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May 14, 2009
"Six Gap Plus Brass Town Bald", while certainly a catchy title, is an elaborate way to reference seven very definite and distinct climbs put together for today's ride. Some of you will recognize the name from the Tour of Georgia, it's a climb that the pros talk about with a certain mix of fear and respect. While Six Gap may not categorically be as challenging as Mt. Ventoux or Alpe d'Huez, it certainly is a world-renowned climb, and is one of the most well known rides of our summer tour.
Scott Smith, our host for the day, runs us through today’s ride over breakfast. Scott is an easy going gentlemen, quiet but clear and confident, and his laid back approach to the day is welcomed by the new crew of riders. Yesterday in Nashville, Ryan, Greg, Cole, Sam and Pete said their goodbyes on the curb of the airport and went their separate ways, their tour complete. Around the same time, Jeremy Dunn, Steve "Franny" Francisco, Ben Lieberson and Dan Langois landed and collected luggage in the very same airport. After hellos and a quick debrief, the exchange of cardboard bike boxes marked the transition of riders. So Scott, like it or not, is hosting four very fresh, very fit, very lightweight Rapha Riders. That this section of the tour is likely the hardest for climbing and that these guys are some of our strongest in the mountains, is mere coincidence, though Scott seems skeptical on that matter. The ride is simple, head out of town and into the mountains and climb six (actually, seven) of them. The only thing left to do before we depart is convince Scott's wife Jillian that driving the van and navigating is an easy and joyful job.
It takes seven hours, some impromptu bike maintenance, several dozen Cokes, and lots and lots and lots of digging, but we finish. The end finds us all resplendent in the glory of suffering, and no, that’s not totally overselling it. It hurt, a lot. Scott gracefully and happily fights to stay with four of our strongest climbers, which he knew would be a challenge. Jillian handles the van with just as much grace, and maybe just as much suffering. Ben just likes to climb, full stop. Jeremy, Dan and Steve all fresh, ride strong.
The North Georgia Mountains in mid-May are spectacular. Now that we've done it, it goes without saying that this is a ride that's worth whatever it takes to get here to experience a climb like this. In some respects what makes 'Six Gap Plus Brass Town Bald' world-class and so amazing, is that each of the seven climbs are worthy enough on their own, but put together they are magnificent. There is absolutely no fat or fluff, no busy highways or narrow pedestrian paths, no wasted time in traffic or unsightly suburbs between. Six Gap is simply seven times a climbers wonderland.
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