Monday, June 13, 2022

Caesar's Head and the Assault on the Carolinas

If you want an idea of what it's like to climb one of the great Tour de France cols without travelling to Europe then head up to the Caesar's Head climb on Hwy 276 in South Carolina. It's not Mont Ventoux but you'll climb 2100 feet in 7 miles at an average gradient of 6%. It's not a steady gradient as it has an easier section midway up which gives you a chance to recover for the steep sections and hairpin bends ahead. Add in some narrow parts and a rough road surface and you have a very European climb, at least George Hincapie and Lance Armstrong thought so.

George Hincapie's hometown is Greenville SC about 25 miles away and Caesar's Head was one of his favorite climbs in his Tour de France days when he would train on it regularly with Lance Armstrong.

A good way to see the area and climb Caesar's Head with other riders is to enter the Assault on the Carolinas which is held every year in April. The spring classic takes over the host town of Brevard NC and has a limited entry of about 1200 which usually fills up before Christmas. If you're feeling flush, you can stay at Hincapie's boutique hotel "le Domestique" near Greenville which is the base for the Gran Fondo Hincapie in the Fall, another great way to see the mountains of North and South Carolina.

Hincapie and Armstrong's bikes at the Hotel Domestique
There's a lot more good riding in this area. For road bikes the Blue Ridge Parkway is great and gives you access to Mt Mitchell which from the Ashville Folk Arts Center is an out and back ride of 66 miles with 7000 feet of climbing. For mountain bikers the Dupont Forest has spectacular waterfalls and well kept trails which cater to all levels. The Holy Grail of mountain biking, the Pisgah Forest, is also close by for the elite rider.