Sunday, December 25, 2011

Planning a New Century Ride

This is an exercise in event organization.  I don't know if it will amount to anything but, who knows, maybe it will.  It sure would be nice to have another well ran century ride on the south side of Atlanta and it's a good way to advertise the Southern Crescent Cycling club too.  Since I haven't done any cycling since finishing Ironman Florida in November I thought I'd at least think about riding my bike.  My thoughts went from past century rides that I've done, to ones I've missed, and then to future rides.

Each organized century I've done seems to have it's own pluses and minuses.  They're not timed so it's usually either the course and/or support that is lacking.  Maybe lacking is too strong a word.  Where there is room for improvement is probably more accurate.  I'm sure that any Century I help plan would have it's own shortcomings, at least for the first year.  For better or worse I have organized a foot race so I have some idea of the effort such events take to complete.

I live on the south side of Atlanta in what is often called the southern crescent.  The southern crescent is primarily the region of Atlanta that encompasses Fayette, Clayton, and Henry counties.

So, let's plan our perfect century.  To start I reviewed a list of local Century ride routes and Southern Crescent Cycling club ride routes.  Most of our club rides start and finish in Henry County.  The Century ride courses I reviewed are the Tour of Faith, Wilson 100, Dog Days 100, Tour de Pike, and Hospitality Highway (GA400) Century (HHC).

My thoughts are to use portions of these rides (except the HHC) because they were hopefully created by local riders using the best roads in each area.  A lesser benefit is that the residents that live along these routes should be familiar with seeing cyclists on the street.  Rider safety is paramount.  You're not gonna care about the ugly shirt you got if you're dead!  I tried to take into account the volunteer's ability to support riders on the course and to minimize the number of turns.  If a turn had to be made then a right turn is preferred.  A counter clockwise looped course helps in this regard.

I rode the inaugural Dog Days 100 century in August 2011.  The route was out and back with few turns.  Riders passed the same point twice making for easier rider support and thereby allowing for fewer well stocked water stations needed to serve riders well.

Dog Days 100 - Griffin, GA
I haven't ridden the Tour de Pike Century but, again, it appears easy to support.  Especially when considering shorter course riders.

Tour de Pike - Concord, GA
The Wilson 100 has arguably the best course of any Atlanta area Century.  I haven't ridden the Tony Serrano or Covington Centuries either so, I could be wrong.  What makes the Wilson 100 course so good is that the roads are all in rural Georgia with few vehicles to share the road with and few turns.  It's also well supported.

Wilson 100 - Senoia, GA
Tony Serrano Century - Monroe, GA
Covington Century - Covington, GA
I haven't ridden the Tour of Faith course either but I see two things that make it interesting.  The course seems to lend itself to easy support and distance reduction, should one need or desire either.  Volunteers and riders at various points along the course can easily make the transition from the outward bound portion of the course to the return portion.  Volunteers at mile 30 can move to mile 75 a few hours into the ride to help support riders returning to the start/finish.

Tour of Faith - Peachtree City, GA
Other Centuries like the Hospitality Highway Century in Roswell offer several things to think about.  I did this ride in 2011 and really liked it.  The ride has awesome local government and volunteer support in addition to some TV news coverage.  If I had any criticism of the 100 mile course it would be that it's hilly and has a lot of turns. 

Hospitality Highway Century - Roswell, GA
My proposed Southern Crescent Century is shown below with the portions of other Centuries indicated in red.  The "TT" is for a short portion of the course where my bike club had a time trial in the spring.  The "BDR" stands for Big Dam Ride which is another club ride and, as one might imagine, "Club Route" indicates a portion of the course that the club rides often near the Atlanta Motor Speedway.  Ultimately, this route includes about 75 miles out of 102 miles from previously mapped routes.

Proposed Southern Crescent Century Course - Hampton, GA
So, once a route has been decided upon, what's next?  Well, you've got to have a name.  I'm leaning toward Southern Crescent Century.  Now, what about a date?  That's a tougher nut to crack.  I suppose any date will have to take into account other events so that the maximum number of participants and volunteers show up.  You wouldn't want to schedule it on the same weekend as a UGA football game or Atlanta Motor Speedway (AMS) NASCAR race.  Very little can be done about the weather other than choosing a date that's not during a time of the year that's too hot or cold.  What about a venue?  The Atlanta Motor Speedway is one option, I suppose.  I'm sure there are others.  Higher Living Christian Church on Mt. Carmel Road might be a second option.  The church is the start location of the annual Pacemaker 5000 5K foot race.

What about water stations?  How many are needed and where should they be located?  I've estimated about seven water stations would be adequate including one at the start/finish.  I've also indicated the distance from the start/finish to each water station via the shortest distance a support vehicle might have to travel.
  • Start/Finish AMS (subtract 6 miles for a Higher Living church venue start)
  • Mile 14 - McDonough (14 miles from the start)
  • Mile 30 - Jackson (24 miles from the start)
  • Mile 44 - High Falls State Park (32 miles from the start)
  • Mile 57 - Orchard Hill (19 miles from the start)
  • Mile 69 - Zebulon (22 miles from the start)
  • Mile 88 - Brooks (19 miles from the start)
Given the list above, volunteers would need to man each water station as follows.  Keeping in mind that the slowest rider should complete the full 102 mile ride in 8 hours at a 12.75mph average pace and the fastest rider in 4 hours at a 25.5mph average pace.  The times are calculated from an 8am start time.
  • Start/Finish AMS - 8am-4pm (6am-6pm providing 2 hours before and after the ride) 
  • Mile 14 - McDonough - 8:30am-9:06am
  • Mile 30 - Jackson - 9:10am-10:22am
  • Mile 44 - High Falls State Park - 9:40am-11:27pm
  • Mile 57 - Orchard Hill - 10:10am-12:29pm
  • Mile 69 - Zebulon - 10:30am-1:25pm
  • Mile 88 - Brooks - 11:20am-2:54pm
Volunteers at the water station in McDonough could move to High Falls State Park.  It's a 24 mile/30 minute drive.  Volunteers in Jackson could move to Brooks.  It's a 36 mile/50 minute drive.

With the 100 mile course identified, what else needs to be considered?  Other shorter courses are a must.  Not everyone is willing or able to ride 100 miles.  A 50 mile and 25 mile course should also be identified.  Support and Gear (SAG) Wagons are a must.  You can't plan for everything so several SAG vehicles would be needed.  I think that's doable!  Sponsors would be good.  I hate begging for money so lets just say someone else will do this.  What about event shirts?  Should they be cotton, technical, and/or jersey?  What about the artwork? 

Other things to consider are:
  • Port-a-potties and restroom locations, signage and course marking, food and fluids, registration forms, waivers, dates and pricing, printed maps and signs, permits, insurance, etc.
Venue Options:
County Government Coordination:
City Government Coordination
Other events:
 * Rides with greater fee variations are due to event shirt purchase options.

So, will this ride be on your 2012 schedule?  I don't even know if it will be on mine.  I plan to present it to my fellow club members at our annual party in January.  In the interim, I may ride the route when the weather is better.  I hope it's good.

Thanks for reading.