I recently received an email from a rider in Illinois who is longing to ride somewhere not flat. He is drawn to some of the cycling challenges we have here in area and wanted some advice as to which one might be best for him to tackle first. I’m glad to give him some advice, but you all can feel free to chime in with some advice for a flatlander wanting to come spend some time in our mountains.
I am 46 years old and I started cycling 3 years ago after many years of competitive running. I live in Illinois and have been longing to ride somewhere not flat. My only experience with any real climbing is the Horribly Hilly Hundreds which is a 200k ride with about 10K of climbing. Most of it over short but fairly steep grades with a wicked 900 ft climb at the end. It’s a tough course because you can never find a rhythm. This year I decided to do something different and a little crazy so I signed up for Assault on Mt Mitchell.
I recently found a couple of other challenge type rides besides AOMM that may be more suitable to me. The first one is the Caesars Head Challenge and the second one is a ride called the Miracle Hill Cycling Challenge. Seems to me after reading up on AOMM it is very much a racing atmosphere especially at the start. I do very little pack riding and do not race. I do plan to add more pack riding very soon.
My question for you is as a first timer to that part of the country which ride would you suggest? For reference although I am not a seasoned pack rider or racer I am fairly fit. I am on my bike about 12 hours a week now and I have been doing hill repeats, threshold rides and intervals. I need to do another threshold test at the bike store with the computrainer but a well educated guess based on my KK trainer would have me better than last year where I could hold 296 watts for a twenty minute test. I am a small rider 5”6” at about 129 Lbs. so the mountains interest me, particularly a ride that ends with a climb like AOMM and Caesars Head.
So which ride would you recommend? Any advice you can share is much appreciated.
So, let’s see what we can do to help.
First we’ll take a look at the rides mentioned. I have had the opportunity to participate in two of the rides. The third one I hope to take on this summer. I will have to go by what I have been told about the third ride rather than draw from my own experience.
My first thought when I read the email was, “Hmmmm, if you are already signed up for the Assault, you might want to just go ahead and do that one.” The reasoning for this is that the ride is what you make of it. Sure, depending on where you start in the field the beginning can seem more like a race. However, it doesn’t have to be.
The AOMM gives you 12 hours to complete the ride. There are many people who make it more of a social event than a race against time. Some people have a blast taking their time and using up as much of the 12 hours possible. Many find a balance between the two extremes and yes, a few go at it like a race.
The only thing that I would wonder about is the fact that this rider has not had a lot of opportunity to ride sustained climbs. Not being used to climbs can lead to a very sore back and tired legs. On the other hand, if you pace yourself and fuel properly, I see no reason why Charlie couldn’t finish the ride.
The other thing that leads me to consider suggesting the AOMM is the fact that the other two rides are not pieces of cake! Each of them contain a good amount of climbing. Sure, it isn’t the same sustained climb, but climbing to be sure. The Ceasars Head Challenge also shares that “race like” atmosphere. You won’t avoid it on that ride.
My estimation is that the Miracle Hill Cycling challenge is the “easier” of the three. The SAG stops on that ride were some of the best I have experienced on a charity ride and the food at the end…. ahhhhhhh. If I was looking for a fun ride with varied terrain and opportunity for socializing, then that would be the ride.
The Caesars Head Challenge is the one I have not ridden. I do know the intent of the ride is to make it a challenge. On the other hand, you have options for the distance you want to ride. So, you can always cut the target distance a little short if you find yourself in trouble. This is the one I want to try this year.
Now, second, let’s look at Charlie and what he says about himself. Sounds to me that he is training more than I am! I can’t see anything in what he says to give me an indication that he couldn’t complete any of these three rides. The only thing would be simply not having the experience of climbing.
Climbing is all about rhythm. If you can find the right gearing and settle in to a rhythm, you can climb just about anything. It just becomes a matter of time and confidence that you can keep the momentum. That is where the experience comes in. Part of climbing is BELIEVING you can.
So, Charlie, I would say it all comes down to how much of a challenge you want. I can assure you that the AOMM and the Caesars Head Challenge are going to be tough. Doable, but tough. The Miracle Hill Cycling Challenge is still tough, but the ride has many more opportunities to recover along the way. The mental challenge and exposure to suffering is not quite as great.
You can ease into the world of climbing with the MHCC. You can jump right into the cold water with the AOMM or the CHC. My personal opinion is that you could do any of the three. It all depends on how you want to enter… and exit the pool.
What say you, my cycling friends? The comment section is now open.