The 17th Chattanooga Ride was held on
Saturday, May 8, 2010 with twelve very tough participants completing the
It was EPIC! There was a grueling headwind the whole ride. The
wind was blowing from the WNW at 17-21 until we reached Lookout Mountain
Valley. When we turned northward, the wind came blasting down the
valley into our faces at 16-18 mph!
It was the hardest Chattanooga Ride that I can remember (Although, I've
read that persons tend to forget their most terrible experiences.).
Twelve made it the whole way, 19.2 mph... a proud 19.2! Even the
final 13 miles, which is usually a joyful conclusion with rolling hills
downward through Lookout Mountain Valley, was a relentless battle
against the gale all the way to the Tennessee border.
Twenty-one cyclists started the ride. Once more, Brian Burke hosted the
start of this ride from his new home near Highway 369 between Cumming
and Dawsonville. He started with the group and rode to Steve Tate
Road, about 30 miles into our ride. Brian took the short-cut, if
you can call it that, over the top of Burnt Mountain on Route 136 while
the rest of us took the longer and "scenic route" (including Steve Tate
Road, Cove Road, and Grandview Road) south of the mountain.
Mr. Steve Shore followed our peloton in his van for the entire ride.
Mr. Shore was our support crew, broom wagon, and constant fan.
Cathy Frazier and Alba Cucaz drove our other support vehicles, meeting
us at our food stops in Talking Rock and Resaca.
Naturally, there were the typical impediments that seem to occur on such
a long ride. Early on, while the group was riding through the
hilliest portion, Dominique Shore had problems with her front derailleur
slipping. Bad news in the steep and long hills! She would
get stuck in the small chain-ring while the group made the repeated
descents reaching speeds over 40 mph following long "small chain-ring"
climbs. Mr. Shore retrieved her around the 50-mile mark on
Grandview Road, which lays in the shadow of Burnt Mountain. Mr.
Shore worked on her bike at the first stop, Talking Rock.
Dominique rejoined the group after Talking Rock, but soon she again had
mechanical problems. Once again Steve retrieved her. It so
happened that Steve had his own bike on top of his van. After
picking up Dominique for the second time, he drove ahead of the group
where he made adjustments to fit Dominique on his bike. She was
able to get back in the group using her dad's bike for the remainder of
The most spectacular incident of the day occurred on that infamous
Grandview Road. Moments before Mr. Shore picked up Dominique and
Jeff Aldridge. With Greg Phillips pulling the group at top speed
on a steep descent, a medium sized black dog came sprinting from its
front yard high above the roadway. With lots of momentum, the mutt
was on a collision course with our pathway. Greg and Sam Tomaka
were lucky enough to be in front of the interception. Andy Lydick,
who was third wheel, slammed the critter with his front wheel!
Stephanie Cucaz was between Andy and me, partially blocking my view.
However, with my peripheral vision, I witnessed the black blur
torpedoing from the left toward impact. I, like those behind me,
braced for a tremendous crash at 30 mph. In an instant, "bam!",
Andy hit the dog in its hip making his bike wobble furiously!
Disaster loomed! But to my surprise and relief, Andy made the most
miraculous recovery and regained control. Stephanie, myself, and
everyone behind us managed to stay upright, although we bunched up
instantaneously. Greg and Sam opened a huge gap on us, oblivious
to the chaos behind them.
After a painful yelp, the newly crippled dog paused while we zoomed by.
It managed to drag its hind quarters and return to its yard... I'm
certain that it will be a long time before that dog attempts to chase
Eventually, most of our pack was able to catch Greg and Sam before we
made a brief stop at Highway 136. Within a few seconds, everyone
was able to regroup at the brief stop. There, we shared our
version of the incident with one another.
The remaining seven miles to our food stop in Talking Rock went by
without further incident. Indeed, it was the most pleasant part of
the ride. The surrounding mountains shielded us from the wind and
most of the trek was downhill. We arrived in Talking Rock at 10:12
a.m. at 3:00:56 riding time - the all-time fastest for the first segment
of the ride.
The next segment of the ride is generally the easiest, but not this
year! Normally, the group will average 21 - 22 mph from Talking
Rock to Resaca, about 32 miles. I pulled the first few miles...
right away, I knew that this year's edition was going to be different.
I struggled to get to 20 mph on the flatter parts... even still I could
hear the shouts of "off" coming from the back of the group as some
riders were losing the battle against the swirling headwind. Even
the two mile descent down to Carter's Lake was difficult. There
was one particular stretch that was protected and I was able to get over
40 mph with the group in tow, but other than that stretch, I was
fighting to hold 30. I gave the helm to David Goodman before
reaching the bottom - I was getting exhausted even though it was
David pulled for a long time into that relentless wind. He set a
great pace, a little too much for three riders. Mr. Shore picked
up Abigail, Jeff, and Jonathan (JJ) Cucaz. JJ was having problems
with his front shifting since the Talking Rock stop. He was done
for the day with 72 miles.
About 14 miles from our second food stop, we formed a double pace-line
with Andrew Macrae and Philip O'Donnell on the front. Those two
kept up a very good pace for the group over the next several miles.
Near Resaca, Andrew Hodges, Zoe, and I pulled the group to our second
stop. We pedaled into the Flying J at 12:29 p.m. Surprising
we were still one minute ahead of schedule. Our support crews had
not yet arrived, so most of the riders rested in the soft grass
surrounding the grounds of the Flying J. It was only a few moments
before our food and drinks arrived.
