Over the past several years I have done a number of mountain centuries. Blood, Sweat & Gears is famous for being pretty tough, with like 12,000 feet of elevation gain. Mountains of Misery was definitely hard, especially when I started the day tired. Well, honestly, they are all hard. Duh. Mountain Century = Hard.
Tour de Tuck was harder. More hard. Harderest. Just plain stupid hard. Don’t be lulled into complacence by it’s nonchalent name. Tour de Tuck. Yeah, just touring around Tuck on my bike. La di da di da. Ummmm…NO. Not past 20 miles, anyway, because past 20 miles all you do is climb, climb, climb, climb, short descent, climb, climb, climb… You get the picture. Wait, here’s the real picture:
Do not be dismissive of those later, smaller climbs. They only look small in comparison to the earlier, bigger ones, where the climbing is seemingly endless. And just because you can do those longer, earlier climbs without dying doesn’t mean your legs aren’t paying the price for later. Oh, they are paying.
See that Charley’s Creek climb? Looks harmless, doesn’t it? Well, it’s like 20% grade, OK, so if the longer earlier climbs didn’t do the number on your legs then this one should be the nail in the coffin. I saw a guy unclip and stop on this climb and he probably wasn’t the only one who did so. I made it up, but I don’t think my legs ever recovered from the effort. In all honesty, it is an easier (shorter) climb than Snake Mountain at BSG, but the earlier climbs on BSG are more spread apart, so it’s a different effect. Plus, the TDT people say it’s 11,000 feet of elevation gain, but my GPS says differently. I got 18,772 feet, which would explain a lot.
The climbing at Tour de Tuck from miles 20-70 make the last 30 miles hard regardless of the much easier profile at that point of the ride. My legs were ready for this sucker to end 30 miles from the finish. Thirty miles! No joke. And even though I made my way to the front of the female finishers after losing the draft pack because of an obstinate dropped chain that took me 5 minutes to get back on, it still took me almost 7 hours to complete this 105 miles.
But don’t let me scare you away from this ride. The weather was as perfect. The views were stunning and plentiful. The people were awesome. I met Mary Downing of Kenda Tire Women’s Elite Team and we rode together for quite a ways. I followed her line on a couple descents, I shared my Lava Salts and we compared “freak out” notes from a dark tunnel we went through earlier in the ride. That was a very scary tunnel. She and her husband are some of the nicest, coolest people ever. Plus, they’re from Ohio and could give tips on the Powerman Ohio course.
And even though the organizers can no longer time the ride because it’s illegal to time a ride that goes on the Blue Ridge Parkway apparently, everyone gets a round of applause when they finish. After so much time out there suffering alone, believe me, it matters that people clap. I loved it, anyway. Here’s a pic of me enjoying the applause and another of me expressing the magnitude of craziness that is this ride.
Here’s some pics of the amazing vista’s that we had plenty of time to view at 7-9 mph climbing pace:
Quite spectacular, eh? The views and the ride. Come check it out next year!