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Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Dawsonville GA 400K

Mercifully, the Dawsonville 400K does not include the ascent up Brasstown Bald (we went by the base), but there was enough climbing on this brevet through the mountains of north Georgia to make it an extremely challenging event.  The ride is front loaded, with about 2/3 of the 19K feet of elevation gain occurring in the first half.

A small group of 9 gathered shortly before 6 am on April 28 at the Ingle's parking lot in Dawsonville to receive final instructions from RBA Kevin Kaiser.  The weather forecast was excellent, but Kevin urged everyone to pack some extra clothes for the nighttime descents.  My chances of finishing this brevet would have gone down significantly if the high temperature had been in the 90s, or if there had been periods of heavy rain.  Climbing was the order of the day, and the descents were a blast.  Wet rims and wet roads would have really been a bummer.

Leaving Dawsonville, the route heads north into the Chattahoochee National Forest and goes up Woody's Gap and Wolfpen Gap before getting to the second control at mile 45.  The Sunrise Country Store had some great homemade fruit pies, so I indulged myself with one.  There was a good number of other cyclists out enjoying the beautiful day, but like most sensible folks they would be home and resting while we were still out traversing hills at 2 am.  Jack's Gap and Unicoi Gap awaited us before control #3 at mile 104 (Clayton).  I thought Unicoi Gap was particularly tough, perhaps due to the time of day and lack of shade.  Roger and I left Clayton together and enjoyed a few miles of mostly gentle downhills before taking the left turn on Highway 28 for the dreaded 12 mile climb to Highlands NC.  There were a couple of short downhills but it was mostly a relentless steady climb.  Kevin and a couple of volunteers were waiting outside a cafe in Highlands, and we took a welcome break to have a sit down meal.  However, the clock is always running and on this ride, I just didn't have that much of a time cushion.

Roger, Dave and I pulled on some extra clothes and departed Highlands a little after 7 pm for the 56 mile segment to Toccoa GA.  This took us through part of SC before crossing back into GA.  Once we had refreshed and refueled at the control, we were supposed to retrace our route about half a mile down Highway 17, and then stay on it.  However, possibly due to our rather "numb" mental state at that point, we trusted a GPS unit that had us making a premature right turn, on GA 184 that we had just used to enter Toccoa.  None of us realized we had just been on this road, so we proceeded to go about 6 miles before stopping and asking directions.  The driver of the truck that stopped informed us we needed to backtrack to Toccoa.  He offered to give us a lift, but we had to decline his kind offer in order to "stay legal."

I went to the front, put my head down, and hammered for all I was worth.  All I was thinking was that I had driven 340 miles one way, paid for a motel room, and I was not going to let this turn into a no-credit training ride.  We got back to Toccoa, found our error, and got back on course.  A long climb awaited us leaving Toccoa - it seemed to go on and on and on ....  I was still pushing it, far more than I normally would on a 400.  Our plans for an early morning breakfast at the Waffle House 53 miles from the end were dropped due to lack of time.  With about 45 miles left, I grunted about a third of the way up a steep hill and had to unclip and stop.  My tank was empty.  The dreaded bonk hit me full force.  I slurred something to Dave to the effect that I had to walk the rest of the way up the hill.  Once at the top, I ate my last Clif bar and Hammer gel.  We soft pedaled for a while until the food could take effect, and then hit it again.  About 15 miles later, the bonk returned, harder than before.  My water, energy drink, and food were gone.  Dave broke off half of his remaining granola bar, gave me his last couple of energy bites, and split his remaining water.  We continued, savoring the breaking of dawn.  With 18 miles to go, Dave said we had two hours left.  We can make it, just nobody get a flat!

We were near the end, on a level stretch of road, when a car stops abruptly 100 feet ahead and suddenly backs up.  I move off onto the shoulder and the driver stops and lowers the passenger window.  "You [expletive] need to get off the road, you understand me??" he yells.  I just looked at him.  Dave came to the rescue and simply barked out "Yes sir!".  The driver (whose 25 year old Lincoln Town Car somehow escaped the cash for clunkers program) proceeded to fumble with his shift lever and then took off.  We swung into the Ingle's parking lot with 20 minutes to spare, didn't spot Kevin's van, and rode over to the Super 8 to get signed in.  Kevin joined us for some breakfast and Roger called from Ingle's a few minutes later (we had dropped him earlier but I think he rode steadier).  All three of us were glad for each other to have successfully completed what is certainly a tough ride.


  1. Well done, Bob!

    I can't think of what to ... think ... about mr. expletive town car.

  2. "no credit training ride"...those are the worst...Good job!