Very nice ride today out of Piedmont Alabama which is about 20 miles north of Anniston. The weekend includes a street festival, Crits and other cycling events on Saturday in Anniston.
This is the 4th year I've done Cheaha I think-although I hadn't done it in a couple years. The ride is about a 6 hour drive from my house so it's a commitment to do it. But my cousin lives within an hour of there so I stopped by to see family on Saturday and had a great visit catching up.
Nice day to ride today although a tad cool to start--probably low to mid 40's but warmed up to the low 70's at the finish. I put on a vest, arm warmers, light long fingered gloves and knee warmers and after about 30 minutes I wish I didn't have on the vest and knee warmers. It was a strategic mistake as I wound up wasting a few minutes at my one stop to get them off.
The route is unique as it is a true out and back. It is about 51 miles out to the turnaround and then you come back the same roads. There is not much climbing in the first 23 miles but there is a good bit in the 30 miles going out and those same 30 miles coming back. In fact I recorded 7600' of climbing over that 54 mile stretch. And while the climbs are not terribly long some are pretty darn steep. Needless to say I really enjoyed my 32 gear today.
I was in great position the first 23 miles. In fact I stayed with the front group of about 40 and we did that stretch in just under 24 mph. I was probably the 2nd or 3rd slowest climber of that group but I knew that would be the case. I made one stop at the halfway point and took off unwanted clothes, refilled bottles and grabbed a banana. I wound up eating two bananas for the day and drinking about 3 bottles of fluids.
With the out and back you get to see where you stand with the others as you can see them on course. I think I figured out that the lead riders were about 5 miles ahead of me at my 47 mile mark. So they had put about 5 miles on me in about 25 miles. That is very humbling but while I can climb I am a slow steady climber, especially on grades above 10%......and getting slower...
My riding time was 5 hr 59 mins so I guess my total time was a little over 6 hours. The fastest I've done that route was 5hr 45 mins. I was on pace to finish faster today but you have to have a group in that last 25 miles to make any time-especially today with a swirling wind. The only riders I saw the last 25 miles were those I passed so I lost some really valuable time on that stretch.
I was hoping to break 6 hours so pretty close. Now I just hope for a top 50 finish.
Long 6 hour drive back home afterwards. Driving through Atlanta after doing a pretty tough ride and feeling drowsy was no picnic............Glad I did it as it was a barometer of my fitness and progress. It was also really great to spend some time with my cousins.
Here is a link to photos in the Anniston Star: