Saturday, October 31, 2015 – the Sac O Suds 50 is a just under 50 mile gravel race that starts and finishes on the outskirts of Juliette, Georgia. The race heads north along the river road to the Sac O Suds store, which was featured in the movie, “My Cousin Vinny“. Approximately four miles prior to the store, riders head into the woods along double track, single track, power line trails and a creek crossing or two, before heading back in the opposite direction along the river road.
Compared to JOM’s last appearance at this race, the weather was much warmer and warranted for a relatively light clothing setup; regular jersey and bib shorts, lightweight base layer and arm warmers. Road conditions of the dirt and gravel roads were near perfect – hard packed with only one or two sections of sludgy red clay mud from rain during the days leading up to the event.
The Gravel Cyclist crew of Gainesville, Florida made sure to get a little course reconnaissance late on Friday afternoon, namely of the potentially sketchy single track section and power line trails. One can never have enough tribal knowledge!
Time to Roll
Glancing around the assembled riders, it was apparent the level of talent at this year’s Sac O Suds was of a higher order. This likely had something to do with Sunday’s weather forecast for the second race of the weekend, the Fried Green 50 – with a rain forecast of 90% – 100%, everyone had the idea of racing in the dry, versus racing in the sludge.
The race rolled out on time at 10am, with race promoter Monte driving the lead vehicle.
The Gravel Cyclist crew was in near full-attendance for the race, with members JOM (yours truly), the Headmaster (Rusty), K-Dogg, Dr. Pain and Pfaff Daddy (Scott). With 10 minutes of racing under our belts, a strong group of 12 – 14 riders comprised the front group. Of note was the team of Jeff Clayton, last year’s winner of the Sac O Suds race. It was obvious Jeff and his team were there to win. Also in the group were guys like Shey Lindner, not affiliated with any team, but with a real shot at winning the event.
The pace was strong and steady, but there were little to no attacks early on. Once in a while a rider would drift ahead with a small advantage taken during one of the many climbs and descents, but nobody was getting away just yet.
While most of the roads were in excellent condition, a distinct ridge had formed in the middle of many of them, consisting of loose gravel or semi-soft Georgia mud. Crossing into this zone guaranteed a loss of speed and a dusting of red mud spots all over one’s bike and jerseys. Consequently, this ridge limited the lines riders were willing to take. At times, there were two distinct lines of riders on each side of the road.
The constant climbing was taking its toll on many of the riders, particularly on those who should have stayed closer to the front, rather than lurking near the back, and then being forced to close gaps and cross into the middle of the road sludge zone. This mostly applied to JOM.
At one point, JOM was gapped off the back along with his teammate Dr. Pain. Mostly it was due to inattention, and *something* to do with the less than pleasing pace on every single hill. On that particular occasion, JOM was a good lad, and dutifully dragged himself and Dr. Pain back to the group after some ace descending and a bit of hard pedaling on some of the flatter roads.
However, JOM was not on his best day, made apparent by the overall fatigue he felt as the group ascended each following hill… and the next hill.. and the next hill. JOM popped off not long before the steep wall climb that measures about 18% – and was alone for a while, before he sat up and waited for his teammate Dr. Pain, who was also feeling his legs – and his fractured thumb (see the Mudcrutch Gravel TTT video to see how this happened).
Thankfully, the Gravel Cyclist crew still had three riders in the front group – the Headmaster, K-Dogg and Pfaff Daddy.
Now isolated, JOM and Dr. Pain – along with Randy from Atlanta for company, set about riding the remainder of the course safely, and as rapidly as possible. As expected, the creek crossing and following singletrack / trudge through the woods took more time than expected. JOM prefers to tip toe about the place, preferably avoiding getting his feet wet
Can you say Steep?
While not technical in nature, the power line trails are steep. Most of them are rideable, provided you have a low gear, stay seated and choose the correct line. Considering the lack of technical abilities of JOM, he did pretty well. He also happened to lead the way, so the pressure was on to avoid screwing up!
In life, nothing is ever easy, and the same goes with the biggest ascent along the power lines trail – which happens to be adorned with flags strung from a downed tree – something to look at as you grovel along, as you try to keep your front wheel planted on the ground.
Riders face two choices as they reach the mid-point of the climb. Hurriedly clip out and walk the climb, or hunker down with the appropriate weight placement over one’s bike, and *try* and make it to the top without falling over backwards. This climb has to be at least 30% at the top. What did JOM do? He tried to ride it.
Important Note – the two bananas JOM carried the entire race were not harmed in any way. Nor were they consumed during the race.
Once the trio of JOM, Dr. Pain and Randy from Atlanta exited the madness of the power lines, they set about downing a little food on the bike, before the serious business of rolling to the finish line began.
One thing must be stated – there was absolutely no way the trio was going to rejoin the front group. They were gone – long gone. But, the trio was going to completely sit up and roll into the finish Gran Fondo style.
So, a three man team time trial began. With Randy being from Atlanta, he has plenty of hills to train on, and was definitely climbing better than Dr. Pain and JOM. But, Dr. Pain and JOM are both ace descenders and were rolling big tires (tyres) – Specialized Renegade 1.8″ for JOM and 2.0″ for Dr. Pain. This meant they could bomb descents with relative impunity.
Dr. Pain and JOM would gap Randy on the longer descents, but he would quickly close the gap on the resulting climb. This yo-yo’ing happened for the entire 20 something miles from the power lines trail to the finish line.
While Dr. Pain and JOM were teammates, Randy was not, but he was a frenemy of sorts. He would give us a turn on the front when he was able, but at some point before the finish line, he would have to dropped. Remember, the Sac O Suds is a bike race…
With approximately three miles remaining, Dr. Pain set about a lengthy turn on the front with Randy at second wheel. Dr. Pain’s idea was to pace JOM who was lurking on the back, waiting for the right time to jump away… this was a move JOM pulled successfully at the 2014 Sac O Suds to take 3rd overall. In the 2015 edition, JOM and Dr. Pain were gunning for 9th, 18th or 80th… or something like that. Nobody really cared, but a shallow victory of some sorts had to happen 🙂
Despite having tribal knowledge of the course, JOM screwed up. He jumped one hill too early – and died a bit – squandered his lead – and then sat up briefly to grab the rear wheel of Randy – who completely destroyed JOM in the final sprint. D’oh! Well played Randy.
While JOM rounded out the top 10 with Dr. Pain rolling in just behind, the other members of the Gravel Cyclist crew fared MUCH better.
- 1st – The Headmaster aka Rusty – GravelCyclist.com – Win!
- 2nd – Jeff Clayton.
- 3rd – Shey Lindner.
- 4th – K-Dogg – GravelCyclist.com
- 5th – Pfaff Daddy (Scott) – GravelCyclist.com
Overall, everyone had a great time, and the Gravel Cyclist crew will return for 2016!
Sac O Suds Race Reports from Dr. Pain, the winner – The Headmaster aka Rusty and the GravelCyclist.com race video, featuring the perspective of FIVE cameras.
To Monte (the promoter), Red Molly, OMBA volunteers and other volunteers who we don’t know by name. Thanks also to our fellow racers and our team sponsors – American Classic Wheels and Hawk Racing (clothing and bottom brackets).
Thanks for reading!