2016 Southern Cross Bike Race presented by Maxxis Tires! We hope you enjoyed the tough climbs, fast descents and the variety of weather along the course in our North Georgia Mountains. What a beautiful day for a bike race at Montaluce Winery!
Ok…239 racers started at 10:00am, the course altered, shorten 3 miles because of the rains now 49 miles. Justin L., Christian M. and I was on the front for the start, knowing we didn’t want to be caught in the pack when the race began. The race started with a 3 mile neutral roll out and I was sticking close to Justin L. for the acceleration that would come as the race started. We made the turn on the gravel hill and the lead car pulled off and I think that was the last time I saw Justin until the finish. Justin L. warned me that the first climb was hard, but I didn’t expect 1 hour at FTP, 6 mph with 25% grades. I stayed in my 40×33-36 gear for the first 15 miles of the race and knew I was not going very fast when a single speed racer walking about 20 feet in front of me and after 10 minutes I hadn’t caught him. This climb was mind numbing and all I could think of was pushing the sled at the Lift Center this winter about the 4th lap and just walking. Concentrate, stare at your handlebars and push circles to the top. Finally at the top and a series of rollers kept the pressure on till we finally descended below the snow line. Now about mid pack I was ready to make up time on the descent. What I didn’t know was most of the corners were exposed fist sized rocks and small gullies washed out by the rain. Still going downhill was better than the latter, so I turned it loose for the next 6 miles and found that it was scary and hard to see the gullies, potholes and rocks. More than a couple times both my wheels were kicked off the ground sliding in the corners, to make matters worse my helmet was loose and smacking my sun glasses. Fun in Georgia! At the bottom we had a short section of pavement and were able to hammer across several gaps to other riders. I never really had a riding partner the whole race, which was a little strange with so many racers out on course.
Turning back to the gravel we started to climb the back side of the mountain at a gradual ascent along a fast flowing stream. The sounds were pleasant, but there was traffic both directions crowding us to the side of the road to pass and then we would motor by them on the small descents..
At the top was the Appalachian Trail head where many hikers start their 2,100 mile journey this time of the year. www.appalachiantrail.org Now at mile 35 we started to descend to the finish on the steep side of the mountain. Here was where we came upon the At hiker transport truck convoy practicing their downhill skills. I didn’t know what to do, squeeze by them in the rough berm and ridk sliding out. After about 8 people went by me and squeezed through I took the chance and passed them on some switch backs. Free at last of the diesel and dust I had some people to catch and pass before the finish, plus we had a couple miles of pavement before the final grass run up to the finish. Finishing 16th out of 50 Masters for the race was interesting.
For those that don’t know, Southern CX is a 50mi gravel road race in the North GA mtns near Dahlonega. I’ve done this race twice before. It’s always epic! It basically consists of two big climbs, two big descents, and a bunch of rollers between. 6400 ft of elevation gain in 50mi is tough on pavement. It’s doubly so on gravel. The 1st climb is up Springer Mtn. It’s about 7 mi avg 10% grade with sections over 15%. We rolled out of Monte Luce Winery at 10:00am Saturday morning neutral for about 3-4 miles until we started into the forest roads where it instantly picked up pace. Within the 1st coupl miles the front group was 10-15 riders. Different guys were taking turns pushing the pace on the front. It was already starting to hurt. Every time I thought it couldn’t go much harder someone would turn the screws. Each time the pace elevated, the group got smaller. I was able to stay in through the 1st 2/3 of the climb. The group was down to 6-8 when I started to come off. When we topped the climb I was in 7th. (My garmin data showed I had produced 305w for 52min and still wasn’t in the lead bunch!) The front 4 had gotten a good gap then there were 2 singles ahead of me. I set my sights on the guy closest. I bridged to him quickly and we took turns making pace. It took us a long time to catch the next guy(who I later found out was Josh Thompson). The 3 of us began the 2nd climb together. None of us really wanting to push the pace. I felt a little better after the relaxed pace for a few minutes and decided that I needed to shed these guys before we got to the top if I was going to beat them. About a mile from the top this climb gets steeper so I began making accelerations to try to drop them. I got rid of the 1st guy really quickly but Josh wasn’t so easy. He managed to cover every attack even though I felt like I was close to cracking him. I was about busted myself. We topped the mountain together. There are 2 more good hills on the top before the real descent starts. I wasn’t able to shake him on those either. Then when the real downhill came he just rolled away from me. This guy could fly downhill! He was pedaling when I was pulling brakes. Turn out he’s also a pro mtn biker lol! At any rate I finished the last little gravel section solo and rolled in comfortably in 5th place in the open men’s category. My friend Brian Toone rolled In right after me. It was a great day. 60 deg. We all had burritos and chatted about our suffering. Can’t wait for next year!