Presumably named after the convenience store in the movie My Cousin Vinny, the Sac O Suds 50 was held on Halloween 2015. It was called the 50 but it was really 46 and most were glad to have the four mile handicap. Approximately 50 riders of various shapes and sizes on a number of mounts from mountain bikes to cross bikes to monster cross bikes, showed up at the line for a very sensible 10am start.
After the usual pre-race riders meeting where road safety, admonitions about being stupid and general instructions to not get lost in the wilderness, riders lined up behind the promoters all-wheel-drive SUV. Oh, there was something else about woodpeckers and some special prize for anyone who actually captured one on video. I think there was jail time associated with anyone who actually captured the woodpecker.
We rolled off on a neutral start of about a half mile until we reached the first dirt road. It was then that the promoter’s real intent for putting on the ride became evident. I suspect one of the primary motivators for him is the opportunity to drive really fast on gravel roads to the park. A bike ride is just a convenient excuse <joking of course>.
As is often the case in these gravel road adventures, the groups split with an elite group of 15 or so people intent on ripping each others legs off, and the rest of the riders more intent on enjoying the ride and the scenery. The Gravel Cyclist crew made the cut and the race was on.
My vantage point was as “loose caboose” at the back of this front group. With the exception of one mistaken foray off the front where I was left to rip my own legs off, my race was a succession of getting dropped on every uphill and climb my way back on every downhill. This is not a long-term strategy for success. Eventually, the downhill could not make up for the uphill. After concluding that I was now on the Gran Fondo, I settled into a more reasonable pace.
That was not to last as shortly after I saw the Australian version of the Gravel Cyclist kit a few hundred yards ahead of me. JOM had apparently employed the same downhill-uphill strategy with roughly the same success as I. The Headmaster, K-Dogg, and Pfaff Daddy were still in the front group but out of sight. JOM and I settled into a two man Time trial for the remainder of the event. We did have a third rider (Randy from Atlanta) who employed the reverse downhill-uphill strategy to stay with us until the end.
Somewhere in here we encountered the “not-road” section of the course. I think this was in there because the promoter is a mountain biker at heart. I freely confess to having virtually no mountain bike skills, so this was the most challenging part of the race for me. I don’t know if anyone made it across the stream without dismounting, but I did my regular “granny at the bike rack” dismount and staggered along behind JOM in the hike-a-bike section. We were most definitely not making up time during this sector.
What followed was the power line section which was sort of fun until the last part of the climb to the flags. I suspect this is another place that the mountain bikers were able to ride. JOM and I made it almost to the top, but I dismounted when my front wheel began to take the place of my back wheel. We were much relieved to pop out at the Sac O Suds for the return leg to the finish.
JOM squandered a massive lead out by the good Dr. Pain, by letting our companion outsprint him for a mostly anonymous 9th place. Meanwhile, up ahead, the Headmaster had tracked down all of the other leaders for victory! K-Dogg and Pfaff Daddy were 4th and 5th. They all probably have excellent stories but since they were out of sight I can’t tell them.
Overall, the course was marvelous. Excellent conditions, little or no traffic, obvious course markings, great promoters and volunteers and friendly competitors.
This is what the gravel scene is all about.