When one ponders the great cycling destinations of the world, the same locales almost always come to mind: The French Alps...Tuscany...the Pyrenees...North Carolina.
Well, OK, some might argue that last one doesn’t belong. But, after spending a week on my bike with some Team Clif teammates in the Tar Heel State, I’m here to tell ya it’s pretty dang cool! If you need a little more convincing, I’ve compiled my top 7 reasons why summertime in North Carolina can be quite delightful for an avid cyclist. Read on…
1) The Crossroads Classic criterium seriesNeal Boyd and his minions at Charlotte Sports Cycling put on a fantastic annual series of twilight crits. You can get shellacked by super-fast pros night after night on fast, technical courses while discovering cool little towns that most people never get to see from the interstate
2) Mock Orange BikesThis hip little shop in Winston-Salem has a little something for everyone, including sweet commuters, mountain and road bikes, and cool duds to keep you jolly while you pedal. Plus, the shop is located on the historic Hanes Park Criterium course, and when your race is over, the friendly staff is right there to hand you 5 or 6 cold PBR’s.
3) Miles of traffic-free country roadsThe shoulders aren’t big, but if you get out of town a bit it doesn’t matter because you won’t be seeing many cars. The pavement is oh-so-smooth and the loose dogs give you a chance to work on that lagging sprint!
4) Pork BarbecueThe BBQ in North Carolina is outstanding! OK, we didn’t actually try it since it wasn’t on the menu at the Concord Embassy Suites hotel bar. But, apparently it’s delicious.
5) Really hot and humid weatherLots of riding and even more perspiring can only mean one thing: significant weight loss! You won’t have to buy those carbon water bottle cages to save a few grams after all!
6) Truly friendly peopleEveryone in North Carolina was really freaking nice! Drivers were courteous and always gave us room to ride, and just about everyone in our hotel was pleasantly curious about cycling and racing. Who knew?
7) The Presbyterian Invitational CriteriumThis annual race has a huge purse which attracts top-notch pros, and nighttime action is fast and furious! The locals come out in droves to party like rock stars in surprisingly-cosmopolitan downtown Charlotte.
So, next time you’re considering destinations for your next cycling adventure, you might include the Southeastern United States. You won’t be climbing the Galibier or the pacelining on the Amalfi Coast, but you’ll be able to race like mad, drink a lot of beer, and have an all around great time without selling your spleen to do it. Ciao!
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