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6-Gap Century - kind of long ride report(13 posts)

6-Gap Century - kind of long ride reportMike P
Sep 29, 2003 5:09 PM
6-Gap is an annual hill-fest held in Dahlonega, GA. A college campus makes for a great staging area for the ride, with ample parking and facilities available before and after the ride. Plus, a nice spagetti buffet afterwards. The SAGs are well supported by several businesses and local organizations, (I was very dissapointed I could not find any Little Debbie Oatmeal Cream Pies though). I also saw a number of vehicles looking for bodies or sweeping behind the groups for those not able to finish. There are a lot of people who start this ride with no real comprehension of what they are getting into. The course makes its way up, and down, six mountains in North Georgia; claiming over 10,000 ft in 100 miles.

I do not believe there were as many riders as there were last year. I know last year there were around 800 riders. It seemed to me there was much more car and motorcycle traffic this year.

Last year I made it in 6:21 by the ride clock - 6:10 on the bike. This year I was shooting for 6 hours by the ride clock. I was actually entertaining thoughts of 5:45 based on how well I've been feeling with the riding this summer; more miles, more hills, better eating habits, less beer, and etc. And, I had a plan. . . well, actually two simple plans: Plan A, start near the front. Last year we stood for what seemed an eternity after the ride started before we began rolling; there were so many riders. I managed to worm my way into the front 100 or so. Plan A was out of the way without turning a pedal! Plan B was to ride with a group. This one was a little harder to accomplish but I did stick to it until Hogpen Gap where I became very stupid. More on that later. It had rained like hell the night before the ride and the temperature had dropped a bit. At the start, the sky was clear and there was nice cool bite to the air. Not too cold though, just added the arm warmers. . . perfect for a nice long ride.

Here is the ride profile as my computer saw it:
Part 2Mike P
Sep 29, 2003 5:12 PM
The ride started promptly at 7:30 AM. Stop and go train action for the first five miles. As the sun came up above the mountains, the sky was clear and there were long clouds forming at the mountain tops and blowing horizontally; a little hint to the wind we would face later. The giant group of the start broke into several just plain old big groups as we worked a number of rollers prior to the first climb. I had managed to place myself in the midst of a fast moving, well behaved group of around 60 riders near the front.

Upon reaching the first major climb, Neel's Gap, faster riders shot like rockets up the hill. I worked my way to the left side of the group to avoid the slowers and was making good progress forward, passing a good number of riders as well as being passed by a few. It was still quite chilly, but it felt good, and the sun was beginning to warm things up a bit, as was the hill. This first climb is not too steep but is around five miles long. I concentrated on my breathing and a good steady cadence and made it up feeling refreshed. Near the end of the descent, the 3-Gap ride breaks off to the left, taking in the last two hills of 6-Gap; it's a tough ride in itself!

After the descent, I ended up in another fast moving group of nearly 20 riders, we were really moving along at a rapid pace. Stayed with them to Jacks Gap. This one is not as long as Neel's but has a few steep sections. Still, I was feeling good and working upward at a comfortable pace. By now, the sky was a deep blue color, surrounded by the green of the treetops opening above. What a perfect riding day! Oh, and for the really foolish, (6-gap does not go up this!) the road up Brasstown Bald is here; take lots of gears and be prepaired to unclip. I Descended Jack's with the remnants of the group and made it to, and up, Unicoi Gap still feeling very strong. I stopped at the SAG to refill the water bottles and grab a banana half. The descent off of Unicoi is fun. It is fast and filled with curves, and the curves are banked - severely in some cases. Soon after ride down I saw a nice sized group ahead. I worked hard a bit and caught them as Plan B was still in effect.
Part 3Mike P
Sep 29, 2003 5:20 PM
Hogpen Gap. . . Hogpen is the major climb. It has a couple of very steep sections and I make it 10 miles long, with four small down hill sections that form teeth to saw your legs off. I was feeling really good so I started riding a little harder than I should have been riding. I ran into 12x23 here. We chatted a bit and I climbed my way to stupidity and on to my eventual undoing. I really over did it, but I sure made it up that hill fast! Dropping off of Hogpen is a screamer; I hit 54 a couple times. Once things leveled back out I realized I was in for some difficulty. I was not able to stick with any of the groups passing by; I tried but the legs just refused. Plan B was left somewhere on Hogpen with at least one of my legs.

