2001 Assault on Mt. Mitchell Report Page 1

E-mail Adam

Updated Site Updated: 12/20/04

Saturday, May 19th 2001

I had intended my participation in this year's Assault to be a casual and fun ride. I wanted to finish strongly and comfortably up the steep climbs while enjoying the scenery in one of the most spectacular places in the east. I did not want to overdue my effort spoiling my enjoyment being driven to compete for a good time.

In the end, I definitely enjoyed the ride, but I am not sure if the enjoyment was from seeing the scenery, or the good time I posted by pushing myself to be more competitive than planned.

The ride was on a Saturday starting from Spartanburg, SC. I arrived in Spartanburg from Columbia, SC late Thursday night after three days of teaching in Columbia. I've never taught in SC before. Ironically, my schedule worked out perfectly to have me there the week before the ride. As a result of my late arrival, on Friday morning, I slept for an unheard of ten hours until 10am. This over abundance of sleep would give me trouble falling asleep the next night - before "The Assault."

I made the trip on my own and did not have any plans to meet anyone during my stay. I knew of a few people from Atlanta who would be up doing the ride, but our schedules did not seem to connect.

I spent the Friday before the ride collecting my ride packet from the ride start location, the Spartanburg Auditorium. It had the usual t-shirt and ride numbers to place on your bike and jersey. I threw my "supply bag" into the back of an open rental truck piled high with hundreds of other bags. In my supply bag I had a change of clothes and snacks I would look forward to at tomorrow's finish line 102 miles away. Despite the 80+ degree temperatures in Spartanburg, I had packed plenty of warm clothing and rain gear in the "supply bag". Two years ago when I last did this ride, it had rained on us midway through the ride. I did not have a "supply bag" waiting for me when I was done, and at the top of Mt. Mitchell the damp cold wind chilled me to death as my stomach begged for food. I vowed to over pack this time.

After packet pick-up I found a Chinese restaurant and ate a big afternoon meal of chicken and broccoli. I had actually planned on eating earlier, in order to digest the food by morning. This late meal ended up causing me some minor stomach irritation in the beginning of the ride.

That night, as expected, I was not tired and did not fall asleep until about midnight. Just as I was drifting away to sleep, I abruptly opened my eyes realizing I had forgotten something. I had not packed any street shoes in my "supply bag." As I did two years ago, I would have to walk around the top of Mt. Mitchell in biking shoes. I did have access to the "supply bag" the next morning, but finding it in that pile in the back of the truck would be a challenge.

With a 4am alarm set, I ended up with four hours of sleep. I woke up excited and determined to find my "supply bag."

When I did this ride two years ago with a friend, we were late getting to the starting line and missed being in the large group of riders at the front called the peleton. I did not want to be late this time so I got to the starting area by 5:20am. I readied my bike, pumping up the tires, lubing the chain and packing all the calories I thought I would need for the day. With a pair of sneakers in my hand, I went off to find my "supply bag." After 10 minutes of digging and a few inquires from passers by, it was a relief to find my bag. It was a puke green color, which made it stand out.

At 6:15, I stood at the starting line with a couple thousand rides. Only 900 of them are actually allowed to go up to Mt. Mitchell. The rest have to stop at about mile 73 in a town called Marion. This is mainly due to the narrow, windy and steep roads being too treacherous to accommodate more cyclists than that. Mt. Mitchell is the highest point east of the Mississippi. It is about 6,600' feet high feet. The ride started at somewhere just over 1000'. Taking into account the rolling hills and other small climbs, the total amount of climbing that we would be doing today would be over 11,000 feet.

As I stood at the starting line, I caught sight of George Hincapie. He was walking off to the side towards the start. He seemed very friendly, stopping to have his pictures taken with several folks who asked. George Hincapie is a professional rider on the US Postal Service team with Lance Armstrong. For the last two years that Lance has won the Tour de France, George has been one of the most important members of the team to help Lance win. His job is to save Lance's energy through the long flat sections and partway up climbs so Lance can take off on the steep sections and put a large time gap on his competitors. This energy saving is accomplished by Lance drafting off George and the other USPS team members as much as possible. Something like 30% of ones pedaling effort goes toward fighting wind resistance, and drafting can save the energy so it can be used when it is strategically needed.