Wednesday night Sprint

I did a group ride in the Atlanta area this week. This is a good sized, well attended ride, intown Atlanta ride that basically starts on the West side, and goes almost all the way to the NorthEast side of Atlanta. The ride has about 50 people that show up on any given week. The course and number of riders causes it to be a hectic ride, there are many stop signs and turns, and although, no major climbs, Atlanta is NOT flat!

On this particular day there were several people at the front that were pushing hard on the pedals and causing the front 10+ people to ride single file. As the group wound it’s way on the old Indian trails, now roads, it requires a lot of attention to not hit potholes, and not bump into another rider. One of the tricks that I use is to occasionally shift my head over and look past the rider that is directly ahead of me. This allows me to look up the road 50 yards or so and see what obstacles maybe ahead. I’ve been known to point out holes to people on the other side of the pack. Hitting a pothole or other obstacle that someone failed to point out SUCKS!

NOTE: I did skip a couple miles of the loop, and didn’t climb all of the hill with the group, my Quads are somewhat vertically challenged when it comes to racing uphill with guys that weigh 40-50 lbs less than me, and I wasn’t the ONLY One.

The group comes back up the climb, and I go with the front group for the last half mile of the climb to see what the pace was like – Fast!
We get back on track on Mt Paran & the guys are again hitting the gas pretty hard, single file for most of the way back.
As we get closed back towards the West side of Atl. we turn and go down a long stretch of road (hwy 41) that culminates in a county line sign at the Chattahoochee river. The fella’s at the front are drilling it now and it is like the old Red Saeco train, each man sacrificing themselves by putting in a huge effort and pulling out of the way to allow the group to rush past.

As we edge closer to the county line sign, I notice that I have allowed just the right number of guys ahead of me, and they are sprinters. The pace has gone from a frantic 30 mph, and has amped up to 35+, so, I hold my position behind a big guy, the lead-out has begun. 1 guy ahead of us keeps looking back to make sure he isn’t doing an effort for no reason. I keep my head down and make sure I’m in the draft as much as possible to conserve as much energy as I can.

As the guys at the front peel off we are now doing over 40mph into this downhill sprint and I’m thinking I’ve got good position…. another guy peels off and I down-shift looking for another gear, but no dice. I’m geared out. Good times, but it’s over, the 2 guys in front of me have jumped, out of the saddle sprinting, and I’m still spinning the gear I have. Then suddenly it happens, a second later, CLICK. A ghost shift, down. I was only in the 12, now I got the 11.

The guy in front of me had jumped left, the guy ahead of him stayed straight, only space is on along the White line, but there’s room – I’m jamming out of the saddle, winding out what is left of this gear in a downhill sprint, at 45mph. I’m coming on like a freight train when suddenly the guy I’m coming along side shifts into my sprinting lane – now I have him on my left and an upcoming bridge pillar on the right – split second decision/instinct – I push my handlebars ahead of his in a sprinters throw – it stops him moving over & Swooosh, pushed my wheel ahead of his so he doesn’t have room to come over any more and just like that, I’ve Won the sprint!

This was another case of ‘the last 1 to jump usually wins the sprint’ as was the case with my First race . Of course, you have to sprint with the sprinters to win, but knowing what type of sprints suit you and the timing of your sprint are the key factors, and you can only learn that by practice.

Happy Sprinting!

12 Hours of Yargo, Mt bike race report

Although we were a Murray down, we persevered….. You see last year the 3 Murray brothers and myself raced the 12 hours of Yargo. We went to have fun, hang out & ride hard. We were battling it out for what we thought was first place, but because of a timing mis-hap (an unrecorded lap) we actually battled it out for 2nd place. This year, unfortunately 1 of the Murray’s needed to skip this year race, so David came on board. Even though they weren’t racing, Ryan and RT still came out on course to cheer us on!! What a great crowd that shows up to these events!

The Dirty Spokes 12 hours of Yargo is a Mountain bike race on a 11.7 mile mainly single-track trail in Winder, GA. This course has open sections where you can get a lot of speed, some sections where you pick up momentum down a hill only to do a hairpin turn and go back up that hill. Many climbs are steep, but short however, 2 of climbs that are steady and longer. A couple of the downhills have some whoops and the race included 1 of the horse show drop-ins. If you have enough speed you can jump out of the horse-shoe, but you have to do it at an angle b/c once you are out of the horse-shoe, the trail turns left almost immediately. Lots of technical sections where you need to throw the bike around turns to avoid the trees and in a couple cases are bouncing off of them. Most lap times for the course were low 50 to 60+ minutes.

We all met up and camped at Fort Yargo the night before the race. ‘Jet-Pak’ Ed was out of the camp site early and got us a pop-up next to Fresh Bike service, on the front row of all the action! As always the start was a little hectic with so many 6 and 12 hour solo riders, and multiple teams, the line for the parade lap before heading into the trail wrapped around the parking area and the 4 wheeler pace vehicle had to slow for the last of the riders.

