**Gearing**
Is it Campagnolo 10 speed? Then the 29 is likely as low as you can go.

Campagnolo 11 now has 11-32 available.

Long climbs

15 years ago, in preparation for long Blue Ridge Parkway climbs, I climbed the local 300 foot hills, which can be quite steep. And I did some long, steady efforts for 30 minutes to an hour, trying to keep the same effort the whole time. So I had shorter but steep climbs to work on gearing and pace, and longer flat rides to work on long, steady efforts.

I used a heart rate monitor to keep me in a range that I knew I could maintain. I decided on the number just by observation on rides. At the time, I could do 145 bpm for hours, 150 for 5-10 minutes, and 160 for maybe a minute. The numbers are all lower now, that was 10 years ago.

Pinehurst to Asheville is 3.5 hours drive time. The Blue Ridge Parkway riding is very nice, worth the trip.

Here's my favorite ride,

Pinnacle Ridge to Pisgah Inn, climbing up to Richland Balsam at 6050 feet, riding to get a carryout lunch at the Pisgah Inn, and return. It can be shortened by starting at an overlook near Richland Balsam. For instance, starting at Lone Bald Overlook, mile 6.7, is 48 miles, 5500 feet round trip.