Posts tagged ‘mtb’

Epic Skyway Epic

Quick summary – 2nd place behind Adam Gaubert from Texas although I did snag the $100 bill for the KOM at the top of one of only eleven Cat 2 climbs (currently) in Alabama. Sometimes the stats don’t do a race justice, but here they are: 60ish miles in just under 4 hours, 8 minutes. I didn’t have a wheel speed sensor so I’m guessing I must have lost satellite a few times to come up under 60 miles. It felt like 100+ miles, though.

Heartrate summary for the skyway epic

2012 Skyway Epic annotated heartrate data

The details – what an amazing job Brent did start to finish with this race. The mass start was creative with all 60+ riders lined up at the end of the boat dock area giving us plenty of room to charge all the way up the entrance area to a grassy cordoned off chute which led into the single track. Adam Gaubert, Jeff Clayton, and Lennie Moon (Team Momentum) entered in the single track in that order. Behind them I believe it was David Darden (BiciCoop), maybe one or two other riders, Ed Merritt (BiciCoop), and then me (Tria Cycling p/b and Infinty Med-i-spa). I was able to keep up no problem through the single track, but Adam and Jeff were destroying the singletrack and had quite a lead by the end.

As soon as we made it out of the singletrack onto the dam, I attacked hard to start to close the gap to the leaders. I passed Lennie and David on the climb after the dam and continued to drive it hard onto Wiregrass Rd (dirt/gravel forest road). After a mile or two, I could see the leaders up ahead and I was closing pretty fast. Once I caught onto the back of them, we entered into a pretty good 3-way rotation going into the bottom of the climb. I took a hard pull and got a gap about 1/3rd of the way up the climb so I drilled it. The climb was long, though, and once we hit the skyway portion of the climb, the road was much rougher and I had problems finding a good line so Adam was closing in on me. Thankfully, the climb leveled out a bit and got smoother shortly before the top so I was able to lock out the front suspension, stand up and give it one more burst to reach the KOM first and grab the $100 bill.

The effort for the KOM really cost me, though, as I was cooked. I stopped to stuff the $100 deep down in my jersey pocket, and Adam flew by me while I was stopped. I got started again and went through the most challenging part of the course at maybe twice the speed that I had gone when I pre-rode the course in February. But Adam continued to put time on me all the way to the turnaround. It looked like he was 30 seconds or so ahead of me by the turnaround. I still had a bottle and a half of gatorade so I just stopped briefly to grab the proof necklace before setting off in pursuit of Adam. I was hoping that I could catch him on the climb so I could follow his line through all the rough sections – but it wasn’t to be. It was awesome as all the outbound racers were shouting encouragement and giving me time splits to Adam. It started out as 30 second time splits, but eventually it went up into the minute or 2 minute range. I believe he had 3 minutes by the bottom of the
descent back down the KOM climb.

I think I kept the gap there until close to the end where he still had 3 minutes at the last aid station. I stopped there to get some cold coke, banana, and water. This was a very important stop because I really couldn’t figure out how to eat or drink during the singletrack sections so I did that last 10 miles with only one or two sips of water. It was in this last singletrack section that Jeff Clayton (Georgia Neurological Institute) came flying up to me out of nowhere. I immediately let him by thinking that I could hop on his wheel and follow his lines. This lasted for LESS THAN 5 SECONDS as I lost it on the very first turn crashing hard. My bars were stuck on the wrong side of the top tube and it took a few seconds to yank them back across the top tube (I’m glad I went with aluminum instead of carbon fiber).

I had already resigned myself to riding as hard as possible to try to finish on the last step of the podium when on the next hill I started to come up on Jeff pretty fast … my first thought was that he must have popped himself trying to distance me, but then I realized that he had a completely flat rear tire. I came around him thinking that he would have no problem stopping to change the tire and then catching back up to me again. So I could never really let up off the pace … but as it turns out, Jeff couldn’t get the tire to hold air so he had to ride in the last several miles on the flat – and yet he still held on for third!

Kristine snagged a few videos … one of me coming out of the final singletrack and another of me finishing a minute or two later and one of Josiah asking if I was in this race … good stuff!

