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.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

2012 New Years Ride

Usually on New Years Day there's a ride out of Gainesville that's become a favorite for local old school roadies. When I got the word that it was not happening this year I decided to put together my own New Years ride. I put the word out and hoped for the best and well...the best showed up.

Top of Woody Gap
I decided to start the ride at 8:00AM from Turner's Corner General Store. I reasoned that if we met early we could get back by lunch and have the rest of the day to spend with family. However the weather once we returned made my plan seem...wrong. I mean when was the last time it was 64 degrees on December 31st??? Instead of starting in 32 degrees we could have waited two hours and started in 45 degrees. But it didn't matter. The guys who showed up were ready for the weather and ready to have a great time on the bike.

Dustin Mealor's wheel change.

I brought left over stuff from 2011 to give anyone that came so if you didn't brave the cold you didn't get the swag. There were goodie bags from the Lt. Governor's ride, t-shirts from the BPBC Spring Ride, and Joe Elam gave everyone a Habersham Bicycles water bottle. I also brought all my cold weather clothing in case someone needed it. And a big bag of medical supplies...in case someone needed it.

Mike Mahalic is a newbie who actually did something newbie's seldom do. He bought a good bike. Newbie's almost always start out on the cheapest, heaviest, poorest shifting bike they can find. It puts them at a considerable disadvantage right from the start. Plus if they actually catch the cycling bug they end up loosing all that money because they figure out what they have isn't what they need. They end up selling their first bike to another poor newbie. It's a vicious cycle. (pun intended).

Mike walked up to me and asked what kind of vests I had. I gave him my wintex Hincapie vest which later proved to be his new best friend. Another newbie in attendance was Trent Smith. He's an experienced mountain biker but was joining us on what was only his second foray on the road. He was riding a "newbie" bike. I basically had to completely redress him. He was layered up like an 80's teen idol. I gave him a thermal long sleeve base layer to go over his regular short sleeve base layer and then he wore a Hincapie wintex jacket. He did have some newly purchased LG lobster claw gloves on though.

Top of Neels Gap aka Blood Mountain
 I opted for my new LG winter bibs and my trusty Hincapie cycling coat. It only seemed like too much during the climb on Wolf Pen when Robert "Young Punk" Loomis drove the pace up until my eyeballs popped out. Otherwise it was perfect.

We set out and climbed our first of three main obstacles for the day Neels Gap or as it's locally known Blood Mountain. This is a long climb. Although not super steep the time spent going up gets in your head. I could feel the nervous energy coming from our two first timers. Trent is a twenty something and a bit kamikaze so it was no surprise to see him powering along with the lead group. Mike however is more cautious. He was trying to pace himself in the face of the unknown. I give him 5 points for being willing to take on the GAP's. Trent gets no credit. He'd jump off the mountain if you told him it would be fun.

Joe Elam is the owner of Habersham Bicycles. He's a great friend and a good Christian man. I'm impressed so much with his integrity that I don't mind constantly shamelessly promoting his shop. Lately he's admitted to being a bit lazy and not riding much so I knew he'd be suffering as well. I've ridden with Joe many times and I can always tell when he's operating at his limit. His breathing becomes more like an epic battle of bodily forces. It's like his mind is saying "keep going", his legs are saying "you can do this", but his lungs are saying "this air is terrible!" He sounds like a sneezing horse. Like his body is rejected the quality of the oxygen in the air. It's very funny. He would say his body is rejecting the quantity of oxygen in the air. I like Joe a lot. Joe gets 5 points for breathing technique.

A good friend of mine once told me that riding in the mountains will teach you all the physics you need to know. A man who weighs 160 pounds may use less energy to get to the top than a 200 pound man but the heavier guy will  use absolutely no energy getting to the bottom and do it faster. Keep in mind I'm talking in the context of group riding, not racing. My example in this case is David Latty. He was the heaviest one of us. But what a heart and what a strong rider. When we started the decent from the top of Blood Mtn. I got passed by him and had to pedal like crazy just to stay close. David did nothing but touch his brakes to scrub speed in the sharp corners. David scores 5 points for being fearless in pursuit of victory over the mountains. The other David (Mr. Shabat) scores points for sporting the new team kit seen here and resplendent with Hayes Automotive. Double points...because they're mine to give.

Top of Wolf Pen Gap
Our next and most testing obstacle (hmm...if that were a compound word what would it be) was Wolf Pen Gap. With pitches up to 13 percent and unending switchbacks this climb seems to never end. I have to say that Wolf Pen is my favorite climb of all the GAP's. There's no traffic, lots to see, and it's a better climb mentally. My favorite phrase when climbing is "It's like eating an elephant...one bite at a time!" If I'm climbing and hanging out it doesn't matter but if I'm resolved to climb fast I need to focus on taking steps up the climb and not just "where's the top!"  So on Wolf Pen it's easy...go to the next switchback...then go to the next one...don't let your mind wonder where the top is. Concentrate only on getting to the next switchback. For me climbing is mental. Or...maybe I'm mental.

Anyway, we all rode together for a while and then like a big dummy I pushed the pace to see who wanted to hammer. Unfortunately Robert Loomis was all about it. He went to the front and shredded us all. Robert losses 10 points for beating up an old man. When I got to the top I turned around and went back down to film and check on everyone. I followed Mike Mahalic with the camera as he made the top.

On the way down the final climb we were moving at the speed of sound when I heard a most disagreeable one. It was the sound of a cell phone smashing onto the pavement. All I saw was the back of someones Smart Phone sliding by my wheel. Once we stopped at the bottom, also known as the Stone Pile, I learned it was Robert Loomis' phone. Not good. He turned around and rode back up to look for the pieces. We all said a little prayer for him and headed on back to the General Store. Our beloved SAG Driver Ralph Atkinson followed him.

We returned to Turner's Corner General Store to find Seth (the Owner) ready to make us some cheeseburgers. When Ralph drove up and I changed clothes I went inside and bought a cream soda and a Zero bar. Don't ask me why, I just wanted it. Robert showed up with a fully functional, snapped back together smart phone and a smile on his face. Each rider found me to say thanks. We all stood around for some time enjoying the sunshine and talking about our journey. It was a nice morning on the bike for some and an epic undertaking for others but we all enjoyed the ride.

On the way home Stephen Sisk and I reminisced about some crazy weather we've ridden in. We've been caught in the snow 24 miles from home. We've seen the effects of 110 degrees on tires. The Gap's always produce a story. Maybe not for us today but I'm sure our friends made great memories. Above all we remained safe. Thanks for coming guys! 10 points for everyone!


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