As we replenished ourselves with fuel and drinks, there were several
discussions about who would continue and who was stopping. Andy
Lydick and Ben Rothschild decided not start the final leg. Ben was
finished for the day. Andy planned to rejoin the group for the
final 13 miles. Abigail, Jeff, and Stephanie decided to restart
with the group.
After the Resaca food stop, we still had about 52 miles to the finish
against the wind. For the first few miles past Resaca, Rusty Burns
and Andrew Hodges pulled the pack against the wind. When we
reached the Snake Creek Gap climb, Nick and Philip were on the front
holding 15 - 17 mph in our double pace-line. It was a very hard
section. Three riders dropped back to Mr. Shore's van to be picked
up before we reached the top of the gap (100-mile mark). Abigail,
Jeff, and Stephanie would get back on their bikes a little farther down
Once more David Goodman pulled the group. He fought the wind all
the way to Maddox Gap (109 miles). Although David was winning the
battle, the war was not over. His effort took its toll on our
strongman. David bonked late in the ride and suffered over the
Unbelievably, a few of our team was able to attack the switchback climb
up Maddox Gap. Philip was the first to the top with Andrew Macrae
close behind. Greg Phillips was next with steadfast David, fourth.
Speedy Fletcher was next followed by Russell, myself, and Zoe.
James Todd was only moments behind Zoe. The rest of the group
followed one by one to the top. At the summit, we took a deserved
and needed short break with Mr. Shore supplying drinks and gels from his
support van. Abigail, Jeff, and Stephanie rejoined the group for
the 32-mile finale.
pulled the group to Lafayette, where Greg Phillips took over pulling
duties. Around the 118-mile mark, Sam cracked. Mr. Shore
retrieved him. Sam rejoined us with Andy for the final 13 miles.
As we closed in on the finish, I noticed that our pace was slipping.
Even the strongest riders did not stay at the front for very long.
The climbs were shorter, but near each top, a blast of wind was there to
pushing against us making the end of every climb extra tough.
About three miles before Cooper Heights, I noticed that Zoe had dropped
behind the group and she momentarily stopped. She seemed to be
strong the whole day, so I was surprised that she had apparently
cracked. I dropped back to encourage her to continue, but she had
all ready remounted. Zoe quickly reached my wheel and told
me that she had a severe leg cramp on at the bottom of the climb.
I expected a long chase to the group, but we were with them in no time
flat. I thought the group had waited, but later I learned that
David and Hodges were starting to succumb for their earlier efforts.
Indeed the whole group was in the "suffer zone".
Finally, we made the turn northward from Route 136 onto Route 193 - the
homestretch, the final 13 miles. Andy and Sam rejoined the group.
Jeff Aldridge went to the front. Route 193 begins with a few
rolling hills that gradually drop the elevation to the floor of Lookout
Mountain Valley, about seven miles from the state border.
Normally, we zip over these climbs and descend rapidly with plenty of
momentum for the next climb until we reach the valley. It was
different this year. The headwind and tired bodies forced us to
crawl each of the rollers with little momentum over the top. With
about 11 miles to go, David Goodman said to me, "Mr. Ralph, I'm hungry."
David's head was down and he didn't have his normal perfect pedaling
stroke - he'd bonked! Quickly, I passed over my food stores from
my rear pockets. David was bonking, Zoe was cramping, Hodges was
hanging on for survival... It was EPIC!
Although our pace a slow, we eventually made it to the valley, but there
was no reward in reaching it. The wind seemed to have more force
than ever. Greg Phillips got on the front and the group was having
difficultly staying together, but somehow we managed. Once more I
found myself at the front. My eyes were longing to see the silos
along the roadside that signaled the finish was nearby. My legs
were begging me to stop. Finally, I spotted the silos, then the
railroad tracks... only half a mile to go! We pushed across the
border into Tennessee at 4 p.m. - elated, but mostly exhausted.
With our ride completed, we turned into a small alley, made a U-turn and
rolled back across the border into Georgia where we stopped to celebrate
with our families and supporters at the gas station.
James Todd became the youngest to make it the whole way. He was 12 on
April 25th. Fletcher Lydick was the 5th youngest to complete the whole
ride - he was 13 last November.
Only three adults completed the whole ride, including yours truly.
7:10AM start of 17th Chattanooga Ride: 141.67 mil, 7:22:00
Here is the list of those who completed this year's Chattanooga Ride -
Rusty Burns, Nick Frazier, Zoe Frazier, David Goodman, Andrew Hodges,
Fletcher Lydick, Andrew Macrae, Philip O'Donnell, Greg Phillips, Russell
Tindol, & James Todd.
Dominique Shore: 132 mi., Sam Tomaka: 131.2 mi., Stephanie Cucaz: 129.76
mi., Abigail Aldridge: 112.46 mi., Andy Lydick: 102.82 mi. Jeff
Aldridge: 96.76 mi., Jonathan Cucaz: 72.4 mi., Ben Rothschild: 71.6 mi.
Brian Burke: 30.4 mi.
Talking Rock: (57.90, 3:00:56, 10:12 - 10:45AM). Resaca (89.62 mi.,
12:28 - 1PM, 4:37:32).
Finished at 4PM.
special thanks to Steve Shore. He followed the group in his van
every (sometimes tearful) mile. He picked up the riders who
cracked along the way... then he would drop them off to rejoin the group
after recovering in the mobile shelter.
Thanks to Brian Burke, who hosted the ride's start.
Thanks to all of the parents and supporters!