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Mountain Range


Mike Swift


My riding buddy and I have planned to attempt the three ITT routes this year. We scheduled the Tellico Highlands first because we believed that it may be the least difficult of the three. 11 May was our fall-back date after getting weathered out on 4 May. Note: my riding buddy and I each completed the route individually according to the ITT rules.

Bottom line up front: overall success! We have been preparing and planning for this challenge for months, studied the route, ride reports, and planned we can do as riders. Bottom line – these ITT routes are tough, they are very challenging for anyone but especially riders that are not familiar with this difficult terrain. Let no one talk you into believing that any of these are a walk-in-the-park. All miles are not created equally, 85 miles on good tarmac with 3,000’ of elevation gain is much different than these 85 miles with 11,000’ of elevation and some difficult gravel.

My Metrics: 87.5 mi (on my head-unit), 11,214’ of climbing, 8:58 moving time, 10:43 total time, 4,807 KJs, 5,300 calories burned, 3,130 calories consumed.

Equip: I rode a Litespeed Flint, drop bar gravel bike, with 42mm Pathfinder 2bliss Pro tires at 32psi. Carried the normal bike repair equip, plugs, multi-tool, tube, patches, tire levers, tape, zip tie, quick-link, knife, rear facing red light for the Skyway miles and front facing white light.

Hydration: rode with two 750ml bottles, water filter (Katadyn BeFree) and hydration packets (Liquid IV and Gatoraid)

Nutrition: planned on consuming 200 – 300 calories per hour using a combination of drink mix, gels, maple syrup, candy and stroop waffles combined with the two store stops (Green Cove Angler and Indian Boundary Camp store). Consumed just over 3,000 calories during the 10.75 hour day. Did not cramp or bonk, so I believe that I got that right.

Route Planning: Using one of the other Ride Reports as an example, I broke down the ride into 5 segments. Climbs can be a little confusing, the RWGPS file will show the Tellico Highlands ITT route with 9 climbs, when loaded on Garmin it shows 11 climbs, Strava on the other hand shows 34 segments with 15 climbs. Complicating even more, several ride reports refer to climbs by names like “Millers Ridge” that I couldn’t find reference to, since I’m not a local it is difficult to piece all this together. To simplify, I used the RWGPS breakdown for planning.

1. Oosterneck Overlook to Green Cove Angler Store, 18 mi, 2,700’ climbing. Overall, these were good gravel roads, the first climb begins immediately, I was fresh and the road was good. It took me just over 2 hours to get to the store, stopped for a quick bite and moved up to the N. River Road Info Center (aka Game Check Station) for the rest room and water refill.

2. Green Cove Store to top of Skyway, 12.7 mi, 2,900’ climbing. North River Road was excellent gravel and mostly steady climb, it took me about 1.5 hours to complete the climb which turns onto the Cherohala Skyway and climbs for about a mile before it tops out.

3. Skyway top to Indian Boundary Camp Store, 13.7 mi, 400’ of climbing, mostly downhill. I had to stop at the McKay trailhead to give aid to an injured motorcyclist, called for an ambulance using the Iridium tracker device (there was no cell coverage). I wasted a little time nearby the Camp store, I didn’t know the trail was in sight of the store so I got off the trail at the beach and used the road to get to the store. After the store I rode back to the beach on the road, picked up the trail where I left from, began peddling and rode past the store (ha).

4. Indian Boundary to Jake’s Best Camp, 20 mi, 1,950’ of climbing. The road surface got tougher during Segment 4, some of the surfaces where rough which is very impactful during descents. About a mile before arriving at Jake’s Best I used the “Piped Spring” for water resupply, the water was flowing, the site was easy to spot since it was at an intersection, and I was looking for it. Out of an abundance of caution I filtered the clear and cool water prior to drinking.

5. Jake’s Best to Oosterneck Overlook, 23 mi, 2,700’ of climbing. The segment begins up a jeep trail just across from Jake’s Best around a road barrier. The trail was probably the worst surface of the day, combined with the occasional pitch up above 8% and downed trees from the recent storm made for a difficult climb. It would have been difficult when fresh but after already having about 8 hours into this adventure it was time to find a sustainable level of effort and grind away. About halfway through the last segment you hit roads with mailboxes which indicates maintained roads and much smoother travel. At this point you can let off the brakes on the descent portions and make some good time. The last few miles along River Road, which is closed to traffic due to construction, was spectacular! The road was slightly downhill, smooth, fast and beside some beautiful scenery. Glad to finish with that as the last vision.

Summary: it was a great day, very satisfying to accomplish a goal that I’ve been working toward. I’m just a normal fella that likes to ride bikes, well past my athletic prime but still want to challenge myself. I would encourage anyone that desires this type of challenge to prepare well, make a plan, consider contingencies, triple check nutrition and hydration requirements, study the route and prepare your equipment. Day of event, just keep moving forward and Ride On!

Pictures are, me at Indian Boundary Lake Dam area, after ride bike picture with remaining ride food that was not consumed and last picture was the ride food that I departed with. Not pictured is the food that I consumed that was purchase from the two store stops.

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