By Eddie Clark
(April 14&15, 2012) BREVARD, NC.—Riders and racers from across the country descended upon Brevard to partake in the Assault on the Carolinas road ride this past weekend, and plenty of prime singletrack was ridden too. With a history spanning thirteen years, the annual road ride fund raiser for the Pisgah Rotary club has grown much like its own host town, which is widely known as the cycling capital of the South.
"Last year we moved it downtown and had 750 riders, and this year we hit our 1000 rider cap. One of the things people like about this event is the amount of safety and traffic control out on the course. Riders get a full meal, a t-shirt, entertainment, raffles, and there will be beer for sale too", said event go-to man John Buford. Riders have options of doing a 40K, a 60K, and the popular 100K route which takes riders through the well maintained country roads of North and South Carolina.
The 100K route entails a climb up the fabled Caesars Head climb that is roughly 6 miles in length, and has long served as the personal training climb of top veteran Pro Tour racer George Hincapie of BMC. "I pretty much live on this mountain when I'm training hard, I know every nook and cranny of this whole climb", said Hincapie.
A very notable fact about the event is that all proceeds go to the Pisgah Rotary club, which in turn distributes the money to local charities for community improvement- Not only do riders get to support worthy community charities, but they're also treated quite well.
The post ride meal is provided by event sponsor Transylvania Regional Hospital, and includes its award winning chipotle pork tacos with mango mojo sauce as well as a penne pasta bar with grilled chicken, vegetables and complimentary sauces. William Ecker noted, "For the past four days we've been preparing 150 pounds of pasta, 200 pounds of chicken and 75 pounds of pork."
Riders also received discounted training programs from the local Carmichael Training Systems office to help prepare for an optimal ride. "We offered a discount to those that signed for six months of coaching for the normal twelve month rate, took care of their entry to AOC and they also got a CTS jersey. The Assault on the Carolinas loop is great for taking our clients out to give them a point of reference because they can compare their own time to how fast George Hincapie does it", said Collin Izzard who has been with CTS for the last nine years.
Originally, the CTS southeast office was located in Asheville, but the move was made six months ago to Brevard because of the cleaner, safer and excellent country roads as well as the vast network of world class mountain bike trails that are within a short ride of downtown Brevard.
Yes, that's right, Brevard is directly adjacent to literally hundreds of miles of quality mountain biking that sees little traffic, and it's accessible on a nearly year round basis. With a base elevation of about 2000 feet and a location between two mountain ranges, the region also has some of the most pleasant weather that a road or mountain biker can find on the East Coast.
After the Bracken Mountain trail opens this summer, mountain bikers will be able to ride six blocks from downtown to get on dirt to access the fabled Pisgah Forest trail network. Without doubt, the Pisgah National Forest singletrack is unforgiving and not suited for beginners, but if you're willing to work your way up its technical rock and root infested climbs, the fresh mountain air and inspiring views will rejuvenate your spirits. At the very least, the aptly rewarding technical but fun and tight downhill singletrack will plaster a smile on your face.
Current city councilman and native resident/all around nice guy and core mountain biker Wes Dickson of Sycamore Cycles is the man to talk to when you roll into town for the low down on area mountain bike knowledge. His shop is pretty nice too, and they are more than happy to set you up with some prime Strava beta to get you out on the trails as well as provide necessary repairs and last minutes ride items. If travelling light is your thing, you can show up without gear, buy what you need, and choose from a range of worthy rental bikes.
It also helps to have choices, which is where The Hub, which is just across the street from Sycamore Cycles, comes into play with their collection of delicious locally crafted fine beers that they keep on tap. Rumor has it that their Friday happy hour is not to be missed.
Fortunately, Wes Dickson and a band of locals were more than happy to show us just how good their goods were, and needless to say we were more than stoked on the mountain biking. Our destinations included Squirrel Gap in the Pisgah Forest in the morning, and then a shorter but albeit much faster tour of DuPont State Forest which hosts over 90 trails that range from hard pack to slick rock. While the DuPont trails are geared towards beginner mountain bikers and family excursions, don't be easily influenced by that description. The DuPont trails are exponentially more buff, certainly rippable with no shortage of fun booters, and they're also notably different from the more demanding Pisgah trails- a good second days ride.
The mountain biking is so extensive that no matter how long you stay, you'll still want to ride more new trails. With that said, there's plenty of local hotels to choose from as well as vacation rentals that are within a short walk of downtown. Also, there's plenty of fine places to get a worthy cup of joe such as Quotations and Braken Mtn Bakery. Refreshing gelato can be found at Kiwi Gelato, and your sweet tooth can be satiated at Downtown Chocolates. Our favorite watering hole and eatery, The Square Root, featured rustic outdoor seating, exquisite delicious entrees, made to order drinks along with a good tap selection, and live music that had patrons dancing in the street. Be sure to ask about bar mascot Ram Van Gogh if you stop by The Square Root if you're lucky enough to spend some time in Brevard.