Six Gap Century Ride Report
Here is the detailed ride report from Six Gap … looking for power/heartrate or quick summary … look no further than this previous post!
Saturday – Analise’s morning soccer game got cancelled so I spent a leisurely morning working on a Nintendo balance board research project. My friend Brad Mabry picked me up around 11:30 and we headed out on the three and half hour drive from Birmingham to Dahlonega to pick up our six gap stuff and race the crit at 8:30PM. Checking in for the century and for the race took less than 20 minutes, so we still had nearly 3 hours to kill before I was ready to start warming up for the crit. We hit up the Starbucks and saw that the Clemson – FSU game was on the big screen and proceeded to watch nearly the entire game at the Starbucks in the student center. Clemson won (go tigers!) The hour long race was hard and fast, and I ended up winning three cash primes. Goofed up the finish, but still really enjoyed the race and atmosphere. Read the race report here.
Sunday – We were staying at Brad’s family lake house on the north side of Lake Lanier so we had a short 30 minute drive in the morning to get to the start of the Six Gap Century at the high school in Dahlonega. After finishing the crit at 9:30PM, 5:30AM Sunday morning came awfully early. We left at that time so that we could make it into the high school parking lot before it filled up. I’m glad we did because it was amazing how fast that lot filled up with cars after we arrived. At about 7:15 we rolled down to the start line and there was already hundreds of riders lined up. Thankfully, there was a section cordoned off at the front for people who expected to finish in under 6 hours. I headed to this area and waited the last few minutes as the Lieutenant Governor got us on our way promptly at 7:30.
I was at the back of the cordoned off area with easily 100 riders in front and close to three thousand behind. Many of those riders joined into our lead group of probably 300 or more riders? I was happy that I was so far forward in this group, but it was still very tricky during the first few miles of the ride with the natural surges in the group over the rolling hills. By the time we made it to the GA 60 climb, the group had started to thin out. By the top of the GA 60 climb, the group was really trimmed down to maybe less than 100 riders. This group stayed together until the bottom of the Neels Gap climb when we turned onto US129.
Alexey Schmidt (Team Type I) was at the front drilling it up the bottom of Neels Gap. I had moved up into maybe the top 50 or so by this point so was still getting a nice draft at 21-22 mph up the flatter lower slopes of the climb. As the climb steepened, people from the front started to fall off the pace. Eventually, I found myself only a few riders back from the very front by the top of the first part of the Neels Gap climb. We went down the descent pretty hard, and immediately into the second part of the climb Alexey picked up the pace again. Starting from this fast pace, Mike Stone (Hincapie Devo) surged hard. I came around a couple riders to get on Mike’s wheel. After Mike pulled off, I gave a hard pull and looked back to find only one other rider with us – Jimmy Schurman (Chemstar). We traded pace all the way up the rest of the climb and settled down into a hard 325+ watt effort.
Once we made it to the top, we flew down the other side, rotating all the way down to the turn onto 180, where we continued a good hard rotation all the way up Jack’s Gap and down the other side. We finally started talking to each other a bit towards the top of the Unicoi Gap climb, and we all decided it would be a good idea to stop at the top to refuel. We made it a pretty short stop and began the descent. I was leading the way and really enjoying the descent with Mike behind me when I came into one of the decreasing radius turns a bit too hot. After the next two switchbacks, I looked back and noticed that there was nobody behind me. My first thought was “oh no, Mike has gone off the cliff”, so I stopped and started to head back up the climb back to find Mike. Jimmy appeared a couple seconds later and hollered that Mike had flatted. I turned around again to catch onto Jimmy and we continued on down the descent.
As we made our way to bottom of the Hogpen Gap climb, Alexey Schmidt, Jan Kolar (Birmingham Bicycle Company), Donald Davis (Subaru), and maybe one other rider caught up to us. It took Jimmy and I both completely by surprise because we thought that the next riders were minutes behind. They were really pushing the pace hard with Alexey taking us into the bottom of Hogpen at a really fast pace. At the timing strip, Jimmy and I picked up the pace again and were on our own. Jimmy was pushing it really hard and pretty soon I found myself hanging onto his wheel trying not to let any gap open. I made it to the 3.1 miles to go sign where the road is really steep before coming off Jimmy’s wheel. Once I was off, I settled back into a slower, wiped out rhythm about 25-50 watts below threshold. I could see Jimmy almost all the way to the top, but had lost sight of him completely with 1k to go. So I’m thinking he ended up doing the climb 1-2 minutes faster than me.
I went straight across the top, and caught Jimmy by the bottom of Hogpen hitting 56.5mph along the way and railing the corners at 45+mph. The Hogpen descent is relatively straight though without the major switchbacks of some of the other descents. From this point on, we were pretty much committed to finishing together. We pushed it hard back to 180 and then the initial climb towards Wolfpen. When we made it to Wolfpen, we started to pass the 3 Gap – 50 mile riders. We had to negotiate our way through them since we were going maybe 5-10mph faster up the climb. It was really fun though to see all the different people challenging themselves on the ride.
By the top of Wolfpen, I was down to just a plastic 1/2 liter bottle of water in my back pocket so I figured I would make a quick stop at the rest stop. Unfortunately, it was jammed packed with people so I opted to stretch out that 1/2 liter for the last 25 miles or so figuring that we had a lot of downhill left in the ride and not much uphill. This worked out well because I ended up finishing without cramping and with a couple sips of water left. We chatted a lot about races between Wolfpen and Woody Gap, and it was nice to reflect on a long racing season. Jimmy still has more racing to go this year heading to New Zealand for Tour of the Southland. I expect with the climbing form he has now that he will be doing very well in that race!
After the Woody descent, we picked the pace back up again and pushed it hard through the time trial course that was used in the Dahlonega Omnium a couple years ago. We continued passing 3-gappers along the way, and the finish at the high school came much quicker than I expected. Jimmy and I crossed the line together just shy of the course record by a minute or so. It was an amazing event, and I am looking forward to next year!