The Tour de Rocky Top is a metric century ride in Knoxville, Tennessee organized by Race Day Events, a private race organization. This ride is unique in this region in that it starts and finishes at a large pub, Barleys Tap Room.
I did this metric century on Saturday, July 2, 2011. The ride went through downtown, across the Tennessee River, and out into the country to the south and east of Knoxville towards the Smoky Mountains. The ride never got into the mountains, but had many rollers, totaling about 3,000′ in total elevation in climbing (and descending) in the 62 mile course. There were three well-stocked aid stations on the ride.
The staging area for this ride was excellent. It began right next to Barleys Tap Room. Adjacent to the tap room is a six lane off-ramp/overpass. The City of Knoxville has turned the area under the overpass into a very large parking lot. This was a perfect area to park and leave vehicles in the shade while cycling. The ride started cool but became quite hot. Who would have thought riding in Knoxville in July under a noon sun could get hot? On the negative side, there was no place to shower at the end of the ride. You pretty much had to just change into street clothes next to your car or go into Barleys and use the restroom to do so.
This is definitely more of true “tour” than a race. While there may have been a lead group pushing the pace at the front (I don’t know if there was or not since I was at the back side of the starting line), there were about 45 turns on the course. Every time you got up to speed or began to proceed in a good rhythm it seemed like there was a turn. And many of these turns were not your gradual “bear to the right or left” turns, but true 45 degree turns on small country roads, several at stop signs. So this ride was not conducive to a personal best time record, but it was nonetheless a pleasant tour of the countryside around Knoxville. The race organizers did a good job of getting the riders out of and back into the downtown area on roads with relatively slight traffic, which was impressive.
I finished the ride in approximately 4 hours. Actual riding time was about 3 hours, 40 minutes. The average speed on my odometer was 16.2 mph.
The ride ended on a great note. The ride ended at Barleys Tap Room, a restaurant with excellent pizza in the old town section of Knoxville. The Barleys in Knoxville is an open, unfinished warehouse with brick interior walls, large rough-hewn beams, and a nice garden patio. Barleys had two large flat screen TVs showing coverage of the first day of the Tour de France. Watching part of “the” Tour with several hundred fellow cyclists after doing a century ride was a nice way to start off the Independence Day weekend.
A note on getting to the ride: The venue is about 1 hour, 50 minutes from Abingdon. It is a straight shot down I-81. It makes for an early morning to do the trip in one day. There are several nice hotels in downtown Knoxville close to the race staging area, and there are lots of restaurants and boutique stores in this area of Knoxville. Going down the evening before would probably not be a bad idea.