Local cyclist completes fifth Assault on Mt. Mitchell

Published 9:48 pm Thursday, May 28, 2015

 John Cash, pictured center, is waiting to start the 102-mile race.

John Cash, pictured center, is waiting to start the 102-mile race.

In 1975, bicyclist John Bryan led a group of friends on a ride from Spartanburg, S.C. over 102 miles to the top the Mount Mitchell road at some 6,500 feet above sea level.


On May 18, Landrum’s John Cash celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Assault on Mt. Mitchell by placing 18th overall among 529 finishers. More than 800 riders took off from Spartanburg, intending to reach the top of the Mt. Mitchell road. His overall time was just five hours, 50 minutes, even with a one-mile detour around a bridge out in Spartanburg.

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It was the first top-20 finish for the veteran rider, in his fifth appearance on the famous ride. At 62, Cash was the oldest rider in the top 20.


Though the route gains over 10,000 feet of elevation (5,000 of that in the 28 miles after the Assault on Marion riders are finished their day), Cash, who trained for the Assault by riding some 250-300 miles per week since his January training stint in Spain with the Trek factory racing team, averaged about 17.5 mph for the entire ride. He and some other top riders covered the first 20 miles in just 48 minutes—some 25 mph.


“We were flying,” Cash remarked.


“It’s easier riding with a group,” emphasized Cash, who said he averaged 22.5 mph for the 74 miles from Spartanburg to Tom Johnson Family Camping at Marion.


“The front group was a really good bunch of guys,” Cash related. Everyone was safe and courteous.”


Though Mt. Mitchell’s summit is known for being much colder than the surrounding valleys, this day was different, Cash related. He said the temperature was a constant 68 degrees to Marion, and still 66 at over 6,500 feet on Mt. Mitchell, probably due to increasing clouds and incoming rain. Cash said that riders who finished in over seven hours had to battle thunderstorms.


“I was one of the fortunate ones this year,” Cash observed.


A generally-accepted bit of training advice for longer rides is that if one can complete a ride two-thirds that long, over similar terrain, and feel good, he or she should be ready for the big ride. While some cyclists put in days of 120 miles or more, Cash said his longest ride of the year thus far, before Mitchell, was 83 miles.


But, anyone who knows Cash and how he trains, knows that he takes full advantage of the region’s numerous challenging climbs. He described his April 26 Climb to Conquer Cancer fundraiser, on which Cash climbed and descended the Saluda Grade on U.S. 176 ten times (for 8,000 feet of climbing in 80 miles), as “a great tune-up.” He also made several round trips to Caesars Head State Park, just inside South Carolina, with lots of climbing.


“I think a good 80-mile high-quality training ride is plenty,” Cash advised others planning to join a future Assault on Mt. Mitchell.


At ride’s end near Mitchell’s true summit, officials presented finishers with 40th anniversary medals. They also presented something else welcoming—tomato soup and bread. “I wanted something salty and warm,” Cash said. “It was absolutely delicious.” A full meal awaited Assault on Mt. Mitchell and Assault on Marion riders at the Tom Johnson Campground.


The assaults are organized, run by, and benefit, Freewheelers of Spartanburg Cycling Association.


After the summit of Bill’s Mountain, Cash noted that a group of about 20 Mitchell-bound riders “took off.”


This year, Cash represented Finish Strong, a Christian cycling team based in Greenville.


Other top riders from the area included 20-year-old Spencer Crowe of Greer (21st place, 5:55:34) and Andrew Turman, 46, of Tryon (51st place, 6:19:31).

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