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FCI NEWS

2010 Chattanooga Ride - EPIC

 

By Ralph Frazier

 

May 8, 2010

 

The 17th Chattanooga Ride was held on Saturday, May 8, 2010 with twelve very tough participants completing the 142-mile ride.

 

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 ride.

 

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 cyclists, again.

 

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 downhill.

 

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 the road.

 

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 final miles.

 

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.

 

I 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.

 

Ride summary:

 

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.

 

Other participants:

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.

 

A 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!