About the Event
The Sac O Suds 50 is a 50 mile gravel grinder event / race beginning and ending in the small town 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 reaching 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.
Twenty bucks is all it costs to enter this event. Twenty bucks! Super cheap and fun racing! All monetary proceeds from the event go to OMBA (Ocmulge Mountain Bike Association). The race is organized by Monte, who is a great promoter, and one cool dude. The same goes for all of his volunteers and helpers. Super nice people, who are passionate about grass roots cycling.
It’s a Bit Chilly
November 1, 2014, and race day rolls around. Riders are greeted by gusty winds, cool temperatures in the high 30’s fahrenheit, but plenty of sunshine. Pretty good conditions for racing really.
I (JOM) took time late in the afternoon the day before race day, to scope out the tricky lollipop loop on the north side course. Having just a little tribal knowledge is a massive help. Tribal knowledge HERE.
The race kicks off at 10am, with Monte in the lead vehicle, guiding the riders out of the parking lot from the Juliette boat ramp. I was dressed in my usual lean manner; nothing worse than over dressing at the start of the race, only to burn up 10 minutes into the race. Rule of thumb. Dress light. If you’re cold at the start, you probably have it right.
Approximately 15 minutes into the race, it is very apparent who the troublemakers in this race are. A group of five riders, Jeff Clayton, Chris Coren, Cal, FarmerG and myself (JOM), split from the grupetto on one of the countless short, but steep climbs.
Everyone in the five man group was working well together. There was no dead weight, everyone was pulling turns.
The wall climb at around mile 20 split the group a little, with Jeff and Chris, both on mountain bikes, gapping Farmer G and JOM, with Cal close behind. Farmer G, with the biggest gear of all of us (50 x 11), did a nice job of closing down to Jeff and Chris.
The lead group of five riders entered the loop, with Jeff taking the lead. The tribal knowledge I gained before race day really came into play here. The group rode single file, all the way to the river, before things got interesting. The MTB guys, Jeff and Chris immediately got a small gap on FarmerG and I just prior to the creek crossing. After the creek crossing, the gap to the MTB guys increased, with myself relegated to the back behind FarmerG (I was getting in his way a little). Cal was close behind.
For me, things got really interesting here. I don’t know what happened to cause this issue, but my Di2 shifting system no longer shifted the rear derailleur. The front derailleur was fine, which got me thinking I must have bashed the rear derailleur, or trashed something else in the drive train. I soldiered on for a short while, wielding a pricey single speed drive train bike, albeit with two chainrings.
About this time, I had the misfortune to hit a nasty bump along one of the power lines descents, which caused my arse to slam the rear of the saddle, and tilt it about 10 degrees skyward. Brilliant. Nothing better than a harsh taint massage, and no tools to fix the issue. Cursed wanky design seatpost.
The MTB boys and Farmer G were gone, and I was aboard a really dodgey bike. At the very least, I had to sort the rear derailleur out. On the steepest climb of the power lines trail, I stopped the bike, and began assessing the Di2 problem. Meanwhile, Cal rode by.
Yours truly is Di2 certified, and have assembled a bunch of Di2 bikes in my house… not to sound conceited, I know the system very well. On my Lynskey Monster CX bike, I’m running Di2 externally, which is less than optimal. Lynskey wouldn’t drill the frame for me at time of purchase :(, and I don’t relish the idea of blowing the frame warranty, or trashing five drill bits.
Cutting a long story short, the rear derailleur wire had somehow been disconnected at the bottom bracket junction box. I plugged it back in, tried to forget how much time I had lost, and started riding again.
Just another Time Trial
From the Sac O Suds store (didn’t have time to stop and say Hi), I had a minute deficit to fourth place MTB’er Cal, with FarmerG, and the other two MTB dudes, Chris and Jeff further ahead.
I wasn’t sure if I could catch anybody ahead, but I figured I didn’t travel this far to sit up and quit. Every once in a while, I would catch a glimpse of Cal. I noticed on the descents Cal was either freewheeling, or running out of gears. Meanwhile, I was thrashing myself pedaling whenever I could… and thinking about my misaligned saddle… and how the crown jewels weren’t enjoying this.
The next volunteer time check indicated I was slowly closing on Cal. Later, as I was near to catching him, Chris Coren was also in sight, just ahead of Cal. It seemed Chris was paying the price for carrying a heavy Camelbak.
Not long afterwards, Cal caught and passed Chris, and I in turn passed Chris using a sneaky move on a descent.
Smelling the Barn
With approximately four miles remaining, I finally caught Cal. After a leg busting effort to catch him, I justified to myself it was OK to sit his wheel for a while and recover. Not once did he ask for a turn, which was awfully gentlemanly of him.
I shamelessly sat his wheel (less than gentlemanly), recovering here and there, and figuring out how I could snap Cal before the finish. My roadie experience would have to come into play.
The perfect opportunity arose just over a mile before the finish line, on the final dirt ascent. With the little energy I had remaining, I hit the pedals full blast, and launched off Cal’s wheel on the left side of the road, to power away and form a quick gap. The gap opened enough to hold a slender lead onto the pavement and bridge, which leads to the boat ramp and finish. To Cal’s credit, he turned himself inside out trying to catch me, and made a small inroad into my slender lead. Unfortunately for him, it was not enough, and I finished the inaugural Sac O Suds 50 in third place.
Stoked to grab third place behind Jeff Clayton (1st) and Greg Schisla aka Farmer G (2nd)!
To Monte, Red Molly, Tamara Wilkinson-Saragusa, OMBA volunteers, and other volunteers who I don’t know by name. A fantastic day of racing, beautiful course, and a fun, chilled out environment post race. This is what gravel racing is all about. I love it!