March 11th, 2018
What a weekend. This was the first set of races for the Gone Riding GSC series that I’ll be following this year. The Gone Riding group is a family run team that organizes mountain bike races throughout the Southeastern US. This weekend kicked off at the private Thomson trails in Macon, GA. The trailhead is located directly behind LH Thomson; the iconic brand that manufactures bicycle handlebars and seatposts among several other things, including aerospace products.
I arrived at the trailhead Friday afternoon to get my first glimpse of the trails. I had heard they were similar terrain as my local hotspot Boyd Pond; tight turns with lots of roots and sand. Arriving Friday, manufacturing was still hard at work. Parking for trail uses share the employee’s parking lot. As I suited up for my ride, I was greeted by the marketing manager at Thomson. He explained some about the company and the trails they had out their backdoor.
My first impression of the trails were much as I expected; tight, roots, and sand. They felt familiar as I spun around the 6 mile course. The start of the race had us circling around an open field, followed by dropping into the trail onto a long straight. After that first mile we began the more technical parts. The trail looped through tight turns, up and down. Many corners were deep with sand, sucking your front tire into the berms. Some of the tougher sections included steep uphill jaunts with deep roots and technical up-down sections. Overall, the trail did resemble much of my local training grounds.
The first race of the weekend was Saturday afternoon, an Individual Time Trial. The race was structured so each rider would race the course by themselves, completing their fastest single lap possible. Racers were sent off the starting line in 1-minute time gaps to ensure less likelihood of catching the person in front of you. My time trial effort felt good, fast, and mostly clean. Not having other riders around you makes judging your own speed difficult, but my 17 minute effort felt fast and smooth. The CAT 1 category had 10 riders. I took the top spot by just 8 seconds.
Day 2 of racing included the XC event. Small amounts of rain lingered in the forest for our 0930 start. Rain on sandy trails normally adds some needed traction. The elite group was set to take off first and included 8 riders. Off the line, I led the pack as we circled the field and headed back into the trail. The beginning sections were fast, hitting upwards of 24mph. As we started into the technical parts of the trail, most of the pack stayed together. The first lap continued with me leading, followed by Blake Norman and Mose Howard. This was also when it started raining. The rain was light and the trail had enough cover we didn’t notice much. As the second of 4 laps started, I began to open a 30 second gap on the riders behind. With the tight trail and open field, there were plenty of spots to see where you stood. As a few riders in the following groups started to fade, the 30 second gap stayed true though the 2nd and 3rd laps. I could see Blake and Mose shuffling back and forth. Lap 4 started and Mose made it past Blake. I could tell he was charging hard; about 10 seconds back nearly halfway through the lap. We began coming upon lapped riders that let us squeeze by clean. As we approached the final half-lap, I charged hard, knowing one slip would let Mose by. The lead increased during the final stages of the race and I crossed the line in 1st after the forth lap.
My overall impression of the Thomson trails were that they definitely resembled the normal mix of sand and roots iconic to some southern MTB trails. They contained good good punchy climbs supplemented by several fast straight sections. Being out front for the first XC race of the year felt good. I’m ready to recover and do it again.