Something unexpected has happened: I’ve fallen completely in love with riding my road bike. I thought I was purchasing a training device, but it turns out that I was purchasing a new lifestyle. I suddenly have fancy electrolyte drink mixes and protein shakes and gel blocks. I wash my bibs and jerseys in my kitchen sink and hang them to dry from my bikes. I’ve cut out most processed sugar from my diet, and apparently, try to spend my weekends sweating as much as possible.
Earlier this month, a group of friends and I went up to Dahlonega, GA to ride a route well known to cyclists in the southeast called 3 Gap. There is also a longer, steeper, and more painful route that involves 6 gaps. These Blue Ridge Mountain climbs were included in the Tour de Georgia every year and for good reason.
This was my first mountain ride, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. We arrived bright and early to beat the hobby car drivers and motorcyclists who also love the gaps for their insane turns and steep roaring climbs. The temperature was chilly due to the elevation and for the first climb, Neal’s Gap (elevation 3,097′), I was both shivering and sweating. This concerned me, since I knew we had two more climbs to go. Once we reached the top of Neal’s, though, I felt a little looser and warmed up, and on we rode to Wolfpen.
Wolfpen was more fun to climb albeit more challenging with lots of twists and turns and beautiful scenery. I eventually got dropped by most of the group, but was able to keep one of them in sight for the duration of the climb. I found all sorts of fun mental games to keep my cadence steady and my head up. “Stand up and pedal until I get to that sign!” and “Sit until that rock, then stand until that tree!” …pedal pedal pedal.
Rounding the last turn, I was greated with a sign to confirm I’d reached the top. Hooray! Wolfpen Gap (elevation 3,364′).
Descending Wolfpen was SO MUCH FUN. I had to remind myself to keep my mouth closed and not smile, since there were already bugs flying at me, and I didn’t want a bug flying into my throat at 35+ mph.
After a deer almost ran directly into me (seriously!), we had one more climb, Woody’s Gap. My legs felt great at this point, and it felt like we flew right up the climb. The view at the top was great, and I couldn’t think of anything I’d rather be doing at 10am on a Sunday morning.
I can’t wait to go back and perhaps tackle the climb that makes even grown euro-pros cry: Hogpen (elevation 3,655′, 4% average grade, 2 mile 12% to 14% section!). I’ll be singing the blues the whole way up most likely (literally… apparently that’s one of the mental coping skills I use when climbing). But I know the sense of accomplishment will be amazing!