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There's a lot of buzz about the changes to the Cheaha Challenge Gran Fondo route for 2014 and this is the place you can discover how the new roads/courses affect you. If you're a first timer to the Cheaha Challenge, how much our new route follows the ride you've heard about from previous riders depends on the distance you elect to ride. Because the start of the ride is now on the Jacksonville State University Campus in Jacksonville, AL we had to change the beginning and end of the ride.
Once you get to HWY 9, for those of you who've been "challenged before," there is NO CHANGE from that point to Adam's gap and then back until you leave HWY 9 to return to Jacksonville. It's almost 9 miles from Jacksonville to HWY 9 so that means folks opting for the shortest distance have an almost new ride and what a great ride it is. For those challenged by the longer distances the ride hasn't changed as much, well not too much.
Start to the 49 mile Turnaround
6 miles Extra Miles Added on the way Back!
10,263 ft. of Elevation Gain or as we say in Alabama "Climbing"
Here's a start to finish summary of all the routes:
- Everyone will start the ride from the Pete Mathews Coliseum on the Jacksonville State University campus. You'll ride down Nisbet St. on the north end of campus .5 mi to Pelham Rd. which is HWY 21.
- You'll head south with a right on Pelham Rd. 1.7 mi past the historic JSU campus buildings then through the center of town around the Jacksonville square to White's Gap Rd. where you'll turn left (that's at 2.2 mi overall) and yes, there you start thinking about your first longer climb.
- At 4.4 mi you'll turn left at the White's Gap Church to stay on White's Gap Rd. Here your warm-up climb starts in earnest. It's not hard, just early into the day. There were some rollers in Jacksonville but now you've got a steady 1.9 mi climb which averages 4% with a couple of brief double digit grade spots.
- As you descend to HWY 9 remember you've got to come back up these grades on the way back. It's a strong finish for everyone.
- At 8.75 mi you turn right on to HWY 9. From this point out and back to here the ride is unchanged. Everything else is familiar to the returning riders. The sag stops and turn-a rounds, the views and vistas, the friendly folks cheering you along...
- At 11.4 mi you'll find a sag stop, REST STOP #1 at the BP station in White Plains.
TURN AROUND HERE FOR THE 23 MILE ROUTE. Skip to step 21 below if you're riding 23.
- Continuing down HWY 9 you come to the Iron City Baptist Church at 18.6 mi which will have folks cheering you on and handing off water in case you missed it at RS1. Since the second and harder and longer climb is coming up before RS2 you may want to grab a bottle.
- At 20.25 mi you'll turn left on to HWY 78 and climb Heflin Mountain to RS2 which is at the 22 mi marker.
- Its 22 miles and REST STOP #2 at the entrance to the HWY281 Skyway.
TURN AROUND HERE FOR THE 44 MILE ROUTE. Skip to step 21 below if you're riding 44.
- Now we start on the roller coaster to the highest point in Alabama, Cheaha Mtn. It's a tough ride, death by 1000 knives instead of death by the sword. A lot of sharp up and down but the views, the volunteers and the prize of finishing will keep you going!
(The rest of the notes taking you to Adam's Gap is from the original website text by Mike Poe with mileages corrected for our new start and finish)
- At approx. 30 miles is the first steep climb-Horseblock Mountain
- At approx. 31 miles is REST STOP #3 on the right at the top of climb.
TURN AROUND HERE FOR THE 62 MILE ROUTE. Skip to step 21 below if you're riding 62.
- After a fast one mile decent of Horseblock (remember this hill on the trip back), begin one-mile ascent of next steep climb referred to by locals as..."Not Again."
- Crest Not Again at approx. mile 33 and travel rolling terrain
- At approx. mile 35 begin one-mile ascent of what we call "Oh Shift."
- At approx. mile 39 begin the 3-mile ascent to Cheaha State Park
- Rest Stop #4 is at mile 42 at the top on your left. No rider allowed past this point after 12:30pm.
TURN AROUND HERE FOR THE 84 MILE ROUTE. Skip to step 21 below if you're riding 84.
- Descend Cheaha and travel fast rolling hills
- At approx. mile 47 begin ascent to Adam's Gap.
- At crest of Adam's Gap at mile 49 is REST STOP #5 where the pavement ends.
TURN AROUND HERE FOR THE 104 MILE ROUTE
- Now for the trip back! There are several surprises on the way back including some extra mileage for the centurions.
- After you pass RS1 on HWY 9 the 23, 44, 62 and 84 milers turn left (caution) on White's Gap Rd. Your climb to White's Gap is shorter but steeper in this direction. It's only 1.2 miles averaging 6%. The 104 mile riders continue STRAIGHT on HWY 9 past White's Gap Rd. Don't worry centurions, you'll still get to climb to the gap.
- 104 ONLY: Continue on HWY 9 to a LEFT (caution) on Hollingsworth Rd. at 92 mi.
- 104 ONLY: Hollingsworth will end at mile 97 intersecting White's Gap Rd. You turn right on White's Gap Rd. and join the other distance routes just before the climb to White's Gap.
- EVERYONE: After the descent from White's Gap turn right to stay on White's Gap Rd. at White's Gap Church.
- EVERYONE: Turn right on to Church Ave. just before Pelham Rd./HWY 21 (and just before "Sonic").
- EVERYONE: Turn left on to Mountain St. and continue to the FINISH LINE just before the Chief Ladiga Trail at the train depot.
To view an interactive map follow this link showing the full 104 mile route: http://www.mapmyride.com/routes/view/351513863 As always with mapmyride routes ignore the elevation gain data. It's off here by over a factor of two. The actual elevation gain is 10,263 feet in 104.4 miles.
Strava has been added to the Cheaha Challenge. Sign up now and "Prove It", track your route and time for the event.