Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Assaults Routes--Key Points, pt I (and a few suggestions)

Over the next week, I will blog the Assaults course (see schedule below):

Part I, The Start:

The Assault on Marion and the Assault on Mt. Mitchell challenge cyclists by both the distance of the events and the routes themselves. Along with training for fitness and cycling skills, participants in these events can benefit from knowing the courses and preparing specifically for key points along the routes.


(REMINDER: Participants in the Assaults can sign up for unlimited Strava usage through http://theassaults.com)

The Start--The start of all mass-start large fields is always a key moment for riders. First, all riders should position themselves appropriately. The front 200-300 riders will start fast (race intensity), and riders not capable or interested in finishing in the sub-5 to 6 hour range can either get burned out keeping up (in 2010, the front pack completed the first 50 miles in 2 hours, averaging 25 mph over a challenging course) or create dangerous situations by riding more slowly than the front pack. At the start as well, all riders should be skilled at starting smoothly--holding your line, clipping into your pedals quickly (without looking down).

The first few miles of the Assaults include rollers, creating the accordion effect (the middle and back of the large pack quickly collapses toward the front, which slows on a climb while the other riders are still descending or just reaching the shift from a descent to an ascent), and a notoriously dangerous bridge on Hwy 9 crossing over business I-85 (rough bridge crossings with gaps and holes create flats, overlapped wheels, and sudden movements by riders trying to avoid road dangers). The start and first 10-20 miles of the ride are often the most frantic and require the greatest diligence by riders, including bicycle handling, secure water bottles, and diligent regard for everyone's safety.

IN THE FIRST 20 MILES SPECIFICALLY (AND THROUGHOUT THE RIDE) CYCLISTS MUST NOT CROSS THE YELLOW LINE TO ADVANCE. ONCE YOU CROSS THE LINE YOU INVARIABLY MUST RE-ENTER THE PACK (OFTEN WITH AN ONCOMING CAR MAKING THIS URGENT) AND YOUR DARTING BACK INTO THE PACK ENDANGERS EVERYONE. NO ONE WILL INSURE A SUCCESSFUL ASSAULTS IN THE FIRST 20 MILES BY ADVANCING IN THE PACK, BUT YOU CAN INSURE AN END TO THE RIDE FOR YOURSELF AND OTHERS IF YOU FAIL TO RIDE PRIMARILY WITH SAFETY AND SPORTSMANSHIP IN MIND.

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Tips/Reminders for game day and leading up to the event:

• Make some boots to carry in your seat pack. Take an old tire and cut 2-3 sections of varying lengths--1", 2", 3"--and be sure to cut off the beads on each side of the sections. Put these in your saddle pack along with NEW tubes (not patched, not tubes you have been carrying around since 1973) and CO2 cartridges with the appropriate inflator (be sure to check for matching of head to cartridge--threaded v. unthreaded). Be sure you have the proper tire tools for removing a tire as well.

• Know how to change a tire/tube and then PRACTICE removing and changing a tube--including reinstalling a tire WITHOUT a tire tool (using the tool to reinstall invariably pinches the new tube). 

• Install new tires and tubes ASAP. Ride and use all new equipment a minimum of two weeks before the event.

• Check cables, chain wear, cassette wear, secure and tight bolts, BB, etc.

• Consider installing a chain-drop guide.

• Purchase and try out all nutrition choices before the ride multiple times and have an adequate supply set aside for the event day ASAP. Consider that a May 16 event may be quite hot--Do you need a sports drink that addresses cramping? Do you need electrolyte supplements (tablets)? I am always fighting the cramp demon and recommend highly these products, but also the calculators found here can help you determine what drinks and supplement amounts you need:


eLoad: http://www.medioncorp.com/


• Check your shoes and CLEATS for wear and secure bolts. Replace worn cleats yesterday or ASAP.

• Dedicate a kit for the event. Pack and identify all kit/clothing options you MAY need on event day. The Assaults have begun with temps at 70 degrees at 6:30 am with temps at 100 by the afternoon, and we have started several years in rain/storms with the temps remaining in the 40s and 50s all day. The one thing you must plan on is differences in weather among Spartanburg, Marion, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and Mt. Mitchell State Park.

• Prepare your bag of clothing for the top. Include a wide range of clothes to change into (anticipate being COLD at the top) and pack a plastic bag for wet clothing you remove. A small backpack is ideal and be sure to include antibacterial wipes for cleaning up, a towel for drying off, and some emergency foods for post-ride recovery.
Schedule of route postings:

May 1: Intro and "The Start"

May 2: "Pea Ridge"

May 3: "Dangerous Curve"

May 4: "Bills Mt."

May 5: "Tom Johnson Campground"

May 6: "Hwy 80"

May 7: "Blue Ridge Parkway"
(you may also want to include your ride next Saturday!)

May 8: "Mt. Mitchell State Parkway" and "The End"

Paul Thomas, EdD, Associate Professor
Furman University

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