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Assault On Mount Mitchell 2011
The 36th Assault On Mount Mitchell was held May 16, 2011. This is one of the oldest and most prestigious centuries ever.
This was my 31st "Assault On Mitchell". I missed the first five, but I've completed the "Assault" every year since, and including, 1981.
The "Assault" was started by a handful of Spartanburg Freewheelers in 1976. John Bryan and Bill Carlisle were the main "instigators" of the beginning, but several other people held a very visible role in the venture, including the "Hoffman boys", Scott and Brian.
There were only a few to seven riders attempting the first Assault. When I joined the "Assaulters" in 1981, there were less than 150 riders.
Mount Mitchell is the tallest mountain in Eastern America at 6,684 feet. The accumulated elevation gain from Spartanburg, SC to the summit of Mitchell is over 11,000 feet.
The Assault on Mount Mitchell grew to almost 2,000 riders at one time. The numbers seemed too many and difficult for the national park of the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Mount Mitchell State Park.
The numbers were reduced to 800 for safety and better traffic control. Personal aid and vehicles were banned. More buses were required. Growing pains were painful. John Bryan, one of the founders, was called in to become the director. John Bran saved the Assault on Mount Mitchell. John passed away last year of cancer. He is sorely missed.
Check out more on The Assaults® 2011!
The "Assault" is always a "family reunion".
My friend Dave helps me stay awake as we pass the "Gaffney Peach" water tower. I've known my buddy Dave longer than I've known "Mitchell", over 31 years.
This year there are over 1100 riders allowed to start.
The riders come from all over the globe.
There is an "Assault On Marion" that is the "qualifier" for the "Assault On Mitchell". The Assault On Marion is 75 miles.
The Assault takes us on beautiful rural roads all the way.
Most riders are as friendly but business-like on the job-at-hand.
My group catches up with my great friend, Bob Scofield. Bob is a former state champ of North Carolina and Florida. Bob has always been the ultimate climber.
We speak "matter-of-factly" about cycling. We know "our place" in the cycling world "food-chain". I'm adding Bob's recount of his worst rides below:
I’ve ridden the Assault eighteen times and have had three really bad rides.
1) 1991 when it rained and I got dropped a few miles before the hairpin descent. I had been training—I am not lying—375 miles a week, in the mountains. It was my third time out, I was only 45 years old, and believed I could actually win! I eschewed the Cross State to stay up here and train, and each week I would ride THREE centuries to the top, beginning in Celo and spinning down Buck Creek to Lake James and then up, and I mean in ANY kind of weather. Then I would “rest” and do 25 miles on my easy days.
I couldn’t see in the rain, I somehow came off and me and another guy tried to chase back on. It was pouring like hell and I was on this guy’s wheel and he looked pretty good, with shaved legs-he seemed to know what he was doing. So we come down, down, and it pouring rain like crazy. Suddenly, he slips off the road at the bottom of the hairpin and goes into the grass with me on his wheel! I do not remember what happened to him, but I was not really hurt at all, just banged up a bit and muddy, though one of my Pogliahi-engraved shift levers was bent and ruined, but the best part of this wreck is what DID NOT HAPPEN! If you’ve ever noticed, there is a really steep drop-off adjacent to the hair pin—I mean it falls off something like fifty feet, or maybe more, and there are big trees growing up out of the forest’s floor, so if you careened off the road and went over the side it is a long way to the bottom and the trees would bust you up pretty bad on the way down. Luckily, I did not go into the trees but just went, “splat” on the side of the road in the grass. I brushed myself off and kept riding. Later, on the Parkway, in the continuing rain, I started developing a knee tendinitis. Eventually, it became so bad I could no longer sit down because he knee felt like it was exploding with each pedal stroke. I finished that Mitchell standing for the last ten miles. It almost killed me.
