September 28 & 29, 2013
I traveled to Dahlonega Georgia for the weekend bike fest which includes a great and fast criterium on Saturday and the epic 6 Gap Century on Sunday. Over 3000 riders participate in the two day events. The criterium was held in downtown Dahlonega on the square along with a big bike expo and registration for the next morning century. This insured that each race had around 1000 spectators lining the entire course. The course was fast and technical with a round-about around the historic courthouse then down a straightway to the start finish up a hill in front the North Georgia University into a left and then right turn back onto the start finish straight. Barriers the entire course and very spectator friendly. I rode the 55+ race along with the 45+ race. We had real horsepower in the pack with two category 1 riders from the Changing Diabetes development team and Steve Carrell the Master’s World Champion in the 45+ group. I was really concerned about the narrow course (one lane wide most of the way) and the barriers. I didn’t need to worry too much since the pace was balls to the wall the entire time (never dropped below 25 mph) and the pack only would bunch up on the climb. It was a war of attrition and no strategy on my part except to survive. The two Changing Diabetes riders went off the front and I managed to hang with the pack until we were down to about 12 left. They pulled lapped riders so it was nice being one of the few left on the course at the end. I finished on the podium in 3rd in the 55+ and picked up some nice cash as a result.
The next day was rather incredible for a century. There were 3000 riders all going off together and the pace out of the gate was incredibly fast. This is a true grand fondo with chip timing and KOM competition on two the major climbs. There are 6 gaps which all register 2 or 3 on Strava (probably hors or 1 on Map My Ride). The two biggest, Hogspen and Wolfpen were apparently part of the Tour of Georgia and are each around 7 mile climbs. Hogspen had extended grades of 13-15%. I was thinking for the longest time that I couldn’t get into my 28 on the rear and was cussing my bike until I realized I was in the 28 and the climb was just brutal.
The record for the course is only 5 hours and 6 minutes so any time under about 7 hours is considered pretty good. Riders have 12 hours to complete the event. I finished in about 6 hours and 15 minutes which I felt good with for a first time ride. The descents were a rush. I came off Hogspen passing cars at 52 mph coasting because I had compact gearing. I probably could have set a PR speed record with more gear and clear road! If you want a challenge and a fun weekend I would recommend looking into this ride. Now that I know what to expect I will probably go back next year and try to get under 6 hours.
by Tom Gee