Tag Archives: north georgia

Jackson Brevet, 2013, Braselton, GA

Robert to his bride, "Are you ready?"

I remember when I first set foot into Disney World. It wasn’t the elaborate theme parks that immediately caught my eye. It was the distinct attention to detail. Once within the Disney compound, the landscape was carefully manicured, everything seemed clean, and it felt like a place of paradise. Every step beyond that enhanced the experience. Even when doing nothing, it was an escape just by being inside this carefully orchestrated world that by contrast, was so foreign to the one in which we live.

I found myself thinking about Disney often when riding in the Jackson Brevet, at least in terms of putting on a ride. While riding in the middle of nowhere Georgia, you are on a route that was meticulously planned by Robert W to honor his wife Kelly by raising money for aplastic anemia research. The markings are ever-present. The rest stops are fun and vibrant. The pre-ride announcements are actually engaging, and at times, moving. Even with a last minute detour, the mileage was exact — a rarity in the world of charity rides. This was his baby, and it showed while we punished ourselves by riding 102 miles on a hot day.

The ride was released in stages, but Jack and I were fortunate enough to participate in the lead out group. This was just a few riders that followed Robert, Kelly, Lt. Governor Casey Cagle, and others. We rode slowly, waving to the Braselton locals who came out to see us off. It was a celebratory way to start the ride. After settling in with the peleton and riding a few miles, Robert showed up at an intersection to high five riders as they pass by. Of all the rides in which I’ve participated, this one had the most involvement from its host. And that’s a good thing.

The passionate ride organizer.

Robert Wilhite, the passionate ride organizer.

The riders were divided into three pace groups: 20+, 16-19, or anything below. We rode at the front of the 16-19 crowd, not wanting to push too hard, but ended up settling in with the 20+ crowd.

We were pleased to join a group being paced by the Sky Blue team. They were strong riders, who were clearly riding below their ability in order to pull the group. We were glad to have them, and the first 40 or so miles whirred by seemingly without effort. There were plenty of hills, but they were not the punishing variety that I am used to. The grades were sometimes 1-3%, which is barely noticeable in the right group. I looked down at my Garmin at one point, and found myself surprised that we had climbed so much.

One of the things I loved about this ride was the rest stop contest. Whoever had the most decorative rest stop would win a prize. The volunteers took it a step further by acting out their theme. There was a rock n’ roll stop where a guy was dressed up like a rock star (was it Elvis? Jimi Hendrix?). The winning rest stop was a version of the Wizard of Oz. They had people everywhere dressed up in Oz themed costumes, even a scarecrow. A dog wandered onto the “set” and they screamed that they finally had their Toto! When you’re pushing yourself to your physical limits, it’s nice to have something fun and distracting, and this really added to the ride experience.

The winning rest stop. There's no place like ... rest stop #4.

The winning rest stop. There’s no place like … rest stop #4.

The roads were terrific. We were far out in the country, with hardly any traffic, and they were almost always smooth as silk. That’s probably a credit to Georgia DOT as much as it is the guy who chose the route. We need to put some of them to work in the Carolinas!

Around mile 60, things started to get difficult. The sun was out in full force, and the temperature was slowly rising. It didn’t help that the hills started to have more bite, or maybe it just felt that way. We were climbing a lot, and with each hill, it was becoming tougher to keep up with my pacemakers.

Heat has never been kind to me, and we rarely had any shade on this route. I was already cracking by mile 70. We hit a steep hill shortly afterward. The initial pitch wasn’t long, maybe a quarter mile or so, but it reached a 13-14% grade that hurt. That was it for me and the group. I simply couldn’t handle such a pace in these conditions.

I felt myself in cramp territory, which is a rarity for me. I muscled it out to the next rest stop. Their theme was the famous Varsity restaurant. They didn’t have the grease, but they DID have pickles. Those hit the spot, and got me fresh again. Jack and I waited for the next group.

I was feeling rejuvenated, ready to go again, and stuck with this group another 10 or so miles. Then the hills struck again. A guy in front of me fell back with debilitating cramps. I slowed to make sure he was alright, which was just long enough to let the group go. Sigh, I wasn’t catching them again. As the temperature rose even further, it wouldn’t matter.

