2011 Cheaha Century Challenge Comments
"I met a lot of amazing people, but one that I'll never forget is a guy named Curtis. Curtis is from Prattville, and his main mode of transportation is his bike. He was planning on coming to the ride with a friend, but his friend moved away, and this left Curtis without a way to get to Piedmont, except his bicycle. So, on Saturday, he rode to Piedmont (140 miles) from Prattville. Curtis, you da man! I wish I had as much determination and guts as you do."
"A great ride & big fun! The volunteers are top rate! They couldn't do enough for us. The rest stops were loaded with drink, food, & fun. The ride support was very well done. We had 2 flats in our group and had help arrive before we could finish changing a tube! Thanks to everyone that made this event possible. Their sacrifice & support made the painful climbs "somewhat" enjoyable!"
"This was my second year participating in the challenge. And just like last year, it was a fabulous experience. I think what makes this so enjoyable is the quality level of organization in executing this event. Not only that, but the volunteers at the rest stops are fantastic, not to mention the citizen's of Piedmont that sit out in their front yards cheering you on as you come back into town. Because of the camaraderie among all the riders, it makes you feel like you're a part of something great when you do the ride. I see myself participating in the Cheaha Challenge for years to come!"
"The Cheaha Challenge, its event coordinators, and volunteers once again delivered a fantastic weekend event. A "must do" ride for cyclists in the southeast. Plan the weekend and have a great time. Everything about this event is top-notch. Thank you so much!"
"This was my first time to ride the challenge and I had a great time. The support was the best I have ever experienced. Thanks to all the volunteers and the city of Piedmont."
"A fun reflection on the ride. This is a great event. (Outdoor Sports Staff Writer, Piedmont, AL.) On a day that saw temperatures reach 102 degrees on the asphalt, two former Auburn Football players turned endurance athletes took on the cycling event nicknamed 'the Toughest Ride in the South' the Cheaha Challenge. Yann Cowart and Bob Harris who both played for Auburn in the early 80's were among the 500 riders attempting to climb to Alabama's highest point on Sunday. This was Harris' third century and he said 'the toughest one yet by far, the climbs were extremely difficult and the heat was brutal'. Harris despite being involved in a crash at the 55 mile mark led the way the up for his group on multiple climbs. This was Cowart's first century, but not his first endurance event, he has successfully completed several triathlons and he put in a spectacular performance in his first century, riding on a vintage bicycle from the 1970's that made climbing difficult to say the least. Cowart said 'he knew the 102 mile challenge would be tough on an older bicycle but he had trained hard and was ready for the challenge' and he was right, his determination, drive and relentless effort made the difference, fighting off back cramps and thanks to a late race massage he and Harris crossed the finish line together. Cowart and Harris said they are looking forward to their next endurance event, the San Destin Triathlon where they will be competing as a team. They will be joined by another former Auburn football player, Doug Taylor. Cowart will swim, Harris will bike, and Taylor will run. Cowart and Harris are excited about teaming up with Taylor. 'Doug was an exceptional athlete in his day excelling at football, boxing, golf and basketball. We know he will be a great anchor man for the team and we hear he has begun his training, recently buying a pair of running shoes and joining a gym.'"
"Awesome job. My friends and I will be recruiting even more people for next year. Great event. Great organization. Great support to us riders. Kudos!!"
"A very well run event! I was one of the riders trying to get my best time. So, I was very pleased to be able to get water from rest stop volunteers at the side of the road. Thank you."
The beginning of the ride saw us (Boris, Lee, and myself) late to the start line for no good reason. Everyone else was too responsible and punctual...we did nothing wrong but had to line up with the riders doing the shorter rides of the day. As Sweet Home Alabama crackled over the geriatric PA system, 500 riders began the awkward clip in, hurry up and wait dance. We rolled out of town and settled into the third big group out on the road which also happened to be the most disorganized (I am guessing here, it could have been worse if we had set up some sort of makeshift slalom course but I digress...) group of them all. As we slowed down and sped up I was thinking it seemed odd such a big group was spending so much time at 18 mph. Hey, I figured, great for energy conservation. Lee was already gone from sight. He also chose a single gear (2 to 1 maybe) which was much more climbing friendly than mine (40/15 no coasting allowed). From his account after the race, the spinny gear su cked on the flats. Duh. Mine sucked on the climbs. I ended up doing most of the ride with Boris who was on his Fisher MTB. I was chatting up a rider with a Faster Moustache jersey as we turned off the main road and began the climbing.
The bulk of the climbing on the out and back course is contained in this section. I breathed a sigh of relief as our group began to blow apart with the sudden increase in elevation. This section was referred to as Cheaha Roubaix by the race announcer when we began the ride.
SIDE NOTE: This is not a race, it is a timed ride. You pay, you ride, nobody gets prizes.