And then comes Wolfpen Gap. In my opinion, this is the hardest hill of the ride; it follows Hogpen, it's steep and fairly long. 12x23 passed me soon after starting the ascent, looking pretty strong given the ride so far. I was really worried when I started the climb; my legs were nearly worthless and there were still nearly 4 miles left in the hill and 35 miles to go to the finish. Oh, and of course the wind started trying to blow me back down the hill; as if gravity wasn't enough. Luckily for me, I have a secret weapon, this just happens to be my favorite climb of the ride! There's something special about it - the curves, the gradient, the narrow road, who knows. I just let myself get into the hill and by the top I had recovered rather nicely. I caught back up to 12x23 and others at some point after the descent with a little help from the wind and my new-found legs and managed (barely) to keep with them through Woody Gap, the short hill of the day. It made me feel better to know Plan B was back on. I had to make a very quick stop for a little water and another banana half but got stuck behing a slow moving line of cars on the way down so I was unable to catch the group for the ride in to the finish. The last 15 miles is, for the most part, down hill but there are some painful little climbs, and the wind seemed to come from all directions, headwind one moment nice tailwind the next.

My numbers - My computer recorded time of 5:44:50, 99.1 miles, 9980 ft elevation gain, 17.0 avg speed. The ride clock showed 5:52:something when I finished. I managed it on two water refill stops plus two other stops to irrigate the hills. Overall, I am happy with my ride, with the exception of my foolishness on Hogpen. I look forward to next year.

Most unexpected sight - One rider on a unicycle. It had a big wheel and brake calipers; seems to me applying brakes put the riders face into the pavement. He did the 3-Gap option.

Most inspiring rider - There was one guy riding what looked like a regular racer wheelchair but rather than pushing the rear wheels, he was turning a crankset with his arms! Couldn't believe it. . . offered him my encouragement and then contemplated life, as I know it anyway, for a good while. He also rode 3-Gap and I saw him again at some point near the finish although I can't remeber where; he had about 30-45 minutes left to finish I think. Amazing!

That's about it. Any others care to share?
Nice report...I felt like I was there...biknben
Sep 29, 2003 5:33 PM
Glad to see you got your legs back. So what will your goal be next year? :-)
one of the best in the country...KgB
Sep 29, 2003 5:57 PM
Good job that's a pretty impressive time.I wish I could have been there this year.
The UnicycleSadlebred
Sep 29, 2003 6:41 PM
Check Tuesday afternoon (after 1 pm EST) on I have a report from the guy on the unicycle and a couple of photos. Just haven't had time to post it on my website yet. He's a member of the local brevet club and is a nice guy!
Nice report - what were the grades? nmPdxMark
Sep 29, 2003 11:36 PM
Pdx, I'll post gradient info from the computer this evening. nmMike P
Sep 30, 2003 3:14 AM
Pdx - Here is the gradient info with the profile.Mike P
Sep 30, 2003 4:46 PM
The horizontal lines are not exactly on target but they are close enough to get the picture. Hogpen hits 18% a couple of times for short distances, the gradient info does not really show it though. This is really a great area to find some hilly rides.

Good job Mike!_rt_
Sep 30, 2003 7:29 AM
that leg you lost on Hogpen should have company with the one i lost on Wolfpen! ;-)

congrats on a strong ride!

Sep 30, 2003 9:36 AM
Some idjut in an old Ford minvan passed me just near the top of Wolfpen and cruised about 35 down the descent slowing to about 25 or so in the curves. AAHHHHHHH !!!, I worked too d@mn hard to have the most fun descent (to me) of the whole ride speed limit goverened !!! Anyway, now with that out of my system that sure is a sweet new ride you got yourself. Those pics you posted recently just don't do it justice.

Chris Pic and one of his racer friends stopped by and chatted with me and one of my buds afterward. He's a really nice guy and I hope he finds a team for next year. Did you see the rear gears on the Columbian pro's bike ... looked like a 11X21 !!!!

One of the guys from our area, who's only been riding since March, finished in 5:32!!! He's become a 20 year old monster !!

Oh, according to the clock I finished 5:51:09. That's quite an improvement over last year's 6:33, and I think I left some out there to improve on next year. I also didn't have Haiku-mahn there this year to keep me out all night. ;-)
pitchers=carb load, sleep deprivation=painkiller :) nmJS Haiku Shop
Oct 1, 2003 5:50 AM
re: 6-Gap Century - kind of long ride reportastrobiker
Sep 29, 2003 6:55 PM
You captured it great! I did this for the first time...wondered what the front of the pack did. I made it in 7:43 by the race clock, but I availed myself of every rest stop. One had the best sugar cookies I have ever eaten (may have had something to do with my energy needs at the time). There were still people coming in after I got back and I made it - so it goes in the success column.

Arm warmers off for the climbs, on for the fabulous, cold descents. I had a borrowed bike for the ride, no computer, so I don't know how fast I was going on the descents, but at least 45. Only had to pass one RV going down.

I think this was the most overall enjoyable century I've done - challenging, beautiful day.