May 8: "Mt. Mitchell State Parkway" and "The End"
Mt. Mitchell State Parkway--Just before the entrance to Mt. Mitchell State Parkway, riders get a brief downhill, but once riders enter the park, the next two miles are steep and unrelenting. The first two miles are often 10%-plus grades with long segments and a few switchbacks. Experience is important once you turn into the park; I know how fast I should do the final 5 miles and also know what speed I should maintain through the tough first two-mile section. Riders doing this for the first time or having done the Assault on a few times should maintain focus on what sort of day they are having, how to maintain pace and effort that insures a finish, and what mental tricks are needed to avoid negative energy being spent with the end within reach. Near the top, you'll see some split-rail fencing on your right, and the crest of the worst section is close. This is the official entrance gate to the Mt. Mitchell State Park and Rest Stop #10.
The End--After the brutal lead-in to the park, riders get a nice flat section of about a mile or so before a pretty hard kick at the end. The final sweeping turns at the end come with a widening parking area that lets you know it is over. The end comes after about a final mile of climbing--the road is lined with trees and you see a sweeping turn to your right. The first clue that you are almost finished are the parking lanes that begin to line the road that doubles in width.
These final cheer-filled meters of self-inflicted agony will be moments most riders will remember for years to come.
Some key things to remember once you cross the line include listening to the wonderful volunteers who will tell you things to do and ask you some key questions, including where to send you bicycle, Marion (which requires you to claim your bicycle and transport from there) or Spartnaburg, which allows you to claim your bicycle back near the start point for the Assaults.
Once you have finished, take a moment to enjoy the accomplishment, but don't hesitate to ask the many wonderful folks at the top if you need anything.
Looking forward to seeing everyone at the top. . .
Paul Thomas, EdD, Associate Professor