potable. I still had about 1L on me from my Indian Boundary fill-up so figured I’d fill up a bottle and use it only if I absolutely needed to. In the end I mistakenly drank from that bottle anyway! (I’m happy to report I’m still alive)
Jake Best and the rest
I’d read from some other trip reports that the start of this section was pretty brutal… and it was. It was hard to get in a rhythm, but the surface was a bit softer and I felt a bit safer considering my tube situation. I was also feeling really good and started doing some math. I remembered that there were a few others with times around 8h15m and that felt within range if I pushed it… so I did. In the end I finished in 8h10m with 7h39m of riding time. I was pretty happy with my end result and definitely keen to do the other ITTs… but on tubeless tires!