Southern Cross 2014 was held on a perfect day in the north Georgia mountains. This is the first race of the UltraCX race series, and a lot of well known racers were present, Garth Prosser, Brian Toone, Thomas Turner. Temperature started out around 40 and climbed to the high 60s by the end. A bit of rain in the days leading up to the event kept all the dust down and added a bit of tack to the forest roads, which was needed on those fast, sketchy, hairpin, rutty descents. In short, conditions were prime.
The "Race" went as planned, finish without blowing up, validate the new cyclocross bike #heyerdahlcx and one too many beer handups before the wall. Chris, Mike (gopro pics) and I did almost all 50 miles together. It wasn't a casual pace, but it was that fast either. Having a cold for three weeks prior didnt help my mountain goat ways, as we did roughly 6200 ft of climbing in 51 miles. That's 121 ft per mile, on gravel, it hurt, but as always: per mile dirt is more fun. The race opens with a bumpy and hilly grass field cx course, all natural obstacles, most notably two steep climbs.
The hardest part of the race are a few sections of Winding Stair Gap Rd. The pitch is steep, and the gravel really does a good job of slowing any momentum. Oh, you want to get out of the saddle?, nope, no traction, gotta sit and grind it out. Lots of people walking. Here I am behind Chris and Mike trying to find a better, smoother line, errr maybe just shit bike handling:
On the last descent I stopped to check on a dude walking his mtb. He had already flatted twice using both his tubes, he said his wheel was cracked (carbon) and was in for a 10 mile mountainous walk to the finish line. I gave him a tube and told him if it got him a mile it would be worth it. Shit, I've been there, you come prepared and it's just not your day. Lend a tube! Ha, that being said I gave him a tube and left the mechanics up to him, good luck bro!
The descents are sketchy , tight turns, drop offs, and hard to see ruts / rocks. Mike noted that it's hard to tell the difference between a tree shadow and a shadow being formed by a rut, true, thus bunnyhop all of 'em. There were tons of water bottles all over the downhill sections. My hands cramped from grabbing those levers connected to cant stop wont stop cantis. Last year I did this ride on my mtb, hydro brakes, thus the downhills were way more fun. I must also say that I was 1 minute slower this year on my CX bike than my mtb last year. Legs always win over gear, but I'd say this course slightly favors a MTB. Lots of climbing, tough cx course, those sketch downhills, and hardly any flat roads to get the speed up.
Thomas Turner won this year, after coming in 2nd last year to Brian Toone. Thomas did the course in 2 hours 58 minutes and 30 seconds, mind blown, fear the beard.
Shout out to Fed (FM), Dan and Nick, whom all volunteered. Thanks to 55nine, Eddie and Nam, great event planning as always, it's a low key event, but well run at the same time. Be looking at Mountain Goat Adventures for next years race, they are taking it over, just as they have with the Fool's Gold Races.
Felt good to be in the woods, a Saturday well spent.
Photo Cred: Mike Weigand (gopro shots), and Federico Holgado.