2- The next bad Mitchell came only recently, in 2008, when it was incredibly hot, with temperatures pushing 100 in Spartanburg. I had a total collapse on Buck Creek, accompanied by severe knee issues and could hardly finish the ride. I struggled in the blistering heat, wobbling on my bike and almost didn’t make it to the top. You hear people say, “I almost died out there.” Well, I almost DID die. I kept thinking I was having a heart attack. When the ride was over I could not walk because my right knee would not support the weight of my body, so I hobbled to the bus, crawled aboard, and fell asleep. I was completely wasted and would say that one was the worst Mitchell, ever, and one of the worst experiences of my life.
3- The third worst Mitchell came just this past Monday and I think I have described it well, when I say it was like a collapse, fatigue, physical weakness, where you just basically collapse. So that’s it, the three worst Assaults. Will I be back in 2010? Probably. I do love the Assault, but I am going to have to figure out a better nutrition plan and maybe explore that Propel stuff you talk about, or something else that I can depend on to keep me going. See ya down the road. Bob
I descended ahead of Bob and he caught up on the flat stretch of highway 64, just before "Bill's Hill" - about 45 miles into the ride. I told Bob at the beginning of Bill's Hill that, "Here's where I fall off." Bob encouraged me with, "You'll be back on though." I didn't "get back on" though. Bob would finish in 6 hours and 19 minutes, about 40 minutes ahead of me. But that's the time Bob usually has on me in the mountains - or more.
It's interesting- the "power trains" a rider can have during rides. I naturally descend well and on some terrains can show "speed" - for a time.
Bob is especially strong on the hills and Bob can power on the flat roads as well.
Some of my "surges" are possibly "mental". If a rider "knows the course" that is being traveled, it can be a mental boost.
Just before exiting the Blue Ridge Parkway, near mile-marker 355, I informed a lady I had been following that "it" eases up right up here. She replied, "Oh please!" But what I said was true. A rider can, and I did, soon put my chain in the big ring - because - the grade lessens. I can see it. I can feel it. And I've felt it for decades.
An interesting note about the distance between "mile-marker 352" and "mile-marker 353" - this space is not just 1 mile but it's over 1 mile and 1 tenth of a mile. It's the longest mile between mile-marker "0" in Waynesboro, VA and mile-marker 377 in Asheville, NC.
After turning off the Blue Ridge Parkway, a rider will climb hard for 2 miles to the entrance of the Mount Mitchell State Park. After passing the ranger station and gate, the grade eases again. I informed another lady of the faster possibilities. I kicked it. When I burned up that easier piece of road and the grade worsened, she kicked it. She was a natural climber. I'm not. I told her to "Go on and knock it out dear." She said, "Thanks for the pull!" And - she was off.
But here we are at about 60 miles and Bob is off the front. The pack is working together very well. I have moments of difficulty and I have spots where I can pull and ride stronger.
My right shoulder has been smarting since 30 miles out. It feels like a mortise and pestle. It's a painful grinding.I shake my arm whenever the pace and safety allow. Shaking the arm gives relief.
Up ahead is our turn onto Old NC 10. Beyond the turn is the rest area where I began 2 "Assault" training rides. I made 2 videos that include still pictures and "descending videos". I added music and I think you will enjoy them.
04-25-11 Cycling From Marion, NC to Mount Mitchell
Recorded from the Marion rest area, the first ride and video of 4-25-2011 was a very wet ride. The length of this video is 12 minutes. It contains the descent from mile marker 350 toward Marion. Since this was still April, the canteen and gift shop were not open at the summit. May 1 is opening day for the facilities. The facilities are closed in November.
05-02-11 Climbing Mount Mitchell From Marion
This video, above, was recorded on May 2, 2011 - again from the Marion rest area. The length is 32 minutes. The "info" says the video is 38 minutes. I was stuck with 5 minutes of dead space that my Adobe program would not erase. Lord knows I tried.
You'll like this one too but get some popcorn.
Three miles from the Marion rest are where my "training rides" started, is Tom Johnson's Campground.