May 20, 2012 at 9:15 pm 1 comment

Southern Cross hi-res 2D and 3D topo maps

I don’t know why I never thought of making one of these before for the Southern Cross race course, but the topography is really cool and it certainly shows in the maps below … enjoy! Also, I noticed while doing the maps that the course enters 4 different counties. With a slight route change, it could be a five county race!

Southern Cross 2D map (click to enlarge)

Southern Cross 3D map (click to enlarge)

March 3, 2012 at 11:47 pm Leave a comment

More racing, riding, and climbing

Wow, what another great trip up to Dahlonega for the Southern Cross bike race, and the trip is not even over yet! On Friday, I biked into work, taught class, biked home and put my road bike directly into the already packed car for a 4 hour drive to the beautiful mountains of North Georgia. I arrived at the Hiker Hostel with just enough time to get in a short road ride. It was really windy, but I thoroughly enjoyed a nice relaxing ride climbing Woody Gap from two different starting points. I finished about 20 minutes after sunset so it was pretty dark by the end. I’m going to save the pictures and videos for that ride for another post (although there is one video at the end showing how windy it was on friday night after I finished the ride and made it back to the hiker hostel)

But first, here is a race report from today’s race where I was very happy to finish third knocking more than 4 minutes off of my time from last year even though most of the times that I saw seemed to be a bit slower than last year due to the incredible winds up on the mountains today. The big difference for me was that I raced a much better mountain bike than last year, an aluminum StumpJumper Comp 29 with lockout suspension. Before the report, check out this video of people finishing up their 50 mile race on the close to max 100% gradient (45 degrees) run-up through the Monte Luce winery.

By this point in the race, I was so tired that I had to turn this entire run-up into a series of switchbacks. How did I get there? By way of an awesome combination of cyclocross course, paved roads, lots and lots of forest service roads, and even a tiny bit of single-track at the end. Here’s how the race played out:

The opening 1.6 mile cyclocross course
Timing chips were used this year to help with scoring and timing. While a good idea in principle, it had one slightly negative consequence – rather than starting in a wide open grassy field, we had to start on a narrow road so that the entire 300 person field could cross the timing strip. I didn’t cut my warm-up ride off soon enough, so I ended up starting on the 4th or 5th row after a very kind Joseph Dabbs let me squeeze into the spot in front of him even though people were already stacked maybe 20 rows deep? The course was nearly identical to the one from last year, and my big 2″ mountain bike tires floated over the deep grass allowing me to pass a bunch of people through the opening grassy section. Before the first run-up, a tree had fallen across the trail so this was a new obstacle for this year requiring dismount. The guy in front of me tried not to dismount and promptly endo-ed over the tree. Ouch. This year I had more confidence to ride the run-up and was able to shoot up the first 40% gradient out of the ditch and then ride the remaining 20% gradient. Of course I’m not sure how much time it saved as there were a couple guys who chose to run it and passed me as I was riding. That is definitely a first for me – I’ve never been passed by someone running while I was riding. As soon as we made it to the pavement, I locked out the front fork and flew out of the winery catching and passing everyone with Thomas Turner and Stephen Hyde in my sight just up the road (maybe 15-20 seconds?). Here is a map of the opening cyclocross section:

the opening cyclocross course (click to enlarge)

The chase group
It was a crazy head/sidewind, though, and it was an awfully big group (maybe close to 15 riders) so I opted to settle into the chase group rather than trying to bridge. The group worked well together although I ended up throwing my chain over the top of the front chainring and dropped to the back of the group as I tried to get it back on and back up into the big chainring. By the time I made it back up to the front of the group, we had just turned onto the first gravel road. Right away, one of the strong Specialized riders flatted (Garth) – the first of four flats for him for his rather unlucky day. Thomas and Stephen were still just ahead of us and still in sight, but we never could get into a cohesive chase once we hit the gravel. There were several surges and we would lose riders out the back who would then catch back up and not want to work for fear of getting shelled again.

