Where to begin? WARNING! This will be lengthy and I hope, without boring you, to capture the highlights of one great weekend of cycling! Art & I took off for N Georgia Thursday around 5:30am intent on attending stage 4, the Team Time Trial at Road Atlanta. After driving some beautiful back roads out of Macon we made the time trial and got to see several teams ride.
Road Atlanta is a great venue, it's fan friendly and unlike the road stages there is plenty of cycling to watch. The teams ride 4 laps of the 2.5 mile course that is technical with "S" curves and a couple of short but steep climbs. We stood within inches of the riders and could hear them chatting among themselves and Art picked up on a rider in his native language telling another team mate to "take it easy" before they dropped a man. Riders were dropped and they just continued circling the course while their team rode away at 30+ mph. Art & I spent some time roaming the "paddock" area of team buses/rv's and bike schwag.
The riders all warm up on some nice trainers, a chance to get close to the riders and their equipment. I hope they keep this stage in the team format and do it again at Road Atlanta because even if you're not into cycling it would be a great way to spend the afternoon outside socializing with a little food & drink. A great idea to make it fan friendly in a sport that needs all the help it can get.
Friday - Friday Art & I got up early and rode 3 Gap riding about 56 miles total. The scenery was spectacular with the dogwoods in bloom across the mountains. Art & I kept commenting on how pleasant it was riding apart from an organized ride like 6 Gap (don't get me wrong, I enjoy riding 6 Gap!). What made it so pleasant/different was not worrying about or navigating hundreds of other cyclists on a normal event ride.
We climbed Neel's Gap along with other cyclists (There were numerous people cycling all over the place), took a quick break then descended (The descents are incredible!) climbed Wolfpen then Woody's and made that final long, exhilarating descent back to Dahlonega.
Stage 5 finishes in downtown Dahlonega. Art & I camped at the finish line to see the boys finish 133 miles in 5 hours 15 minutes or a 27 mph average in the Ga mountains!
Dinner that night was at a local downtown spot with live music and delicious cuisine, a great end to a long day of cycling.
Saturday - We're up again early to drive over to Hiawassee, Ga and do an annual organized ride called "Circle the Bald." This is a 36 mile ride that, as named, circles Brasstown Bald. The first 12 miles fly by as we do some rollers but then we get to....THE WALL! Holy crap! This thing was about one mile and the grade must have been in the 12% to 15% range. Art made it through the entire climb (What a cycling stud) but after standing the entire climb, I stopped 2/3 the way up maxing my heart rate.
So,we finish the ride, eat some great Bar B Que and head off to Brasstown to find a parking spot. We ended up parking about 1 mile from the entrance which is another 5k from the summit. They had shuttles up to a parking lot that is about 1k from the finish. The parking lot is the site for the expo and on the infield about 200-300 people are watching the live race feed over the Jumbotron waiting for the riders to arrive at Brasstown. Art & I walked up to about 300 meters from the finish and took our positions for viewing.
Once the riders start to get close all kinds of commotion breaks loose from motorcycles to state troopers and then cheering fans! Watching the climb was a blast as the riders grimace in pain passing by at 6 or 7 mph with crazy fans running along side pushing the riders up the mountain. We ascended the final 300 meters to watch the podium presentation and hoopla of it all complete with the "podium girls."
On the way back the shuttle line was incredibly long so we skipped it and walked about 4 miles down this steep grade back to the car...my shins were sore for days after.
Sunday - Our intention was to ride 18 miles from the hotel in Dawsonville to Dahlonega & back that morning then shove off for Jax but Mother Nature didn't cooperate with rain showers that morning. Oh well, we had a great weekend, the cycling we did was 2 days of some of the best cycling I've ever done with weather, scenery and good company! I'm so glad we made the trip, just wish all of you could have been there too!