Another Six Gap in the books. Or better yet, on the ass and legs and lower back and shoulders and.... I will have to say that this years Gap was better than the last one which was better than the first one. I see some type of pattern developing here. Each year is a learning lesson. More training. Bigger cassettes. This year? Compact crank.
And speaking of bigger cassettes, I must send a special thanks and heartfelt gratitude to Ron and David of Brandon Bikeworks in Riverview, Fla. I had an emergency cassette situation arise three days before leaving for Georgia. Ron assured me that he would do what he could to make sure I make my ride. I felt that he went out of his way to take care of my situation. So much so that I now have a new local bike shop to call home. Not that I plan on sleeping there anytime soon. If you are in the Riverview area and need any bike needs, I strongly suggest you stop by this shop or their brother/sister shop Just Ride in Valrico, Fl.
Now back to the Gap report. As some of you may know, I am training for the Great Floridian. Dare I say it is an ironman distance triathlon. Oh wait, should I have capitalized ironman? Part of my training plan was to use Six Gap as one of my training rides. 112 miles in Clermont should have nothing on 104 miles in the North Georgia mountains. I was also going to use my road bike instead of my tri bike. I am on the fence for which bike to use for the GF. The GF bike course is pretty hilly and does not have many opportunities to be in the aero bars. I will also ride the Clermont course on my road bike a few weeks out just to be sure. And I can always clip on some aero bars.
Why is it that retro rock stations always have to include Steely Dan?
Back to the Gap. This year I decided to go with a 13-29 rear cassette on my bike to help with the climbs. Although last year I did not walk any of the climbs, it was still painful. The walking demon was right on my shoulder teasing me with painless options. I kept a 53-39 crankset. A little too pricey for a Campy compact crankset.
My riding plan was going to be about pacing myself. No drafting on others and that meant no pulling either. I stopped at each rest area to make sure I refueled and ate. I tried not to linger or dance with any strangers. As I said, that was my plan. Well you know what they say about plans and the Hustle.
The weather was great. High 50's to start and low 80's to finish. I had a throw away shirt under my jersey and some arm warmers. A tip from Walt. For arm warmers, I use these Halloween costume fake tattoo sleeves. I have used them in as low as mid 40's temps. Plus they seem to always get a few odd looks from people. Or maybe that is just me.
The first couple of rest stops I just ate some peanut butter and honey sandwiches. Refilled my bottles. One with Heed/Gatorade and the other with water. I was supposed to eat/drink every 20 minutes but that turned out to be difficult when some of the climbs were 30-40 minutes.
I felt good on some of the first few long climbs. I surprised myself when I just got in to a rhythm. Pushed my butt back on the seat and pushed. I was passing a lot of people. Much different than lest year. "I am going to start riding with you now," says my lower back at about mile 50. No worries. I have two little green pills that will hopefully entertain you for a while. Okay shoulders the greenies will visit you as well.
There is one section of the Gap where this is a 10k King of the Mountain contest. A climb of about 1,400 feet in 6 miles. Part of the climb is 11% for a mile. The toughest part of the ride is this section. There is also a rest stop at the halfway point. The problem with this rest stop is that once you leave you immediately start climbing. Yeah let those legs cool down. Needless to say I was not the KOM again this year. No shame here.
The descent from the top of the first KOM is dangerous. There are signs post warning drivers warning of the steep grade for the next 2 miles. I was going in the mid 30's with my rear brakes on and feathering the front brakes. There were riders pulled off to the side because either their tires were overheating or they were just being cautious. I also found out later that some people who had carbon fiber wheels had failures. The wheels heated up too much and caused cracks and breaks. The good thing is there were no crashes but they were done.
The last descent is from Woody's Gap. It is about 7 miles of all down hill with some winding turns. Nothing real steep but very fun if you are confident in your skills. This day I was. I averaged high 30's and also managed to reach 48 on one stretch. Having the large crank helps.
When I finished the Gap I felt so much better than the first two years. I felt good because I felt good. I have to give some of the credit to the weather. It has been so hot training in Florida that it just drains me so quick. It was good to get a century ride in with no major issues.