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Dave Proctor built a superb course that included many, many hills in the area, and the Great Escape provided excellent SAG support, rest stops, and a post-ride meal. - all greatly appreciated!
The Assault on Marion is a difficult ride - not just because of the hills and mountains (which don't really appear until about half-way through), but because of the speed of ride. Once the group turns onto Parris Bridge Rd, there is almost a 30 mile stretch with no major climbs at all (rollers, yes). The pace tends to be blisteringly fast! Many fight to hold on, smoking their legs in the process.
So today we started quickly, setting a quick but steady pace over rolling terrain. This helps to simulate the Assaults experience. Of course, we cannot simulate the ride exactly without doing the actual route - nor would we want to in January - but it was a great way for many to prepare for the events!
Remember, at this time of year, you want to be consistent and steady - getting in those base miles and time on the bike. A few hard rides like today are good for the system as well as good for your mind (a change of pace). But you do NOT want to be hammering all winter long or you will be over-trained in May.
Just like the Assaults, the beginning of today's ride was quite chilly, whereas the finish was considerably warmer. True, the Assaults don't actually begin at 40° and end at 60°. Still there's usually a 20 degree shift throughout the day. Typically, the temperature at the start is a mild/cool 50-something, Marion is in the upper 70s, but the temperatures often drop back down near the top*.
*It is important that all riders pack a bag of clothing to be shipped to the top - with warm and cold weather clothing, a towel, shoes, etc. Also - it's a great idea to put all of your belongings in a plastic trash bag inside of the bag in case of foul weather. More about this later though...So, how DO you dress for such a wild swing in temperature and weather?
Think about flexibility and ease of access. First, you will want to be able to peel off a layer (arm-warmers, knee warmers, gloves, or vest) while riding. If you have a thick jacket or a long sleeve undershirt, it will be difficult to make small changes along the way. It would be better to wear two pairs of arm-warmers, peeling them one at a time than to have a full coat that doesn't fit into your jersey pocket.
Whatever you think you might wear - practice it now! Go out and experiment with different combinations of clothing, and work on taking off your arm-warmers, vest, leg or knee warmers, etc while moving. This is NOT recommended on a group ride - practice while you are alone until you are steady and completely comfortable with bike handling.
I am certain that the other bloggers will want to weigh in on the oft asked, "How do I dress for this?" question. We will return to this topic a few more times this spring as conditions change. But for now, practice making adjustments and fixes while moving, practicing this while riding alone.