Riding This Week


Chainbuster MTB Racing Series - Georgia's friendliest MTB racing. 6 & 9 Hour Endurance racing for solo or teams.

Dirty Spokes - Duathlon and Trail running series. Love these guys. First class events.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The GAP's

The Six Gap Century held every September
There's a phrase that cyclist's in North Georgia use to describe a ride in the mountains that takes them over at least three climbs and possibly six. Those mountain climbs are called "The GAP's". They are; Neels Gap, Jack's Gap, Unicoi Gap, Hog Pen Gap, Wolf Pen Gap, and Woody Gap. If you do all six you'll have covered 70+ miles and 10,000 feet of climbing. The Tour de Georgia used many of the Gap's to add tough climbing and attract the best pro riders. At the top of  Jack's Gap if you want to add the word "Epic" to the days ride you can take a turn and climb the famous Brass Town Bald Mountain. This climb will make you cry for your mommy.
Stephen and Casey get ready to climb.
I've ridden the Gap's many times and in many orders. You can start in Helen. You can start in Dahlonega. You can start at the Stone Pile or Turner's Corner. The beauty of the Gap's is that wherever you start from you can make a loop right back to it. The only thing you need to tell your buddies is where to meet. If you ride them one way this weekend you can do the same route backwards the next weekend and it's totally different. The Gap's are feared by some and revered by others. Every cyclist knows about The Gap's. But not every cyclist has ridden them. Such was the case for my friend Lt. Governor Casey Cagle.

Casey Cagle and Stephen Sisk climb Neel's Gap
He's talked to me about them on several occasions. "Do you think I can ride them?", "How hard is it?", "Do I have the right gearing for it?" The inquisition became greater after he found out he'd be starting the riders at this year's Six Gap Century. As we build up to The Lt. Governor's Century ride on October 15th things are getting very exciting. He and I have talked about what riders in Georgia like and how to make his benefit for FCA the best it can be. One thing he wanted to be able to say is that he's ridden the Gap's. So this Sunday afternoon we started from Turner's Corner and rode Neels, Wolf Pen, and Woody's.

Casey on Hwy 180 after the Wolf Pen Climb
Not knowing how he needed to pace himself was probably his biggest challenge. Neel's Gap is a 7 mile climb that took us almost an hour. I slowly paced us up while Stephen gave Casey some tips on climbing. And what a beautiful day! 78 degrees! Breezy! Sunny! Perfect for suffering. Once at the top it was time to evaluate. Do we turn around and call it a day or do we continue the journey? Reaching the top of his first "Gap" was a victory for sure but I think Casey knew he would've gone harder. There were still two unknown climbs to go and he was under some purely unintended peer pressure. He had no intention of stopping. As we got ready to leave I saw a guy coming down the stairs from the store with a goofy grin on his face. He was wearing a leather jacket like some Harley rider but was too small and gangly to make me worry. As he got closer I recognized him as my friend Stephen Dean. He was riding motor bikes with his father in law. I told him he should be on a pedal bike and he told me lies about his intentions this winter. I like Stephen Dean, he's funny.

We descended Neels and started the fun and exciting Wolf Pen Gap climb. Casey was taking it easy I could tell because he was able to carry on a conversation with us. We didn't care because we understood what he was going through. Being unsure of the obstacles ahead can drain you mentally and physically. You stay tense and end up using more energy. But Stephen and I also knew that once we got done he would be so excited. It's fun knowing how someone else is going to feel. I mean emotionally. Physically he may be telling a different story.

We rolled through Suches and up over Woody Gap and then a long fast decent down to the Stone Pile. All brand new to Casey. What a scary/thrilling ride it must have been for him. On our way back to Turner's Corner we worked on drafting. Casey rides by himself a lot so like all newbies he stayed back too far or rode outside the draft. He was uncomfortable being close behind another rider. On the way back home Stephen and I shared our thoughts on drafting in cycling.

Drafting Example

First off there's a trust between riders that is magnified on group rides. If you're drafting behind a rider you need to assume several things;
1. He knows not to hit his brakes. 2. He knows not to swerve unexpectedly. 3. He knows not to surge and slow, surge and slow. 4. He knows to tell you about dangerous objects or holes in the road and moves over slowly to avoid them.
You should assume these things until a rider demonstrates he doesn't understand his responsibility in this regard. You then have the right to correct him in a manner that reflects the danger of the situation he may have just put you in.
Beyond that, drafting is a valuable way to survive a hard ride and/or win a race. It's widely known that drafting a rider saves you 30% of your energy. In other words the guy on the front is working 30% harder to go at the same speed you are. If you aren't as strong as the guys you're with then you need to use all the draft you can. And believe me they don't mind. They'd rather you rotate off the front quickly than to blow yourself up and loose contact with the group. You can really over think the whole thing if you're not careful. Bottom line is ride in groups to get better at drafting.

Me, Stephen Sisk, Casey Cagle on top of Woody's Gap
 Well we made it. Three Gaps from Turner's Corner. Another great Gap's ride for me and Stephen and an Epic ride for Casey Cagle. Time to eat, sleep and be merry. Now I'm pumped for the Six Gap Century this weekend! Something great always happens on an epic ride like that. I'll be at the start line with a white balloon so my friends can find me. Join us for a great time in the "Gap's"!

But don't think riding in the mountains is all I did this weekend. Oh no my friends! It was time for the Dawgs to catch up with all the other, smarter schools who start their schedules by playing teams you've never heard of like Kent State or Florida Atlantic or Middle Tennessee State. This week we took on the powerhouse of Coastal Carolina! This is the type of game you can get extra tickets for so we took the kids.
 I've also spent some time painting the routes for the Lt. Governors Century for FCA on October 15th. It's going to be a great ride for a great cause. Stay tuned for some cool new announcements about the lunch after the ride!
Homer, GA is half way for the 100 mile riders.
During my birthday celebration week I garnered a lot of advice from friends and relatives. We're talking everything from "Now it's time to act your Age" to "Let the party continue..". I take all advice and give it it's due attention. For me there's advice that is battle tested and foundational. The people I trust in this world are on a very short list. I don't trust the Internet. I'm not a self help book reader. No, when it comes to getting guidance about my life there's always something solid for me in the Bible.

Titus 2:2
Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love, and in 
"Worthy of respect! What a goal for our lives whether we are men or women! Don't you want your life to reflect the character of God because our faith expresses itself in a life of self-control. This work of the Spirit in our lives happens only as we dedicate ourselves to being what he is at work trying to accomplish in us."

Thanks for reading! Hope to see you out there!


1 comment:

  1. Chad, great photos. I have not seen Casey on a bike since 2008 Tour de Georgia (I managed the PR), so good to see him on the big climbs. I'd love to use 1-2 of your photos in a Six Gap story for Florida Cycling Magazine, so please contact me and let me know if you can send by Friday, Sept 30. - Jackie Tyson (sportspr at pelotonsports.net)