Our team clicked off the early laps, and waited anxiously to see where we were at against the other competition. A difference that we lacked this year was that we didn’t pay as much attention to when the last person was leaving – although this didn’t actually hurt the team, it didn’t make things easier. Usually we keep an eye on when a person leaves for their lap, and gauge when they will be coming back to the transition area. This year everyone seemed to get ready as soon as their relay person was heading out. This gave us about 55 minutes to get things together, get dressed, get warmed-up.

At the campsite I stayed hydrated with NUUN and tried to keep steadily eating food to keep the energy levels up. Two turkey subs from Firehouse were devoured, and I even tried some of the fine pickles offered by Addictive Cycles, anything to avoid cramping.

As the day went along, each time check came in showing that we were in the lead, and then each lap the pressure built – stay consistent – don’t cramp – don’t get a flat & worst of all – don’t Crash! The consistent part requires speed, especially for me, since I was not the fastest rider on the team. I get bogged down on some of the uphills, but I have to conserve the Heart Rate and pedal over them. The sections of fast, twisty single track is where I need to stay moving, and this requires full concentration. Whipping the bike left, right, right, left gets crazy with the tress directly in the edge of the trail. Too much speed and a missed-timed turn means sudden handlebar stoppage and rider ejection!

Lady luck was in our camp this day and as the laps ticked by we seemed to consistently put time into our opponents and at the end of the day team Sprocket Rockets relayed for 140.4 miles in 12 hours. We finished a lap ahead of our competitors and Won First Place! I was fortunate to have a great team, and once again, I had an out standing birthday weekend camping and racing at Fort Yargo!!

Unfortunately, due to finishing the race at 11pm, we didn’t get any pictures of our finishing podium. Full results are linked from the Dirty Spokes site here .

Weekend at Tsali

While the Athens Twilight and the Historic Roswell criteriums were going on in Athens then Roswell, I got a chance to get outta Atlanta to Bryson City, NC for the weekend of camping and Mt biking at the Tsali trail system and campground.

If you are a Mt biker and have never been to Tsali, then you must find out what your missing! The Tsali trail system is quite easy to find, it is close to Almond, NC. And the trails will overlook Fontana lake. From the Nantahalla Outdoor Center go about 4.5 miles North, and make a left onto Hwy 28. Go about another 3.5 miles and look closely for the brown sign that points to the Tsali trails and campground. Then you have about 2 miles off the main road to get back into the parking area and campground.

We camped within walking distance of lake, which was awesome for us and the dogs to take a swim. The camping area is primitive, but adequate. Although, if you want to upgrade the restroom areas, and don’t mind driving to the trails, then I highly recommend the Turkey Creek Campground – great people that are on-site – again, their only downside is the distance to the trails, about 3 miles.

We arrived by 5 on Friday afternoon to find friends already reserved a camping spot and pop-up, tarps erected. There was rain in the forecast for Saturday afternoon, so we built a canopy to keep our area dry.
We got out for the Left loop on Friday, a warm-up lap for the weekend to get the 3 hour car ride out of the legs and get the blood flowing.

On Saturday we got the whole crew together after breakfast and headed out for the Thompson and Mouse loop. Both trails were very flowy and mostly quite fast pace to them.

As I got back, another friend finally made it to the campsite & we headed back out for an additional loop of Thompson….. little did I know that this was going to be a lap of ‘race pace’. It was a good thing, get out and hammer some, I had a 12 hour race at Yargo coming up the following weekend.

The mouse and Thompson loops have some great sections of single track!! Some great burms in many corners assist you in keeping the flow going through the turns. The trails do have some puddles after rains in several sections & I always recommend doing a wheelie through them b/c there are some that are much deeper than you would expect.

On Sunday we headed back out for the Left N Right loops. I HIGHLY recommend the Overlook trails!!! Some of the views are just Spectacular! Although the overlook trails have the feel of being an out and back trail, they actually are loops, but it appears that most people ride them as out and back and miss the turn for the ‘loop’ part of the trail.

You can expect a little more water crossings and creeks on the right loop. This is the side that I have raced before (although I’m not sure if all races are on this side), and that does seem to keep this side of the trails beat up a little more. Although what I did like about the right loop is that the greenery did remind me more of Pisgah and less of the local trails around Atlanta.


Summary
Tsali is some great Mt. biking if you like groomed and mainly smooth trails that are wicked fast, and you don’t want to A) navigate B) stop to climb over downed trees or most any other kind of debris that may interfere with your ride. Most of the climbing isn’t very steep, but expect a couple climbs that will test your legs, and LOTS of single track to test your lungs!
Caution that because the trails can be so fast, they are multi-direction, and you may come across on-coming riders.