Cheaha Roubaix included about 10 miles of broken, Federal pound you in the ass pavement. Just the recipe for those bored by too many miles of flat and smooth pavement. The first big climb of the day loomed in front of us at mile 33 up to Horseblock Mountain and Aid 3. I began to realize what the rest of the day would be like on this portion of the ride. Climbing was an exercise in full body strain as I approached 30 rpm on the 12-14% sections and the downhills were even more intimidating...I usually avoid downills like this on a fixed gear because I feel completely out of control. I was enjoying the ride and it was exactly 2:45 in when we saw the lead group making their way back on the course. Minutes later I saw Travis, who did quite well, hauling the mail a few miles from the turnaround at Adams Gap, Mile 51. A female rider asked me how long left until halfway on the climb to Adam's Gap and was not amused by my reply of ,"forty thousand vertical feet."
I was expecting Tyree to be at the halfway point with dogs, beer, and the Cahaba Cycles van. Um. Nope. We refilled bottles as my beer dreams were washed away and continued on the road back to Piedmont. I saw Lee making his way up Adams Gap on his SS Felt cross bike and hoped he would catch us on the way back. Apparently, he flatted soon after this, had to walk back up the climb, waited an hour for a tube, AND FINISHED. Props, glad he will be my PMBAR partner. These miles were the hardest of the ride for me. The rollers on the way back can only be described as brutal. I was having to use a technique I began to describe in my head as the Flail Leg to navigate the downhills. If I resisted the pedals I felt like I was wasting energy but if I tried to pedal faster I was totally out of control so I settled on basically letting the bike spin my legs for me as I fought to hang on. The climbs are steeper on the return section but I was feeling good until we got to the twelve percent b ehemoth headed back up to Aid 3 at Mile 75 or so. I remember looking down at my computer with four hours and sixteen minutes on the clock as I began grinding up what was easily the hardest thing I have ever been up on a bike. I would close my now sweat filled eyes for fifteen seconds and then open them for two to make sure I was still on a road. I didn't have a body part that was happy during this...climb. It seems so unimaginative to call it only a climb but either way, I was soon at the top and sticking to my goal of not walking anything. My brain was conflicted as I smelled the hot dogs and kraut at the aid station. They smelled delicious but I knew better. The volunteers got to eat their hot dogs while I was treated to another helping of the Cheaha Roubaix.
Armed with what ended up being way too little water, we breezed on through Aid Station 2. The next few miles were some of the best of the ride. A gradual downhill combined with smooth pavement and shade trees brought my mind back to a happy place for a few minutes. The final 20 miles were flat, hot, and full of flying bugs. A paceline caught us which I promptly hopped on to. All was well until Mr Green Jersey (not a sprint reference- he was wearing one) decided a 30 mph pull would be fun. Not cool. Boris and I were yet again alone. As his water ran out and a beetle got trapped in his jersey, Boris' interest in my conversation topics began to wane. The last ten miles gave me time to think about how weak my knees felt. It was pitiful. Six hours after our journey began, we rolled back through an anticlimactic finish. I missed my six hours goal by about four minutes but my thoughts had already turned to food. I climbed stairs for pizza and pasta. No Coca Cola...meh.
I finished. I was in a good place for the whole ride and had fun BUT I would NEVER do this again. Not on a fixed gear with barely operable brakes. Next time I will borrow a Madone or something else all light and carbony to ride. Killer weekend. Good job NEABC, the three hundred(!) volunteers, and all the bike shops that supported the ride.
What a freakin' blast for an organized century... Not that there is anything wrong with paying to ride an organized century."
"Once again you made us proud. All those people who came from other states saw a side of Alabama that is to be envied. The ride, scenery, the flawless organization and support make this truly an event to look forward to every year. A very gracious thank to all of you who work hard and a big thank you to our local law enforcement who kept us safe. I will be back."
"Piedmont, you folks are the best! I come back every year just for the quiet evening in the park before the ride and the fantastic support from start to finish."
"I've done many centuries but Cheaha is the most challenging I have ever completed. Will be back next year. This ride is a true test of abilities. Kudos to the ride support, rest stations, and organizers!"
"Could not imagine how the Challenge or events leading up to it could be any better. Status quo would be enough to keep me coming back but I'd be willing to bet the organizers and volunteers will keep improving it. Only in my second year of participation but solidly on my list of traditions for years to come. Thanks to all."
"Truly an outstanding ride. This was my second year and it was even better than last year. Beautiful ride that was exceptionally well organized. I believe that Olin Conner and I are tied for the oldest riders. He is tougher. He did 66 miles while I stopped at 47."
Sandy Springs, GA
"It was a hard ride, but I had a real good time."
"Challenging ride that is also fun. Volunteers and law enforcement were great. Well organized and supported."
