You can do this; you can do this; you can do this. The internal chant becomes both an inspirational mantra and a command. I'm on mile 20, yet another steady incline, of what the locals refer to as a "relatively easy" bike ride through the South Carolina mountains. It doesn't take long to discover that a relatively easy bike ride through the mountains is exactly that — relative. With long climbs up winding roads, the trek is enough to cause me to consider quitting more than once, but the spectacular views at every crest remind me why guests come from far and wide to ride these quiet roads near Hotel Domestique in Travelers Rest, South Carolina.
Nestled on 29 acres at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the luxury boutique hotel, which sits 45 miles south of Asheville and 20 miles north of Greenville, is the mastermind of professional cyclist George Hincapie. Regarded as one of the most recognizable and successful American cyclists in history, George is the only rider to have assisted Lance Armstrong on all seven of his Tour de France victories. Additionally, he assisted two other winners of the Tour de France and was a five-time U.S. Olympian. Upon his retirement from cycling, he decided to carry on his passion for the sport through the hotel, welcoming riders from around the world to bike the scenic mountainous roads.
Cyclists are welcome, and encouraged, to bring their own bikes, and many do, but the hotel boasts a fleet of Canyon endurance road bikes that are available for rent. Specifically designed for comfort, speed and versatility, these premium racing bikes aren't even available for purchase in the United States. Cyclists can send in their measurements ahead of time or get fitted for bikes at the property before heading out to explore the surrounding area. I opted for the latter, taking several spins around the parking lot to make sure the bike was perfectly tailored to my measurements while the staff awaited nearby to make tweaks as necessary. The bikes come equipped with toe cages, or the team can easily swap out pedals for those desiring to bring their own clipless versions from home. The staff even takes the guesswork out of where to go by creating custom rides based on skill level, ride preferences and scenery. The ride is loaded into a complimentary Garmin GPS system to guide you on your way, which is how I found myself on this "relatively easy" cruise through the neighboring hills. With the Garmin guiding you at every turn, you're free to enjoy the picturesque views that await around every corner.
Those desiring a more structured riding experience can participate in Hotel Domestique's XD cycling packages. Offered four to six times a year, these all-inclusive weekends feature organized rides led by George and other special guests, stretching and core-building classes, massage therapy, three full kits of custom cycling apparel, a support vehicle for each ride, a bike mechanic, gourmet meals and nightly discussions. The packages are capped at 15 riders, allowing each guest to have personal one-on-one instruction.
Whether you opt to ride solo or as part of a group, on challenging rides or "relatively easy" ones, one thing is certain: you won't regret it. The views are spectacular with roads twisting beside lush green pastures, past serene brooks and waterfalls, through quaint little villages. And you may just see a familiar face or two along the way. George, who resides in nearby Greenville, was cycling the mountains the same day I was with his old friend Lance Armstrong. Something tells me they found the ride a little easier than I did.
Inspired by George’s world travels, Hotel Domestique blends Old World architecture with modern interior design to create a sleek and welcoming retreat. Built in 2013, the hotel houses 13 unique and spacious suites (named for mountain passes or regions in France), many of which include fireplaces, river rock showers and balconies. The two-story lobby lures guests in to read a book by the fire or enjoy a cocktail overlooking the mountains, and an adjoining stone patio overlooks the saltwater pool and leads to a fire pit, the perfect place to unwind after a day of activity.
A well-balanced breakfast is included in every stay to prepare guests for a day of cycling or relaxation. Served in the lobby, the menu changes daily for the three-course European continental breakfast, but everything is made in house using locally sourced ingredients. For lunch or a midday snack, Café 17 offers a simple yet delicious menu of fresh pastries, espresso drinks, sandwiches and soups. Additionally, guest pantries are stocked with gourmet snacks for cravings at any hour, and complimentary nutrition bars and hydration mixes are available for cyclists. The real culinary star of Hotel Domestique, however, is Restaurant 17, which entices guests with modern American cuisine, inventive cocktails and breathtaking views. The ever-changing menu highlights regional bounty in dishes like sweet potato mezzaluna, short rib lasagna and wood-fired catfish.
The biggest draw of the hotel, without question, is the cycling program, but for those who aren’t interested in exploring the mountain roads by bike, there are plenty of other ways to experience the area. If relaxation is on the to-do list, the hotel offers massage treatments, a library for reading, an outdoor saltwater pool for swimming, and a yoga studio and fitness room for exercising. Just down the road, The Cliffs welcomes guests of the Hotel Domestique to enjoy seven championship golf courses, each offering scenic views of the surrounding area, or 22 Har-Tru clay tennis courts in addition to a state-of-the-art fitness center and indoor and outdoor swimming pools. There’s no shortage of scenic drives or hikes nearby, and the towns of Asheville, Greenville and Hendersonville offer dining and cultural destinations that are less than an hour away.
10 Road of Vines
Travelers Rest, SC 29690
Drive: 327 miles
Photographs courtesy of Hotel Domestique
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