Check out these smiling faces...it's some of the Gainesville Cycling Club crew, acting rather chipper the night before Six Gap.
Dahlonega, Georgia is a beautiful area in the southeastern United States; I used to ride motorcycles in and around the curvy, scenic roads in the early 80's. But now it was time for a return on two wheels without the engine. The only pistons pumping on the Six Gap ride were my very sore and now tender legs.
I could go into dozens of details, but bottom line this was one of my most intense efforts, over a given time period, in my endurance career. There are concise explanations given for the actual 104 mile course, but I can sum it up simply:
You climb very steep and very long hills and then you descend.
The start was massive, with 2300 riders off the line. The first 30 minutes was a 2000 rider peloton. Riders were shoulder to shoulder. During one of my first shifts, I threw the chain. As I scurried off the road, hundreds of riders rolled by. I re-entered the tour within seconds and resumed the pace. The first 20 miles were rolling hills and then the fun/torture started.
The first gap was a holy s%$t moment. I panicked.
The climb was long and brutal, and I was sure that I could not complete the course. But at this point I give kudos to Cliff Courtney, an advertising exec who spoke to my students at U of FL last Thursday. Cliff had done the event where cyclists pre-ride stages of the Tour de France.
"Just remember to stay relaxed from head to toe," said Cliff.
That sounded simple, but it actually saved my Six Gap performance.
I settled into a slow methodical pace...lowest gear, barely turning the crank, with every muscle as relaxed as possible. Many times the pack was climbing at 6-8 mph. The minutes, then the hours ticked by. My $1500 Felt F60 was doing the job and on several occasions I would climb past a rider on a $5000 bicycle. I must say that felt pretty good.
Climbs came and went and descents had to be negotiated. I hit 42.9 mph at one point and was being passed on both sides. It was too fast for me, I was not comfortable with the speeds. That said, it was such a unique sensation, something I had not experienced.
Here's a great web link that will demonstrate the magnitude of the course:
So, after 25 years of training and racing, I found a new rush. Mountain centuries rock. Pain and terror, all packaged for consumption by the average consumer.
I pulled into the finish in 7:10 riding time, 7:39 on the clock. My traveling buddies, Dennis and Mike, also had excellent finishes.
Good friends, clear skies, a new challenge complete and no one (in our group) was hurt. One female took a bad fall on one of the descents and we are still waiting to hear about her condition.
These types of events are not for everyone, but I am thankful that I can participate. What a wonderful season of life, living as an endurance sport athlete.