I have missed Six Gap the past few years, so I was excited when the opportunity to ride it came up at the last minute. I decided to make it an extra epic adventure this year by getting up at 1:30AM, driving 4 hours to the start (the time change heading east means getting up even earlier!), riding two laps of the course (208 miles and 23,000 feet of climbing), and finally driving 4 hours back home to Birmingham. Along the way, I managed to snag the 35+ KOM (barely) in a really exciting showdown with Amos Harvey.
Six Gap Lap 1
This event has grown and grown over the years because I believe riders from all over the South have decided that it is a good testing ground at the end of the season to measure their fitness against the climbs in the mountains of North Georgia. A similar (but tougher!) event happens every May at the Cheaha Gran Fondo Ultra, so it’s nice that riders can bookend their seasons with really tough rides.
One of the things that makes Six Gap tough is the back-to-back timed climbs of Hogpen Gap (6.2 miles) and Wolfpen Gap (3.1 miles) coming after hard efforts up Neel’s Gap, Jack’s Gap, and Unicoi Gap. This year saw a split in the front group on Neel’s Gap. I had slid pretty far back in the pack before the start of Neel’s, so I had been passing people all the way up the climb when I noticed there was a small group ahead. I was worried that this group would get away and be the fast group for the climbs. So I bridged across to that group to find Jan Kolar, Amos Harvey, and Mark Fisher drilling it along with a couple other guys. Over the top and into the start of the climb up Jack’s Gap, a couple more guys joined us to make for a somewhat large front group of 6-8 riders.
I’m really excited about a last minute opportunity that has opened up for me to race Six Gap on Sunday. I won’t be able to make it up for the criterium, but I’ll be gunning for the fastest combined time on Hog Pen and Wolf Pen Gaps come Sunday morning. I first heard about Six Gap while I was racing at Clemson University back in 1996. Our faculty advisor mentioned it as a really cool ride to do in the North Georgia mountains, so I signed up for it and joined about 200 other people leaving from the North Georgia College gym. The thing I remember most about that ride was it being the first time I had ridden up into the clouds on a climb, and I remember thinking that must be how climbing Alpe d’Huez would feel.
Fast forward 15 years, and I rode Six Gap again in 2011 taking the 35+ KOM by hanging onto Jimmy Schurmann’s wheel as long as possible on Hogpen. I won the really cool green KOM jersey that I wore again on my ride yesterday out to the cliffs at Double Oak here in Alabama. The next year, I was able to get the 35+ KOM again by hanging onto two wheels (Jimmy again and Christian Parrett) as long as possible. Six Gap had partnered with the USA Pro Cycling Challenge that year, and I ended up winning just about the coolest prize pack I’ve ever won – including an official yellow leader’s jersey and blue kom jersey from the USA Pro Challenge.
Me wearing the USA Pro Challenge leader’s jersey
USA Pro Challenge Prize Pack for winning the 2012 Six Gap KOM prize.
Can’t wait until Sunday to give it another go at winning the 35+ KOM jersey!!! (I can’t keep up with the young climbers anymore!) Also, I’ve got something special planned for the day that will make it “extra epic”. Hope to see everyone up in Dahlonega this weekend.