Springer Mountain – the first climb
As the road got steeper, I realized that the chase group was pretty much done and began to settle into about as fast a pace as I wanted to go up the climb. Fortunately, there were two other riders who wanted to go slightly faster so this helped push me to dig deeper and work with them up the climb. The two riders were Nicholas Nichols and Charlie Storm. We traded pace a bit, but as it got steeper towards the top Charlie took over all of the pace-making with me hanging on … barely. Nicholas came off somewhere in the middle. Once we made it to the top, I came to the front and rallied the pace again through the long headwind section and into the first downhill. This downhill was super, super fast and fun last year. It was fun this year, too, but not fast because there was a crazy 30+mph headwind blowing back up the forest road. It was literally holding you up on the downhill – no braking required and lots of pedaling over what was a 40+mph downhill last year.

High House Mountain descent
We made it through the rolling section and to the High House Mountain descent, which was the first really long descent. Charlie was flying down the mountain, and I was having trouble keeping up on some of the super tight turns. In one of these, we ended up catching a pick-up truck. Charlie was able to make it around cleanly, but I had to wait just a second or two for the road to open up to squeeze around. That meant that the rest of the descent was crazy fast as I was trying to keep Charlie in sight. I ended up catching him at the very bottom just as we were making it back out onto the short pavement section.

Hawk Mountain – climb #2
We traded pace well on the pavement and then into the next climb, which is the long, gradual climb that gets steeper as you get closer to the top. I started to struggle having to dig pretty deep to keep up with Charlie’s pulls but he still seemed content to go with my slower pace when it was my turn to pull. Once we got close to the aid station where it is really steep, I switched into just hang on mode and Charlie pulled the last 1/2 mile up the climb. He was out of water and had to stop, though. I still had half a bottle so I continued on desperately wanting/needing some gels/calories. It was really rough across the top though so it was hard to find a good time to reach into my pocket to get a gel – fortunately over the next mile or two I found two gels in my pocket and was able to get them both down before the descent. There were some pretty bad headwinds and steep climbs through this section, and I was going so slow I expected Charlie to catch and blow by me at any minute. But I found out after the race that he had gotten a flat while trying to chase back up to me. He still managed to fix the flat and finish 4th.

Sassafras Mountain descent
This descent was super steep and fast – definitely the funnest part of the course this year. There were several switchbacks that you could see through and ride a straight line going from one inside line to the next. It was awesome! I beat my time from last year on this descent by nearly a minute – which is crazy considering how crazy fast I thought the descent was trying to hold Gerry Pflug’s rear wheel last year.

Agonizing paved section back to the winery
What made this agonizing wasn’t the course or even the wind, but rather how bonked/tired I was by this point – plus, I kept looking back thinking that I would see Charlie and/or a small group closing in to take away the final spot on the podium so I couldn’t let up. I had to just keep going as hard as I could go. Fortunately, I still couldn’t see anybody when I made it to the winery for the final cyclocross section of the race

The final cyclocross section
I knew the final cyclocross section would start out with the crazy steep run-up, but it certainly seemed like it was even steeper than last year. And I mean impossibly steep like maybe 100% max gradient coming out of the ditch (45 degree angle). I don’t see how anyone could ride up it, but I know that Thomas and Zach (the guy who got 5th place) both rode up it! I not only didn’t ride up it, I didn’t even run straight up it. Instead I switchbacked the entire thing (check out this zoomed in satellite view of my run-up). Once I made it to the top of this hill and still hadn’t seen anybody I felt pretty good that I was going to hold on for third – but even then I couldn’t let up. The return course was pretty much the same as last year diving back down the hill on the other side of the grapevines and then climbing up the super steep paved road that we descended at the beginning of the race. Then it was down through the woods in a short single track section, but rather than taking us back across the bridge, this time we had to ride through two creek crossings. I made it across the first one, but I was in the wrong gear and couldn’t make it up the grassy section across the top. This turned out to be OK though b/c the next crossing was not rideable (for me) so I just ran all the way across it. And at this point I just kept on running. I didn’t even want to get back on my bike for the next steep grassy hill so I decided to run up it instead. Finally, once I made it to the very top of the grassy hill with nobody in sight behind me, I knew that I had it so I eased up and crossed the line in third … tired and very hungry!

