Yes, Roanoke, there are many alternatives to Carvin's Cove, which obviously ain't bad itself.
This little jewel cooks up a killer 2.8 mile 1500' climb to warm up, a mellow Blue Ridge Parkway portage, a fun, pedal-assist downhill, and finishes off with some mean rock stew that just keeps getting rougher and tougher by the day.
Take 460 east from Roanoke towards Montvale. Just before Montvale, spot Camp Jaycee Rd on the left. Signs say Day Creek Recreation. Take it. Go 1/2 mile to left on dirt to Day Creek parking area. Exit parking to the gated road, which is the start of the Black Horse Gap fire road climb. If the road you take is basically flat, it's the wrong one (you'll return on that). Climb like hell, the first mile being unkempt gravel. The second gate introduces dirt. Think Carvin's Cove's 1000' climb, only at 10% rather than 5%. You'll pass a historical area where once sat the Black Horse Tavern. This was the main route from to West Virginia, later on becoming VA 606 that heads to Sweet Springs, WV.
You'll finally grunt through a gate at the parkway, which is always welcomed after this beast. Go left, or south, on the Parkway, eventually passing the Great Valley Overlook. Stop there and take in views of Dragon's Back, Bald Mountain, Potts Mountain, and other great mountain bike locales to the west.
Proceed downhill south on the Parkway for a mile, reaching Salt Pond Rd., a fireroad gated on both sides. Take the left. Have fun, on the gas, dropping down a 3-5% grade for 1 1/2 miles. Go left on Quarry Rd. After about 1/2 mile, after passing the A-framed house on the right, you'll spot a steep, wide trail to the left. If you get to a powerline, you overshot. Take this steep, rocky, rutty beast.
Eventually, you'll get on top of ol' Dody on a neat, mini-slickrock ridge skimming across bolder scalps, slcing through sandstone cantaloupes and bocce balls. Technical zones keep your rotors warmed up, as does a Clownheadesque drop off that nasty rock.
Surviving that, you cross the headwaters of Day Creek in a nice wooded section that yields to more fun with rocks before you're completely done. If you happen to spot a fork in the trail, stay left. Right works, too, with a creek bed ride that's a hoot, but it's longer and better left. If you make it through the rolling stones, you'll be singing Gimme Shelter to get outta that place! Back on the dirt road, go left, downhill at 2% back to your vehicle.
If you want Dragon's Back training in a 2 hour packet closer to home, this is it. More fun from Day Creek to follow...