This was the last group I latched onto, and dropped from.

This was the last group I latched onto, and dropped from.

As we approached the last dozen miles, I was in no mans land. Occasionally I was able to draft off a larger fellow who called himself Diesel, but he couldn’t stay with me on the hills. I limped to the finish line, pleased to complete my third century in an injury-ridden year, but still exhausted and spent.

Again, I cannot thank the organizers enough. Jack and I agreed that this was logistically the best ride we had ever been on. In some ways, we felt spoiled out there. We just had to ride our bikes and they did everything else. The volunteers were terrific, and made a tough day a lot easier. We’ll be back.

Strava Link (inaccurate elevation, should be around 5k)


September 2012: The Last Hurrah

Last climb of Grandfather

While it is easy to get carried away with my distant 2013 plans, but there are still a few things to be done in the 2012 season. This September will be my biggest month of the year, with two of my A events taking place in the middle and end of the month.

First will be a tune-up to hopefully jump-start my fitness. This weekend will be the Tour de Paws outside of Spartanburg. It is a metric century with rolling hills, which is perfect at this point of my training. My plan will be to try and stay with the front pack. I haven’t been riding as strongly recently, so that might not work out. All that matters is that I get quality miles to prepare me for the following week.

After a short taper, I will be revisiting familiar ground. I’ll be back in Lenoir, NC for Bridge to Bridge. I have fond memories of climbing out of the clouds last year, but this time I am hoping for some better weather for the rest of the ride. I’m not thrilled about climbing Grandfather Mountain again, but I know that it can be done.

After that is a free weekend, and there is a slight chance that I’ll travel to Johnson City, TN for their Climbing for a Cause. This would be a good opportunity to check out some of the riding there, but it all depends on how fatigued and/or broke I’ll be that weekend.

The season capper will be a mammoth ride in Georgia. It will be my first attempt at Six Gap Century, which is often mentioned as one of the toughest rides in the southeast. I previewed some of the gaps not too long ago, including Hogpen Gap, which will be the toughest climb of the day.

Phew, I get tired even thinking about it. The good news is that my season officially ends after Six Gap. There will be some other events, but they are going to be casual rides. This will be the last that I ‘push it’ in 2012.

New Section: Routes

A lot of the stuff I add to the website are things that I would want for myself. For example, my Climbs section was started because I was spending a lot of time looking for interesting roads to climb when training for my first Mitchell. It grew from there.

The Routes section came from the same place. When I am in the Blue Ridge area, I often don’t have time to seek out group rides to show me around. I am always looking for convenient routes that I can take by myself. I find a lot of them on the internet, and some I make for myself. It would have been amazing had there been a single resource where I could find them all. If I cannot find it, why not create it?

This section was conceived a few months ago when I was training for my second Mitchell. It would have been too time consuming to put together a list of cue sheets like the Blue Ridge Bicycle Club has done to perfection. Instead I decided to use newer technology and use RideWithGPS links. Because people all over use this software, the content is vast and limitless. It also allows people to view the route on a map, see the elevation profile, and download it to their GPS device.

To begin, I asked a few friends if I could use theirs. Special thanks go to Neil Turner, Michael Powell, Scott Baker, John McSwain, and Jeff Dilcher for providing a starting point.

As of right now, we have routes that begin in Spartanburg, North Greenville, Brevard, Sylva, Tryon, Atlanta, and the North Georgia Mountains. In time we will add plenty more.

I am looking for a good source of content for routes out all over the Southeast, but I would specifically like to find some from Asheville, Boone, and Roanoke. If you know of anyone who creates these for your town, please send them my way.

Keep an eye on this section as I expect it to grow. Keep in mind that there is danger in undertaking any of these routes. You’ll notice a disclaimer on every page for a reason. Do your research and make sure you are equipped before trying these. While some are easy, others are epic rides that few people can accomplish on their own.

Steep Climbs Routes

South Carolina Routes
North Carolina Routes
Georgia Routes