Back in early August, on day one of the Purple Patch Greenville camp, Karel was shown a new cycling route by Greenville locals George Hincapie and Christian Vande Velde, accompanied by Cadel Evans and two other PPF campers (Duncan and Emily). Although a beautiful route, I aslo remember Karel telling me that this route was the "the hardest climb in our area....and he is so excited to show it to me." I guess it's more fun to suffer together than alone.
Well, a few months passed by and Karel kept telling me about the really "fun" cycling route that he really wanted to show me. I figured it couldn't have been that bad as Karel, Duncan and Emily covered the climb on their triathlon bikes and I do love to climb (especially on my road bike) so eventually, I told Karel that it was time for us to check out this climb.
On Friday morning, Karel and I drove to Hotel Domestique for the start of our ride. The weather was cool but the wind was strong. We dressed well for the ride and started our adventure on two wheels.
Within a few miles, we were already climbing as we needed to go into North Carolina for our climb. We went up the watershed and into Flat Rock and as we were riding, we were chatting here and there and I didn't think too much of the climb that Karel was so excited to show me. Our first 70 minute of riding covered around 1800 feet of elevation gain but I felt good and I was happy to be outside on my road bike.
The next 21 minutes were pretty mellow as we only covered around 470 feet of elevation gain. We were riding west on Crab Creek Road (toward Brevard) when Karel pointed to the left and said "that's where we are going."
We turned onto Walnut Cove Road, which turned into Bear Rock road and suddenly, the road became smaller as I felt us starting our climb.
I didn't say anything at the time but I wasn't too uncomfortable at the start of the climb. I kept thinking "this is it?" Karel did not say much to me during the climb but as I saw the road starting to get a bit pitchy in certain segments, I questioned his idea of this "fun" ride (this would not be the first time that I questioned Karel's definition of fun, easy, mellow or any other word he likes to use to describe a route or a ride).
Karel told me that there were some steep sections but the route was more like a step, where it would even out every now and then. I was relieved by this information and thought to myself "ok, this won't be too bad."
Not knowing how long the climb was or what was approaching, Karel stayed behind me for the ride so that he could get it all on camera. Although our Garmin VIRB 30 doesn't do the climb much justice, I approached a section of the road that looked like a wall and it just kept going. I was breathing heavy and in between breaths, I told Karel "I am not going to make it!" Karel reassured me that I could make it to the top of this climb and to just keep pedaling and to not look up. Thank you Karel for that great advice - yeah right.
After I completed the hardest climb of my life (about 1/4th mile at 30-31% grade), I was able to finally catch my breath and stop pedaling as I coasted on a slight decline, until I had to start climbing again. Karel rode ahead of me and finally, 1.5 miles later, we made it to the top.
Since this was a private road, I had to get off my bike to squeeze through the gate and at that point, I didn't want to get back on my bike. Karel asked "how was it?" and I had no words for him. After I finally got over what just happened, Karel said "Ok, let's keep climbing."
What?? Are you crazy!
I told Karel absolutely not, I am done. Karel would not let me quit and he told me that I have to embrace being uncomfortable, even when I am tired. I tried to get my way out of another climb but Karel wouldn't accept any of my excuses so I got back on my bike and up we went for more climbing (at least the road was two lanes and not a tiny little road). I was doing a lot of zig zagging on the 30% climb and a little on this next climb.
We finally reached the top before turning down for our descend. Oh I was so happy to descend and not have to climb any more.....but then again, there are no shortage of climbs where we ride but thankfully, no more over 12%! Of course I had to wait for Karel to do some exploring as whenever he sees a gravel road, for some crazy reason he wants to check it out.
In total, the climb was around 3 miles, 1500 feet elevation gain and averaged around 11% incline. There were several sections around 18-22% and of course, the 30-31% kicker that seemed to never end.
By the time we reached 2 hours of riding, our average speed was 12.7mph (the miles go by slow here) and we had accumulated around 4000 feet of elevation gain.
I do have to admit that once we started our ride back on Pinnacle Mountain road (we didn't head home the way we went up - if we had, my brakes would have overheated!), the beautiful scenery and freshly paved roads made all that climbing worth it - well, maybe.
Our ride home took us about an hour and thanks to a lot of descending, I had time to forget about the "fun" that I experienced on two wheels.
After the ride was finished, I was so happy that I experienced the climb and I hope that Karel doesn't take me there again (no doubt he will, however - lucky me.)
Total ride stats:
3 hours - ride time
5000 feet - elevation gain
14.8mph - average speed
For your entertainment - me suffering up the climb.
Video made by Karel with our Garmin VIRB 30.