The Assault on Mt Mitchell

Over 1,100 cyclists were at the start line in Spartanburg, South Carolina for the 2011 Assaults on Marion and Mt. Mitchell. Participants could either ride to Marion in North Carolina or go the full 9-yards and ascend Mt Mitchell, the tallest mountain east of the Mississippi, an additional 28 miles for a total of 102 miles. While there might have been two different options all the riders rolled out of downtown Spartanburg together.

The weekend’s events began on Saturday with a 5k, documentary film showing and social mixer. Sunday included both the EXPO and a kids ride – Assault on Morgan Square in downtown Spartanburg on Sunday.

Carolina Cycling News attended the Saturday evening Velo Social presented by Globalbike where the guest of honor was professional cyclist Rahsaan Bahati. The audience listened as Bahati talked about how he was a “kid with too much energy” which was transformed into a track rider earning multiple national titles along the way. Those velodrome skills made him one of the most feared domestic sprinters ever. Those who hadn’t heard about his story or his organization, Bahati Foundation, found it to be inspiring.

Riders on Sunday picked up their race bags at the Assaults EXPO in the Spartanburg Memorial Auditorium. The EXPO room had venders ready to sell riders swag or help with last minute equipment issues. Needed a last minute energy bar or tube? It was there. Break a wheel? Boyd Bikes had a display featuring their latest 700c goodies.

Carolina Cycling News checked in with some of the riders to find out what their goals were for the big ride on Monday. Their answers ranged from long-time veteran riders looking to beat their best time to brand new riders just hoping to finish the event.

The 6:30 AM roll out for the ride came awfully early for many – none more than Bahati. Between his appearance at the Velo Social Saturday night, he returned to California to give away bikes in conjunction with his foundation and the Boys and Girls Club, and then hopped back on a plane, returning to Spartanburg late Sunday night.

While the Assault on Mt. Mitchell is a “fun ride” all the participants were given a timing chip and a placing – bragging rights were on the line.

The lead group ripped through Marion on a fast pace. Off the front of the group and leading into the climb of Mt Mitchell was Bruce Humphries (Hincapie/ Green Creation). His lead was only a few minutes, but Humphries is a strong rider and couldn’t be given too much of a lead on the climb.

Neo-pro Spencer Gaddy (Kenda/ 5-Hour Energy) and Boyd Johnson (Globalbike) went to the front and started to bring back the Hincapie/ Green Creation rider. By the top of Highway 80 there were just six riders left in the front group.

At the top of the Parkway, Gaddy attacked taking two other riders, John DeLong and Jake Arnold.

“They were looking strong so I knew I had to attack them at some point,” explained Gaddy.

On the last steep pitch of the long climb, just three miles from the summit of Mitchell, Gaddy accelerated and went solo. He crossed the line stopping the clock at five hours and 36 seconds. DeLong was second in five hours, two minutes and 44 seconds and just 59 seconds slower was Arnold.

Robin Farina had said her goal for the day was to be the first woman to the top – a result she easily accomplished. She was the 20th rider overall to the top and a full 30 minutes faster than the last year’s woman’s time, finishing in five hours and 27 minutes.

While the weather had been mild at the bottom, at the summit it was a light rain with temperatures in the low 40s. Rider’s body heat had been keeping them warm, however once stopped their body temperature dropped necessitating blankets to keep them warm.

Gaddy is scheduled to race in an omnium in Wilmington and then the US Pro road race in Greenville, South Carolina. Looks like the Kenda/ 5 Hour Energy team lucked out by finding this diamond in the rough.

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