Short background: when going to Georgia to, in addition to family fun, accost Brasstown Bald, I generally take a few days to get used to riding mountains. Going "up" for five+ miles is not the same as attacking a short hill. Therefore, my first day is usually Woody Gap, Neel's Gap, and Wolf Pen Gap. This is a 32 or so mile circuit.
Woody Gap is easy from the north, with a 5.3 mile terrific downhill. From there is a transition over to Neel's Gap. This is a 5 or so mile uphill in the neighborhood of 8%, judging from my glances at the readout of my Garmin 305. Later I will ascertain more accurate figures. Wolf Pen is about 4 miles of tighter turns and double-digit ramps. I did these two days ago.
One thing I noticed on this ride was the transition from downhill to uphill caused my quads to signal my brain "who, me"? This is very strange and has not happened before. For the whole ride, each uphill took a long time before the muscles started operating properly.
Today brought a new adventure. I had not cycled Unicoi or Hogpen Gaps. Judging from the map, I guesstimated 40 miles. Marilane accompanied me in the car to the beginning of Brasstown Bald, my departure point.
The ride began with a generally 4 mile downhill, very little pedaling. Unicoi was longer than Woody Gap, but not too difficult. The downhill had long, sweeping curves and allowed for high speeds and very little braking. A short transition to the Russell Scenic Highway, aka Hogpen Gap. This proved to be a leg-breaker. I think probably a mile longer than Neel's Gap, and steeper, as it took an hour and ten minutes of climbing, using all of my gears (including the one I saved for Brasstown Bald), and a rest stop to allow my heart to return to a reasonable level. The major downhill portion had me above 40mph for several miles, but the rest of it flattened out or rolled. My legs had no umphh left. Unfortunately, Marilane had gone shopping, a dark cloud began to form, and I had another 15 miles, including back over Wolf Pen Gap, four miles away.
I took a short break at the bottom of Wolf Pen and shifted to the easiest gear possible. Thirty-five minutes, and a short mid-climb break later, I somehow made it to the top. This side of Wolf Pen is only a few miles of descent, but is truthfully my favorite. The curves at the start are short and steeply inclined and just a whole lot of fun. These gave me the energy to make it the rest of the way to the cabin, a total of 44 miles, arriving concurrently with the rain.