This year was Duke Cycling's fourth consecutive springbreak training trip to Cullowhee, NC and had the largest turnout we've ever seen. Twelve of us traveled out to the mountains of NC to get in some good hard mountain training.
Rock star Alex Fulton got his first taste of climbing, and rising phenom Steve Boyd crushed it up the hills on day one on an epic 95 mile ride which went up no less than three major climbs. Gina Turrini dominated Cullowhee mountain, and Brittany Stokes took the training trip as an opportunity to rest up and get over her black lung cough. Matt Howe set 13 KOM's on Strava over the course of the trip -- certainly some sort of record, and Mike Mulvihill proved that big men CAN climb. Rob Ferris made souls hurt, and brought the spunk to the cabin. Jonathan Crimins' beard complemented the mountains nicely, and he flew up the climbs along with Scott Valentine. It should be noted that Scott Valentine took this trip as an opportunity (yet again) to try his hand at hitchhiking with Native American women in Western North Carolina under the pretense of "having a flat tire".
Here's Mike Mulvihill's report:
It's almost impossible to not have a great time at a (mini) team camp. That said, this particular weekend went above and beyond as a fantastic opportunity to get a pair of great rides in and spend time with the ladies and gentlemen that make up Duke Cycling. To start, I'd like to extend a hearty thank-you to the Clark and Niemi families for hosting us over the weekend!
For me, the weekend began at 0330 on Saturday morning with an extra-early alarm to get out to Barker's Creek, NC (about an hour southwest of Asheville) in time for the Saturday rollout. After an expedient but safe drive out I arrived to fresh coffee and the tail-end of breakfast. A quick change into kit (thanks Hincapie!) with some layers to transition us from a sunny but brisk start in the 40's out to the 70's in the afternoon got us ready to rock and roll.
We struck out southbound to Cullowhee and got straight to business with some great climbing along the Ring of Fire ride from the Cullowhee recreation center. 1,700 feet up Cullowhee Mountain got the legs awake with a nice 25 minute effort. From here we took a bit of a detour over to the very nice town of Highlands, NC by way of a nice climb along Buck Creek Road. After a solid refueling we made it back onto the Ring of Fire loop to tackle a final climb up Ellijay road and back to the rec center for the spin back home. Can't argue with a nice 100 miles + 10,000 feet of climbing in great weather to kick off the weekend!
With a bit of the snap taken out of the legs (and the loss of an hour due to the time change), we were possibly a bit slower to get out the door Sunday morning. But a big breakfast, plenty of coffee, and the satisfaction of a Duke Men's Basketball victory over UNC helped shake the cobwebs out. Another day of great weather and a still-closed-to-cars Blue Ridge Parkway had us pumped about getting out on the bikes. We rode south to Cullowhee again and from there started out climbing up to the Parkway. A good hour of climbing got us up to the beautiful Blue Ridge Parkway.
Having never had a chance to ride on the parkway thus far in my time in North Carolina, this part of the ride was a highlight for me. We got here at near perfect timing; far enough into spring that snow was hardly a factor, but early enough that the road was still closed to cars. Had to have been the perfect time to spin out a nice 50 miles north to Cherokee. The winding, up and down nature of the ride helped us rack up just under 13,000 feet of climbing over the course of the day's 110 miles. We made it back just after 7pm (thank you spring forward!) with nicely toasted legs and happy spirits. And nothing like coming back to a fantastic dinner prepared by the Niemi family - so clutch!
Overall the weekend gave us a great training impulse that fit perfectly with the off weekends before we race up at Navy. Hopefully by then the legs will be fresh and ready for another round of ACCC racing! Be sure to follow Duke Cycling over at Strava to check out the weekend's rides.