Tag Archives: epic

Climbing, climbing, and more climbing

Alpine glow Georgia style.

A photo posted by Brian Toone (@kartoone76) on

It has been a busy week of riding and racing with the Cheaha Climbing camp on Thursday, the Southern Cross race on Saturday morning, and then following that up in the afternoon with a “5 Gap” ride up to the highest point in Georgia – Brasstown Bald. The sunset pic is from the top of the Brasstown Bald lookout tower at the turnaround point of my ride.

One of my favorite views in Alabama - the skyway epic ridge line heading out towards Adams Gap and Horn Mountain viewed from the Cheaha descent.One of my favorite views in Alabama – the skyway epic ridge line heading out towards Adams Gap and Horn Mountain viewed from the Cheaha descent.

Cheaha Climbing Camp
This year marked the inaugural Cheaha Climbing Camp – a new camp helping cyclists improve their climbing and prepare for the upcoming Cheaha Challenge and Cheaha Challenge Gran Fondo Ultra. I was invited to come ride with the group on Thursday, and we had quite the adventure with sleet at the beginning, thunder towards the end, and lots of cold, cold, cold, cold, rain in between. I had ridden over from Birmingham in beautiful cold weather in the upper 20s, but I could see the clouds rolling in behind me and by the time we left from the Bald Rock Lodge, the valleys were covered in clouds and sleet and rain. We persevered, though, and were able to warm up by the fireplace and share stories about racing and riding. I spoke about the challenges of Race Across America and shared some of the experiences and things I learned from the race.

Southern Cross Race
Fast forward to Saturday, and I headed over to Dahlonega, Georgia for Southern Cross. The cold rain and sleet that we got on Thursday in Alabama was a few inches of snow up in the higher elevations of Northern Georgia. Friday and Friday night were dry and windy so that the course was mostly dry. Only at the highest elevations of the course was there still some snow in the shade and a few muddy spots from melted snow but that just made the course even more beautiful. I started out at the front with the leaders, but struggled with the pace on the Winding Stair climb. My quads were really sore and hurt too much to try to keep up that pace, so I involuntarily backed off the pace (I wanted to go harder, but my legs said no) and watched everyone ride away as I continued to get passed by people on the climb. By the top of the climb, I had started to recover and catch people. This gave me extra motivation to push it hard. So I did – from there to the end – even getting a KOM on one of the later short climbs. I moved all the way back up to 9th place overall. Not the result I was hoping for, but it was still a lot of fun.

Finished! 6th male expert, 9th overall because the top 3 were all Masters 40+.

A photo posted by Brian Toone (@kartoone76) on

Brasstown Bald
Most years I have raced Southern Cross, I have brought my road bike to get in a good ride in the mountains on Sunday. This year I needed/wanted to get back to Birmingham sooner so I decided to do my normal Sunday ride on Saturday after the race. The weather had warmed up a bit, and it was a beautiful day climbing in the mountains. I wanted to climb all the way to the Fire Tower on top of Woody’s Gap from Dahlonega, but the last 300 feet or so were covered in snow and mud. After Woody’s, I climbed the backside of Wolfpen Gap and made my way over to Jack’s Gap and Brasstown Bald. Everything was deserted, and I ended up hitting the top right at sunset — which meant I rode the reverse route back to Dahlonega in the dark. That would have been fine, except I ran out of water and everything was closed. I climbed back up and over Wolfpen from the long side and fortunately made it to the gas station in Suches while the owners were still inside and they let me in to buy a couple drinks. I did the short reverse climb up Woody’s and then enjoyed the super long descent all the way back down to the Dahlonega reservoir.

I tallied up the climbing between the ride out to Cheaha on Thursday and the two rides in Dahlonega in Saturday and came up with some cool data. Check it out and pics from the rides below!

Climb Length Vdiff/Gain Avg (Max %) Peak Elevation
Thursday, Cheaha Climbing Camp
Cheaha from below Camp Mac 12.9 mi 1735’/2365′ 2.6% (16.8% ibike max) 2407′
Cheaha from Cheaha Lake 3.3 mi 1175’/1175′ 6.8% (11.7% ibike max) 2407′
Saturday, Southern Cross Race
Winding Stair (Climb #1) 11.2 mi 2001’/2812′ 4.7% (15% over 0.1km) 3394′
Cooper’s Gap (Climb #2) 9.9 mi 1345’/1829′ 3.5% (14% over 0.1km) 3299′
Saturday, Brasstown Bald 5 Gap
Woody’s Gap Fire Tower 13.2 mi 2324’/2709′ 3.4% (27.9% ibike max) 3540′
Wolfpen Gap Reverse 1.9 mi 559’/559′ 5.6% (13.5% ibike max) 3341′
Jack’s Gap / Brasstown Lookout Tower 10.2 mi 2764’/3063′ 5.4% (23.4% ibike max) 4784′
Wolfpen Gap 5.9 mi 1372’/1385′ 4.6% (13.5% ibike max) 3341′
Woody’s Gap Reverse 1.9 mi 388’/388′ 4.2% (8.2% ibike max) 3139′
Totals: 2 state high points 70.4 mi 13663’/16285′

The table above shows the stats for the major climbs I did on Thursday at Cheaha and Saturday at Southern Cross and up Brasstown Bald. I had a grand total of 339.8 miles over the three days (Thursday, Friday, Saturday) with 131.5 miles on Thursday, 76.4 miles on Friday, and 131.9 miles on Saturday with a total of 38,203 feet of climbing. No wonder my legs were sore!!!

Annotated heartrate plot (click to enlarge).Annotated heartrate plot (click to enlarge).

Annotated heartrate summary.


10 mile HC climb up Brasstown Bald – annotated – click to enlarge.

Hurricane Ridge and the Olympic Peninsula

Tacoma Narrow bridge 260 miles later, much more windy this time across.Tacoma Narrow bridge 260 miles later, much more windy this time across.

Olympic Discovery Trail on my way to Port Angeles and the bottom of the Hurricane Ridge climb.Olympic Discovery Trail on my way to Port Angeles and the Hurricane Ridge climb.

We are up in Tacoma, Washington visiting family for Thanksgiving, so yesterday I rode from Tacoma up through the Kitsap Peninsula onto the Olympic Peninsula, attempted to climb Hurricane Ridge but only made it halfway before running into snow and ice on the roads, and then rode all the way back to Tacoma – a 260 mile adventure that started in the dry upper 20s degF at 1am and ended 20 hours later at 9pm with the last 8 hours riding in rainy mid 30s degF. I crossed the Tacoma Narrows bridge twice, but both times at night so I still haven’t seen it in the daytime. At 1am on my way out, everything was perfectly calm and very cold. On the way back in, it was quite windy pushing my bike sideways on the bridge and very wet.

In between the beginning and the end, I made all kinds of discoveries that matched and even exceeded my expectations for riding in the Pacific Northwest. It was quite dark riding across the Tacoma Narrows bridge, north through the Kitsap Peninsula, and crossing the Canal Bridge onto the Olympic Peninsula. The roads were almost entirely deserted until I made it to WA-3, WA-104, and US-101 where I started to pick up quite a bit of truck traffic presumably heading towards Port Townsend and Port Angeles.
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