Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Eric Stone vs The Mountain

Eric Stone vs The Mountain
The 2012 6 Gaps and 3 Gaps ride was on September 30th.  The same day as the Ironman Augusta 70.3 triathlon in which I competed.  Frankly, the thought of not flying down a slippery narrow mountain road at 50-mph on 23mm wide bands of 1/8th inch thick rubber and cloth didn't cause me to tear-up in disappointment.  I wasn't the only one to miss out on the opportunity to climb more feet than any sane person would choose to climb.  Eric Stone, mechanic extraordinaire at Epic Bikes in McDonough was sick that weekend and didn't make it either.  To help alleviate the deep sorrow that Eric must have felt Dr. Peto Fallas decided to organize a 3-Gaps do-over ride.  He is calling the ride "Eric Stone vs. The Mountain".  In this corner we have Eric wearing Spandex and Lycra   In the other corner we have The Mountain wearing a sexy ribbon of asphalt.  It doesn't seem like an even match-up to me.
Trey, Peto, Eric, Mike, and Greg at Epic Bike at 5:00AM
The group met at Epic Bikes at 5AM on Sunday morning.  Before the 2 hour drive to Helen, Georgia.  One of our riders would be meeting us at the start as the rest of us formed a convoy of three vehicles loaded down with bikes.
The drive to Helen, Georgia
We were all bundled up and on the road by 8:15AM.  The weather forecast for the day was a low temperature of 33-degrees and a high of 60-degrees.  It was cloudy at the start.  I wore a long sleeve Under Armour shirt, covered by a short sleeve SCC jersey, covered by a long sleeve Sugoi cycling jacket, covered by a bright yellow Sugoi vest.  On my legs I wore leggings, knee high compression socks, SCC cycling shorts, and full shoe covers.  I topped it all off with ear covers, Cannondale cycling mittens, and a bright yellow Sugoi helmet cover or as Peto called it - my baker's hat.  He said we'd have to bake some cookies after the ride.
The Crew before the ride
The route we'd take had us climbing the worst mountain first - Hogpen Gap.  Then we'd hit Jack's Gap and Unicoi Gap.    Hogpen was a mother!  I recall in 2011 when I rode the Hospitality Hwy Century which I thought at the time had some steep hills.  I rode it on my tri-bike with a standard crank and I never felt like I couldn't make it to the top.  For 3-Gaps I rode my road bike with a compact crank.  On the climb up Hogpen I stopped five times and walked twice.   More than once I stopped and laid my head on my handlebars trying to catch my breath and slow down my heart rate.  Needless to say - it was hard.  It must have been the altitude and not my lack of fitness.  Most of the other riders had ridden these, or the other 3 mountains in the 6-Gaps ride before.  You would have thought they'd learned their lesson.

At the top of Hogpen Gap we regrouped before the harrowing descent.  Mike Dozier maxed out at 56.8-mph on the way down.  You could smell burning rubber as those of us without a death wish tried to slow the "freak" down.  My max speed was 41-mph.
Ready for the descent from Hogpen Gap
We regrouped at the bottom of the mountain as Trey took a look at Isabel's brakes which had been howling like a crazed turkey all the way down the mountain.  One down - Two to go!
I didn't know that Booger Hollow was so close
Regrouping after the Hogpen Gap descent
Time to come out of some of those clothes
The next two mountains were less of an issue to contend with.  I didn't have to walk, although I'm pretty sure I must have thought about it.  The descents weren't as viscous either. As the day wore on the clouds burnt off and the sun came out.  There was very little traffic on the roads which made it nice.  It was nice where there were passing lanes on the uphill climbs so we weren't such a nuisance to drivers.
Isabel, Greg, Kevin, Mike, Peto, John, Trey, and Eric
I've included a map of our route.  Since I intentionally didn't pause my Garmin you'll be able to see all the stops, zig-zagging, more stops, walking, and speedy descents.

After the ride we ate at the Troll Tavern in Helen.  I was only able to take two pictures at the tavern as my camera had had enough for the day and was on the fritz, too many button pushes with mittens on.  I could hear it in my bento box having a fit as I rode.  It took me a while to realize what the sound was. 

Overall it was a good day.  No leaves on the road.  No wet weather to contend with.  Just the cold.  Best of all, everyone made it home safely.  I suppose, after the torture of this four hour ordeal is a distant memory I might try it again.  Peto asked me several times if it was worse than doing the Ironman.  I don't know but I can say that 112 miles in pancake flat coastal Florida is easier that 41-miles in North Georgia.

Checkout the other pictures from our trip.
Eric Stone vs The Mountain

Thanks for reading.