Running up the final run-up in a zig-zag switchback pattern

finishing cyclocross course annotated (click to enlarge)

Cold at the start – at the last minute I opted to dump the full-fingered gloves for short-fingered gloves. And this was a great decision except for one point on the first long descent where we were heading into a crazy headwind and the temperature was only in the 30s. Definitely got some cold fingers there for a few miles.

Lots of wind at the hiker hostel on the woody gap ridge line

February 25, 2012 at 11:10 pm 4 comments

Skyway Epic plus Alabama’s Newest Cat 2 climb

I might use “epic” a few times in this post… Today was epic x3, starting with my commute into work climbing up South Cove Dr inspired by the Dirty Dozen film I watched last night describing an annual ride that goes up Pittsburgh’s toughest climbs. Then after finishing teaching, I headed back home climbing up and over Little Valley Mountain hitting 60mph on the S Cove Dr descent. Afterwards, I hopped in the car to drive 43 miles out to Lake Howard in Sylacauga to pre-ride part of the Skyway Epic course. Traffic was already pretty bad on 280 and it took over an hour to get there and get ready to ride.

I headed out about 1:30 hoping that I had enough daylight to ride the course. 4 hours 15 minutes later, I just barely had enough light left finishing about 20 minutes after sunset. Along the way, I encountered just about every possible terrain you could imagine for a mountain bike race course – flowing singletrack, a few roots/rocks in singletrack, a grassy dam, various levels of bumpiness on gravel/dirt forest service roads and rural roads, steep rocky fire roads, huge mud puddles at the bottom of each hill across the top of the ridge line, fast steep relatively smooth descents, fast loose rocks … basically everything you could imagine in a non-technical epic mountain bike race.


  1. The singletrack portion that I rode is fast and smooth … only a few rocks and roots … much, much less than the Bump trail at Oak Mountain. I only had enough daylight to ride the opening singletrack section, but there is quite a bit more singletrack that will be included for the finish of the race … has anyone rode that portion and comment on whether it is more technical or about the same as the opening singletrack?
  2. The opening county roads (Wiregrass and Rocky Mt Church) are very fast in both directions. The rollers are pretty steep, but you can fly down the descents leading into the climbs to chop off some of the work you have to do on the climbs
  3. The “big climb” of the day is much more gradual than I expected. It does, however, go on and on forever. I rode the whole thing in my 38 (big chainring)
  4. There are some rather large mud puddles all across the top of the ridge line – basically every small hill that bottoms out into another small climb will have a large mud puddle. I was able to ride around most of them, but the ones I had to ride through were not that deep even though they were HUGE taking up the entire forest service road!
  5. The most difficult part of this entire course is the DESCENT and rollers from about mile 14 to mile 18 … I went FASTER on many sections of the climb back up (mile 36 to mile 40) than I did on the descent!!!
  6. The descent to the turnaround at AL-77 is very fast and fun. There are a couple of loose gravel corners mixed in with the fast corners. It is pretty easy to see the loose ones in enough time to brake.
  7. The entire skyway portion of the ride (mile 12 to mile 42) is rough with ruts, rocks, and sometimes water. I found a few sections where you can just bomb over the ruts, but there are definitely some sections where you need to pick and choose your line through the rocks/ruts carefully. If I were to guesstimate, I’d say that 25% of mile 12 to mile 42 is really rough, 50% is moderately rough, and maybe 25% is smooth. As I mentioned before, there are definitely some rough sections that you can still fly over, but there are also some rough sections that are kinda slow (at least for me, coming from a road racing background)
  8. Overall, the course is AWESOME. It is definitely EPIC. I am very tired after having ridden only the first third of the course at near race pace and not having ridden the last several miles of singletrack. This course has something for everyone, which should really even the playing field. Plus, simply finishing the race should be reward enough for anyone who enters!

Complete ride data from Strava is here:

Here is the elevation profile and topocreator map – note that my garmin was reading a couple hundred feet lower than the real elevation. Note all the hills and the long climbs. The first long climb is Alabama’s newest Cat 2 – the climb from Rocky Mt Church Rd to the first high point on the Skyway forest service road. This brings Alabama’s Cat 2 climb total up to 9.

