The Assault on Mt Mitchell according to Mark Pittman

As many of you know mountain biking has been one of my favorite pastimes for the past 10 years.  Many of my biking friends have tried to trick me in to road biking over the past few years with little success.  This year I decided to join them, in the name of cross-training, so I borrowed a bike from one of my buddies.  Somehow, I ended up registered for the 34th Assault on Mount Mitchell before I really had time to think it through.  For those of you who might not be familiar with the Assault on Mitchell,, it is touted as one of the top 10 most difficult road biking events in the country.  The ride spans a total 103 miles from Spartanburg, SC to the peak of Mount Mitchell, which is the highest peak east of the Mississippi River.  The ride is considered grueling not only because of the 100 plus miles, but the total cumulative elevation gain is over 12,000 feet.  To make matters worse, over half of the elevation gain is in the last 25 miles!


After a few training rides and several interviews with past "Assaulters," I felt like I was ready for the challenge.  I stuffed the pockets of my nifty road bike jersey with Hammer Gels and Power Bars, filled my water bottles with Heed Electrolyte Replacement Drink, and clipped in my pedals along with 1200 other bikers from all over the United States.  We left the Spartanburg Memorial Auditorium in Spartanburg, SC at 6:30am on a Monday morning with the common opponent in mind … Mount Mitchell.  This event is billed as a ride, not a race, but wouldn't you know that this year the organizers sold 1200 tickets and the Parkway Officials placed a limit of 750 bikes on the Blue Ridge Parkway.  Do the math … this meant that 450 riders would ride over 80 miles and not be allowed on the Parkway to finish the ride.  That pretty much makes it a race in my book.


I started with my friend Milo and we were able to hang in and draft with a fast group for the first 45 miles or so.  We got separated at the top of Bill's Hill, where I stopped to fill a couple of my water bottles.  As I was getting back on my bike, I met up with Quentin, another friend of mine, and we rode together with a different pack of fast guys until I got dropped from the group just before Marion NC.  Tish met me in Marion with a new supply of Hammer Gels, Power Bars, Heed, and some much needed encouragement.   I left Marion and headed up Hwy 80 alone before catching up with Milo at the first water stop on Hwy 80.  Milo and I stayed together the rest of the day and we both crossed the finish line with a total elapsed time of 8 hours and 29 minutes!  I'm not really sure how to describe the event, but I do know that "Fun" is not the word for it … really.


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