For the masochist, joining the century club is the ultimate challenge in the Blue Ridge 100-mile race. One hundred miles in the region includes thousands of feet while climbing, and takes a special fortitude to toe-up at the starting line knowing you have all that riding still ahead of you. The elevation is a lung buster and the descents are hair-raising.
The scenery can invoke tears, and so much is off-road, that a solid, downhill mountain bikes are vital. Leave the $8,000 Allied Alfa at home. But at the end of the day, it’s worth it the t-shirt, right?
Blood, Sweat and Gears
The region around Boone, North Carolina has been called the best training area in America. Ride director Scott Nelson says in the beginning, they were just worried about covering costs. Now, the 750 spots are sold in hours, and thousands of dollars are raised for the Red Cross and other organizations.
Six Gap Century
Near the top of any list of the toughest rides, the Six Gap Century has held that spot for 24 years. Mirroring many of the same climbs as Tour de Georgia, American cyclist Levi Leipheimer stated riding “in the mountains is the best” of any American race. Over 100 miles, riders climb six mountain gaps and rise 11,000 feet. That’s seven miles with an average ten percent grade and steeper pitches.
3 State 3 Mountain Challenge
For twenty-five years, cyclists have been following the circuit which meanders through Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia. The ride had its share of adversity the past few years. Tornados in 2011 wiped out the last section of Lookout Mountain and rider/motorist controversy threatened the signature climb up Burkhalter Gap.
Mount Mitchell Assault
One of the oldest rides in the Blue Ridge, this ride is well known throughout the nation. As far as Southeast challenges, it’s the benchmark. If you can argue which are harder, the Mount Mitchell ride is forever near the top.
The ride isn’t the only feature which made it famous — its history and difficulty combine to create a half-breed monster which includes wondrous flats and 10% pitches that last for miles. Mount Mitchell is the highest point east of the Mississippi, and the summit finish is spectacular.
Mountains of Misery
This ride attracted more than 500 riders in 2012 and the number of participants has increased since. More than 10,000 feet of climbing are waiting for anyone who wants to take on the challenge. The entire route is gorgeous and scenic from start to finish. Riders have said it is like riding through a postcard.
But for every beauty there is a beast. Each person who signs up is told it’s not fun. Good point — there is no way a person can ride that far with that much climbing and not hurt.
The Southeast is loaded with bike rides that will challenge any superhero. Possibly the most nauseating rush for your and other downhill mountain bikes is Looking Glass Rock, a 500-foot, frozen volcanic rock in Pisgah National Forest veined with free-climbing, aid and multi-pitch routes. Head to the Nose and South Face for a secluded climbing area.