"Thank you for a very well organized event. The further I get away from the ride the more I am enjoying it. Can't figure out why anyone would want to do 102 miles and climb Cheaha twice but to each his own. Loved it and will do it again."
Vestavia Hills, AL
"As always, the Cheaha Challenge was a huge success and I appreciate all that you, the bike club, the municipalities involved (especially Piedmont) and most importantly the dozens and dozens of local volunteers do! The support and hospitality they all provide is the most impressive aspect of the race and truly helped me continue on to another respectable finish when I didn't think I had any gas left in the tank. They deserve a big thanks!!!
However, this year I really noticed the hard work of the road crews that took the time to sweep the course on Thursday!
As a rider coming over from Birmingham a few times over the last several weeks to do some scenic by-way riding preparing for the "big day", I was concerned on everyone's safety due to the road conditions (prior to Thursday's sweeping). There was debris and quite a bit of gravel on the by-way due to some recent severe storms and ice conditions we've had over the previous month or so. I'm pretty familiar with the track, but was still concerned about my safety with those conditions since I would be tired 30-70 miles into the ride trying to go as fast as I can. One mistake and it could have been ugly. More importantly, many of the 400+ riders are not probably as familiar with the roads and there really could have been some serious injuries the loose gravel that was on the road. I was so relieved when you announced at the start that road crews swept the entire scenic by-way route on Thursday!! They did a great job!!!
It was so smooth, clean and most importantly SAFE! Big kudos to the team of hardworking people that took the time to sweep the course making it a safe and an enjoyable ride (despite the cramps). I know in today's budget tight environment that it's hard to do everything that must be done at times, but that was a big part of keeping everyone safe!
Thanks again to all of your support team for pulling off yet another GREAT RIDE!"
"I am definitely delighted to discover this. Good job!"
"This was my 2nd Cheaha Challenge. I did 47 miles, it was a tough ride. I loved the challenge and I'm looking to do the 66 miler next year."
"Cheaha Challenge is an awesome ride. NEABA does a great job with organization, volunteer support and rider safety. I was very pleased to see the traffic volunteers in downtown Piedmont at the end of the ride. I do not want to stop that close to the finish. Thank you!"
"Though I had a derailer failure after the 3rd rest stop and had to be SAGGed back in I thought the ride and all the volunteers did an outstanding job. For sure I will be back next year even stronger. Many thanks to all the SAG vehicle drivers (Cahaba, Bob's) for their comforting words while driving back disappointed after I broke down."
Julio C. Driggs
"Once again - an outstanding event. Weather was great, ride was well-supported, volunteers numerous and very helpful, course - challenging as always. It seemed like the events, both Saturday and Sunday were well attended. I enjoyed both days in the Anniston/Piedmont area and look forward to doing it again next year."
"It's been said over and over but the support is amazing. The effort from the volunteers could not be any better. Thanks for an amazing 102 miles!"
"First time to Cheaha Challenge, great experience. Thanks to organizers and all the people that made this happen. All people from the ones at Noble Street registration and ones at rest stops are very friendly and helpful. I rode 66 miles course and it was by far the longest I have ever done. Looking forward to seeing the final results. Great event and great experience."
"This past Oct. I road from Jacksonville FL to Santa Monica Ca in 28 days, riding approximately 100 miles per day and that was easy compared to the Cheaha Challenge! It was a great day with a bunch of great people! Thank you!"
K C Byers
"Is the person in charge working for UPS? The "logistics" were flawless, and combined with stellar spring weather, it couldn't have been better?"
"I just want to say I have rode in this bike ride for 10 years. I think every year gets better. I want to thank everyone who help ya'll keep us going with the cheers and food. It's always nice to meet new people everytime I ride, and also meeting people we rode with last year. That's why I love cycling. Best ride ever GREAT JOB!!!"
"Wow! One great century! Incredible course on roads with minimal traffic and incredibly well-sagged. Everything was great, including the weather. I tip my helmet to all who made this ride possible. I hit 49.1 mph on one of the descents and I was told my finishing time was 5:21, but is there an official posting of results somewhere? I could not find it."
"It was a great ride, as usual. The real heros of the day are the hundreds of ride volunteers, and workers who obviously take great pride in putting this event on. Thanks to everyone! Me, I had a very good day. I did better than I did last year, didn't miss THE TURN coming home, and met a lot of really great people. It did get pretty hot, but then this is Alabama. Can't wait until next year!"
"Loved this ride. The support volunteers were very gracious and extremely well prepared. This was the best supported ride I have been on in my time riding."
"It was great. Knocked off 15 minutes from last year. Ready for the 20th next year!!!"
"Outstanding. Looking forward to a non-roubaix event some year! Wonderful support as usual. Even the head wind was pleasant."
Vestavia Hills, Alabama