May 7: "Blue Ridge Parkway"
Blue Ridge Parkway--OK, the rest stop is nice (I choose not to stop), but the small grunt hill leading to the Blue Ridge Parkway is just cruel. Once on the parkway, cyclists have nearly 15 miles of riding, about 12 to 13 of which is steady 4%-7% climbing with a neat 2-mile respite at about mile 92; be prepared for and careful on the long descent, which can be fast, chilly, and taxing after the extended climbing. Climbing here is psychologically challenging because the sections are long and your site range is extended. Yes, it looks daunting. Rhythm climbing is key here, and most riders would benefit from finding some areas in which to practice extended climbing, which is much different than switchback climbing. The parkway is key to your total time, and riders need to concentrate and maintain their pace here because this is an extended effort unlike what many of us experience in any of our training. This section can be lonely, but also rewarding once you crest the slight downhll that leads to the turn into Mt. Mitchell park.
Paul Thomas, EdD, Associate Professor