April 8th, 2018

I started out the year in search of new trail. New places to explore. New towns to visit. New roads to travel on. New anything. That led me to the SERC/GSC series. Covering races in and around Georgia, the series offered good competition and some new-to-me singletrack. So far each race has been something new for me. Starting out at the LH Thomson trails in Macon, GA, then Haile’s trails in Newberry, FL. This weekend was no different. The third stop of the XC races took us to the home of the ’96 Olympic mountain bike races, the Georgia International Horse Park (GIHP) in Conyers, GA. This place was one of the closer races for me at only about 2 hours away.

Trailhead Sign
Trailhead Sign

Not really knowing if we raced the actual same course from ’96, I was surprised by the lack of technical terrain. Now, I probably shouldn’t have jumped to critiquing the course so quickly — In hindsight, comparing bikes..

1996 bikes:
Front-suspension only (0-50mm)
Small (26″) wheels
Did carbon bikes exist?
No dropper seat posts

2018 bikes:
Choices of full or front-suspension (100+mm)
Larger wheels (27.5″ or 29″)
Carbon everywhere
Droppers used for technical terrain

So, for a race course in ’96, the GIHP was probably the cream of the crop. It DID have some tight switchbacks, wooden features, and man-made rock sections. This course was fast, wide open, with two major climbs. — Overall, one loop was about 6.5 miles long with lap times between 26-28 minutes. This pushed our 4 lap race to about 2 hours.

I arrived a day early to preride the course. Luckily I found a few hours in the afternoon when the rain subsided to ride a lap. Even with showers in the morning, and then later that night, the sandy trail stayed in good shape. I’ve looked forward to this weekend; the gang from the CSRA all planned to show up. Josh, Dustin, Patrick and I all lined up together on race morning.

The field was large – Combining the CAT 1’s from the 19-39 and 40-49 age group, 17 of us would take off together. This ‘elite’ group contained some heavy hitters. — 0930 the race was on! Lining up front row, I got a good jump from the start. The start stretch led us about 60 seconds through a field before heading into singletrack. I was about 5th wheel heading into the woods. We set a very fast pace from the beginning. Quickly, a lead pack broke from the remaining of the field; 3 youngsters, myself, Chris, Mose, and Dustin. Heading into the singletrack, I already wasn’t feeling 100%. Thinking the 40 degree temps were the reason; my lungs were screaming and wishing for Florida weather again. Prior to the first climb, Chris and Mose passed me. The four of us were setting a good pace together that I wish I could’ve held onto for longer. The 3 youngsters up front were size-ably ahead by this point. Shortly after, Dustin went by and I began to lose track of the pack. Knowing it was a long race, I held a steady pace and planned to keep them within reach. Ending lap 1, then 2, I knew the front group of 3 were quite distanced from us. Still seeing Chris, Mose, and Dustin in the distance, I could just never catch back on. Continuing around for lap 3, pace was still steady and I continued to ride solo. Not seeing the pack ahead again, I continued to push along coming into the finish after 4 laps. About 7 minutes off the lead, I was semi-disappointed and trying to figure where my fifth gear was today. I ended up 6th out of the group of 17.

Southern Wheelworks in 6th
Race Results – Southern Wheelworks in 6th

This weekend was fun. Fun to ride a prior Olympic course. Fun to hang with the guys from town.

Next weekend: Tsali – Another new-to-me trail!

GSC/SERC #2 – Conyers, GA

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