This is a rest area for the Mitchell Assault and it's the finish for the "Assault On Marion", the "Mitchell" qualifier.
Lake Tahoma - and I'm still with this main field.
But- we all split up right here at, or before, "Hayne's Eyebrow".
Not far from this point, mile 86 into the ride, I have to stop and I take a hydrocodone for the pain in my shoulder. The medication doesn't seem to help the shoulder until the finish.
The "Twin Tunnels" are the first beauty on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Just point a camera out there.
The beat goes on as well as the grade.
Off in the distance is Linville Gorge, Hawk's Bill, and Table Rock.
Mount Mitchell is in the distance, obscured by clouds.
The grade goes on!
Ladies seem more stoic than I.
I feel that these mountains have put many wrinkles on my face.
Oh my! I spot a familiar car and 2 friends!
Mark and Rike! I haven't seen them for years!
I have to stop and see these friends!
This is not a personal SAG, "help".
The "Assault On Mitchell" organization does not want personal vehicles on the course. There would be too many vehicles.
These guys were up for the day. They live in Asheville and it isn't uncommon to see an Ashevillian viewing the Assault.
I stop for a few moments and hugs.
Watch for "Rike, Mike, and Mister Blue Pants" on the hubpages - soon.
After an eon or two we set about on the last 5 miles on Hwy. 128.
This really hurts.
The shoulder and legs are screaming.
The legs are the loudest.
Right past this point, the grade eases.
Most people don't consider going faster.
Sometimes - I have not gone faster.
Today I go into the larger chain ring on the MUCH easier grade.
7 hours 50 seconds.
I knocked about an hour and 15 off last year's ride.
I've not hit 7 hours in years.
I am satisfied.
It's cold up top. We're given "thermal blankets for warmth. Our bikes are taken right away. The timing chips are taken right away. We are given memorable patches. Hot tomato soup is waiting for us.
The road to Mitchell has been a long one.
It begins with last year.
It contains riding rollers in the winter. It contains rides in rain and cold.
This road to Mitchell contains Wednesday rides where friends beat me up.
It contains Saturday and Sunday rides of the same thrashings.
This road to Mitchell contains "Cross Florida 2011", 170 miles in one day.
This road has been one of diet, nutrition, hard work - and - perhaps in this suffering, it is also some type of selfishness. It's a matter of perspective.
I created little for my fellow man.
The "ride" - any ride - can be a work of art.
In my mind - I created a "work of art". I do not mean that my pictures are "that" art. The "ride" itself is the "art".
I got the most out of my body. I had less difficulty than a lot of "Assaults".
To me - my time reflects "art" for my ability. I was a couple hours behind the first finishers. But - I got the most out of my abilities. I did the best I could and I was not subject to many calamities that have occurred in the past and may have occurred to others on this day.
I was able to focus. Often times when pain is overwhelming, the focus is lost. The mind centers on the pain. Even on this day I had to focus on the legs and I put the shoulder pain away as best I could. It could have been pain in the hip, middle back, neck, etc. Today it was the shoulder.
We all have "problems" preventing us from doing our best.
Sometimes we can overcome them to create an "art" that is very satisfactory.
This "art" keeps some of us alive and feeling value.
Let's just try to get the most out of these vessels that we can.
Assault On Mount Mitchell 2011 - A Virtual Tour
Please take some time and watch the video above.
The video is 16 minutes and loaded with fun, beauty, and music.
God bless the Spartanburg Freewheelers, the Assualt On Mitchell, the volunteers, and all who support cycling and higher ideals.
Micky's Cycling Poetry
Instructional Hubs For Cycling:
Breaking Away From 2010 And Attacking 2011! This is almost an index of Micky's cycling for 2010.
For more inspiration check out:
And Micky's Stars And Watercarriers!
Or perhaps: Mickey's Favorite Bicycle "Descending" Videos!
And by all means -Cross Florida 2011!