Elevation profile – my Garmin recorded data is shown as the dark line shifted down (reading a couple hundred feet too low) – CLICK TO ENLARGE

Annotated topocreator map of the ride – it should be fairly easy to see from the topography why this is called the “skyway epic”! CLICK TO ENLARGE

Finally, I’ll let the pictures and garmin screenshots tell the rest of the story for the day –

February 18, 2012 at 1:29 am 1 comment

83 miles of epic snow biking

Beautiful winter scene - Imagine 9 miles of riding on a snowy road through pristine winter wilderness. That was the first 9 miles of my ride!

Another amazing day of riding up here. This time I braved the snow-covered roads leaving the Telemark resort having gained confidence riding in the snow yesterday for a mile or so. It was well worth it to be in such a remote location on winding, hilly, beautiful roads and trails that pretty much paralleled the Birkie trail all the way to Hayward. If I had done the Seely fire tower climb, then I might have even crossed part of the trail. But, unfortunately, I had to turn around shortly into my ride because I had forgotten to upload the course to my Garmin. So, I turned around and headed back to meet Kristine just as she and the kids were driving out to head back to Shell Lake. Right there on the side of the Telemark entrance road, I connected my Garmin to the laptop and transferred the file. Then I set off again on what was an 83 mile, 5+ hour, mountain bike adventure.

I spent most of the morning with a good internet connection while the kids went skiing again with Kristine and Poppa Dale. I plotted out a course that would take me from Telemark back to the Cardwell house in Shell Lake over an hour away by car. The course took me onto 9 miles of untreated snow covered roads and trails behind Telemark that were just amazing and fun to ride. Spider Lake Fire Lane started out well packed from cars driving out to cabins along the road. But eventually, once I made it past the last cabin, the snow got really deep and loose since not very many cars had driven over it. Still, it was possible to go slow on the downhills with minimal fishtailing and then crush the uphills. I would imagine that my speed on some of the uphills was faster than the downhills. It’s amazing what the extra traction of a spinning tire will do. Theoretically, I suppose you could hammer the downhills and achieve the same effect but the consequences of a fall at 30+mph make me choose the more saner option of riding the rear brake gently down the hill at a comfortable 10-15mph.

For those of you who have ridden through sand, but never ridden through snow, think of packed snow the same way you would think of packed/wet sand. Loose snow, however, is just like riding through loose sand with the same fishtailing effects. The only difference is that you are expecting the fishtailing in the sand, but not on the snow when it has been hard packed and suddenly transitions to loose or when you lose the car track you were following. Also, turning on the snow is tricky. On one downhill, I was running out of room for the turn and ended up all the way on the side of the road – but it was pretty heavily banked and I ended up sliding through the turn with my wheel still pointed off to the side. This got to me to a straighter section where I could straighten out the wheel.

I only had one bike problem on the ride, when I couldn’t shift back into the big chainring. I spent a few minutes about an hour into my ride trying to figure out what was wrong and eventually just cranked the inside limiting screw until it would shift back up and that worked for the rest of the ride although I had quite a bit of chain rub on the front derailleur so that was a little annoying to have to put up with for four hours.

Here’s the ride map and interactive data from Strava -

And here is the super hi-res topocreator map -

Telemark to Shell Lake via Meteor Hill - click on the map for a super hi-res version (13MB)

Finally, enjoy the pics and Garmin screenshots that I took on the ride –

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

December 30, 2011 at 11:26 pm Leave a comment

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My mtb waiting to be pushed to brick alley, plus future cross bike??? The southminster switchbacks further up the hill plus run-in to the berm (bottom) Hwy 31 left sidewalk- hidden gem in Vestavia. Check out my road bike tracks on the berm in lower left pic.

Kristine’s ToonesFanClub

Brian Toone

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Quick reference stats

Anaerobic Threshold:
Power:315 watts
Heart rate:180 bpm
Power:1097 watts (5s)
Heart rate:198 bpm (5s)
AT power estimated by critical power curve in Golden Cheetah, which predicts I should be able to maintain 315 watts for 1 hour.

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