Last year, while in West Jefferson for the "Blue Ridge Brutal" (BRB) Century, I heard that a few people were planning on going to Asheville for the "Hilly Hellacious Hundred" (HHH) Century the following day. I decided to make back-to-back mountain centuries one of my goals for 1999.
The weekend of 8/21-22 was an excellent. The weather in the mountains was great and so were the accommodations.
David Racine, Kurt Massey, and I left RTP at ~2pm on Friday and arrived in West Jefferson a little before 6pm. We went straight to the Civic Center to pickup our rider packets (I was #13) and met several other Road Dogs there. We all went to an Italian place in downtown for dinner. The food was plentiful and very good. After that we checked-in to our motel, which was pretty decent and only about a mile from the start.
Saturday morning was foggy and cool (55-60F). More than half of the riders (including me) were wearing arm warmers for the 8am start. Barney Baxter, John Allen, and somebody from the DeFeet team (who I heard finished first) were there. In case you're wondering whether or not those guys are any good in the mountains, the answer is YES.
The route was entirely different from 1998. The pace was pretty fast at the start, but not as fast as I remembered from last year, perhaps because everyone was uncertain about the course. Anyway, I stayed with the pack for about 13m and from then on I was essentially on my own. Occasionally I came across a friendly wheel, but when you're overtaking someone, that's probably not a wheel that you need to stay on for long. Know what I mean? I did ride with a couple of local people for a few miles, and that was fortunate. They warned me that there was a steep climb coming up and so I took a break on the bike and ate and drank something while soft pedaling. The climb was Three Tops mountain and it was quite challenging. It was at the 65m point of the ride. Sometime after that there was a long flat stretch they call the "Railroad Grade" (I guess because it used to be a railroad track) that ran along the South Fork of the New River. Then there were a few more hills between there and the finish. I think I rode intelligently, since I knew there was another ride in Asheville on Sunday.
I started with a full Camelback and 2 large bottles of Cytomax, along with a Cliff Shot and a Cliff Bar. At about 40m, I took a cup (on the fly) that I thought was water and it turned out to contain a Fig Newton, a slice of apple, and a slice of banana. I didn't really need the water (I was just trying to make the volunteers feel useful) and the food was a pleasant surprise. Later in the ride (after the "railroad grade" at about 85m) I took another slice of apple while waiting for traffic to pass at an intersection. The volunteer support for BRB is excellent.
My log shows 5h39m, 7200' cumulative climbing.
David Racine finished in ~4h44m. Within sight of the sprint for the finish. Kurt finished in ~4h51m. Several Road Dogs finished ahead of me, several others behind me. Ed Downing finished in around ~6h10m, with a broken front derailleur cable. Ed joined us after the BRB for the trip to Asheville and the HHH.
After the ride we collected our BRB Patches and Certificates and ate the Sandwiches, brownies and drinks that were part of the ride package. Then we went to a bike shop in Boone, so Ed could get a replacement derailleur cable. From Boone we took US221 to US70 to I40 to Asheville. There doesn't appear to be a good way to get from West Jefferson (or Boone) to Asheville, but we weren't in a hurry and the scenery was great. While discussing BRB during the trip, we all agreed that it's a great ride. Over 10% of the 160 registered riders were from the Triangle (mostly Road Dogs). The ride is well organized and the volunteers are plentiful and friendly. You know that any proceeds are being used for the West Jefferson Civic Center. The course is well marked, challenging, and scenic. Why does it attract less than 20% of the participants of Bridge to Bridge or the Assault on Mt. Mitchell?
Upon arriving in Asheville, we check-in to a motel near the airport, within 10 minutes of the start for Sunday's ride. We ate at an excellent Greek food restaurant in a gas station (believe it or not) near the motel, then crashed.
The Hilly Hellacious Hundred was scheduled to start at 7:30, but didn't get underway until 7:45 because the person carrying the pre-registered rider packets didn't get to the start on schedule. Of course, I was pre-registered, so I was hurrying to pin on my number at the last minute, rather than warming up. There's a pretty good climb within the first couple of miles (similar to BtB) and I got a side stitch. After that Kurt pulled me up to a small pack and later we bridged up to a much larger pack (possibly the lead pack, minus a couple of hammers out ahead). I stayed with them for about 15m and fell off the back and rode with another small group for a few miles, but I dropped my chain shifting to the little ring and lost them on that hill. I rode alone for about 10m, then found a 10 bike paceline and stayed with them until about 40m, where Kurt was waiting at a break stop. He and a couple of others joined the paceline and we rode with them for about 20m before we decided that they were too squirrelly and let them go. (Getting out on rides like these really makes me appreciate the bike handling skills of the Road Dogs.) At that time we were looping around Lake Lure and we wanted to look at the scenery, rather than worry about the bikes around us. After Lake Lure there's a long steady climb (probably about 12-1500' over 10-12m). We stopped for my only break at around 80m. I ate some homemade apple bread, a slice of orange, and filled-up one of my empty bottles with water. After that the route rolled through some hills full of apple trees. At the 87m point you begin to climb Bearwallow Mountain, which is about 1000' of climbing over 3m. The descent is quite steep, comparable to Pilot Mt, but probably longer. The last few miles were tough, as you might imagine. There's nothing like trying to generate some power after coasting for a couple of miles with tired legs. After HHH they didn't have anything like the post-ride meal we had at BRB. However the T-shirt was long sleeve (unique) and they gave you a biker's hat.
My log shows 5h45m, 7800' cumulative climbing.
David Racine finished in around 5:15. His time on the bike was 5:00, but he stopped 3 times to sample the food at the break stops. Kurt finished with me (aka pulled me in), and having a wheel to sit for the most difficult part of the ride was a great Birthday present.
Weekend Totals: 11h24m, 15000' cumulative climbing.
We stopped for some great Pizza before leaving Asheville. The trip back to Raleigh was uneventful and much quieter than other segments. Maybe we had run out of lies to swap, and perhaps we were just a bit tired....
Page maintained by David L. Cole and last
revised on Friday, September 24, 1999.
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