What a great way to the end season – with the unique group ride / race / kom / party that is the Tour de Cullman. Carson Glasscock does a great job of organizing this every year and put on another great one this year even after the tornadoes in April knocked over every tree in his yard and did significant damage to his house. Driving up from Birmingham, you can still see where several tornadoes crossed I-65 with trees stripped and fallen over in all directions, and there are still a couple tall light posts twisted and folded in half serving as reminders 6 months later.
Enough about that, though, because the atmosphere today at the Tour de Cullman was one of celebration and having a good time. From the traditional parade roll-out all the way to the after-race party, people were laughing and talking. The serious part of the ride is a 16 mile section in the middle ending on the top of Skyball Mountain – a 4 mile climb. Pretty much as soon as the lead moto dropped the flag, Pat Allison put in an attack. It was quickly shutdown, and the group was still together as we made the left turn to tackle the steep 10-15% initial climb. I went to the front and set a fast tempo. By the top, we were down to five riders. Across the top, Pat drilled it and we were down to just three – me, Pat, and Paul Tower.
From that point until the end, it was a three-man team time trial. We traded pace pretty well, but I was saving up in case either of them tried to get away early on any one of the numerous short steep hills on the course. The right turn onto the Skyball KOM climb came much sooner than expected. When we started up the climb, Paul and I continued to work as Pat surveyed the situation. We cruised up the bottom flat part of the climb at a fairly easy pace which didn’t fit into my plans of attacking on the steepest part of the climb because everybody was still fresh.
Nevertheless, going into the lefthand turn onto Fat Dunn Rd, I attacked hard but couldn’t get a gap. I eased up but because the gradient was so steep at this point, we were still pushing well over 300 watts. Then I could see the next really steep section of the climb had actually been turned into a dirt road (they must have stripped the old, cracked, potholed road completely away and laid down dirt/gravel). I decided to attack again, and this time Paul came off the pace.
So Pat and I reached the top together with me in front. Pat kept me in front for the next mile or so before he attacked hard on the dirt road. I lost his wheel and started to chase with him just in front of me. We were flying. My Garmin recorded a top speed of 38mph on the dirt road downhill before the last turn with 200 meters left to go. It was at this turn that I finally caught up to Pat. I knew the finish was close so I went ahead and started my sprint and was able to hold him off to the finish to take my third win in three years.
Pat and I descended down the other side to try out the climb from that side, but this time Pat was able to take the sprint at the top. The group had a huge head start on us for the return trip to Cullman, so we drilled it for pretty much the entire ride back until we caught them just outside of town.
Then it was time for the after ride party and awards. One of Carson’s friends had brought over a portable stone brick oven that he had built and started making pizzas, which were awesome! The lady playing the accordion at the top of Skyball was joined by two people on the guitar, and the beer and cokes were flowing as everybody relaxed and recounted the race this year and races from past years. Awesome.
Here is all the data: