Big Laurel Grind (38 miles)
Starting at Mars Hill University, the first 10 miles is a series of warm-up hills through the rolling country of southern Madison County. This section follows the same route as the 100 mile Doggett Mountain Challenge and 100 kilometer Devil’s Fork rides. At Walnut Creek Road you split from the 100 mile century and move directly toward the mountains. Starting with a moderate grade, the 5 mile Walnut Mountain climb turns sharply steeper for the second half of this 1,000 foot ascent. The first rest stop is at the top. Stop and enjoy the spectacular view down into the Big Laurel valley.
Take a moment to catch your breath, refill your water bottles and grab a snack because the next rest stop is 12.5 miles away near the top of the climb to Murray Mountain.
Hold on tight! The next section of the course descends rapidly – 1,000 feet in just over 2 miles. This is the point at which the 100 kilometer Devil’s Fork course splits and turns off to the left and the Big Laurel Grind goes straight. For riders on the Big Laurel Grind – you are about to discover how the ride got its name. The course hugs the banks of the babbling Big Laurel River for 10 miles – all ‘gently’ uphill. The second ‘mini’ rest stop is beneath the soaring overpass that carries I-26 high above the Big Laurel valley. You rejoin the course of the other rides Near the Little Creek Cafe at the junction of Big Laurel Road and US 23. The climb continues for almost another 3 miles to the top of Murray Mountain – a total rise of about 1,400 ft over the 13 miles since leaving the rest stop at the top of Walnut Mountain.
Here you are only 7 miles from Mars Hill – starting with a much needed screaming descent and only one modest hill between you and the the end of this big ride.
Be sure to refuel at Mars Hill's Stackhouse restaurant after the ride. Stackhouse is a local favorite that provides great american food as well as some tasty beers on tap.