Previous (April 19, 2007)

April 20 – Helen GA


Ride Multigap Loop

Watched Tour of Georgia Stage 5 on Brasstown Bald

Well. Today was setting up to be the hardest day on our trip and it surely was. More on that later!

We stayed overnight in Helen GA, which is a neat little town that is patterned after an alpine village.

All the buildings follow a strict building code .. Including Wendy’s!

When checking out of the hotel this AM, the manager told me that they have a sister city in Germany. It was a neat place.

Our plan had been to drive the car up Brasstown Bald to find a place to where we wanted to watch the race, but when we arrived, we found out that cars were not allowed to drive up the mountain. As it turns out, there isn’t any room along the road.

We parked on the road at the bottom of the mountain and unpacked our bikes and proceeded along on our ride.  The ride began with a long downhill along Rt 180 before heading up the Unicoli Gap. This hill was short and not too steep and frankly we climbed it a lot faster than I expected. After that, we faced a long down hill into Helen. This part of the ride was extremely cool as the corners were all banked like a racetrack and Tom and I were able to do the approximately 10 miles descent at over 30+ mph for most of the distance.

We then turned along Alt Rt 75 which was rolling hilly until we reached Rt 328 where we turned north up the rode to Hogpen Gap. While on this part of the climb, we passed a devil imposter riding up the hill. This ride was steeper than anything we’d ridden this year so far with extended sections over 11%. The rides here are beautiful since they aren’t messed up by frost heaves. When we reached the top, the views were spectacular.

Here’s Tom pondering the climb on Brasstown Bald, which was still to come!

After descending from Hogpen Gap, which wasn’t nearly as nice as the Unicoli Gap descent, we worked our way back to Brasstown. Now one thing you might not have know is that climb to Brasstown actually starts well before the entrance to the park.  We found out there was some rather steep climbing sections from the 10K to go when 5K to go is the traditional start of the climb.

When we reached Brasstown, I was actually quite tired since we had already logged 2 Gaps and 38.2 miles, so I took it easy. The climb starts immediately at the bottom and kicks up to a reasonable 9% to 11% right off the bat.

As one of the team busses started heading up the mountain, you can start getting a perspective on the steepness of the climb.

The climb continued upwards at a hard, but doable pitch.  Tom pushed on at his own pace which is quicker than I can climb. As I was climbing, I heard others talking about “ had we reached the wall yet”? I wasn’t sure what that was, but I soon found out. The wall is a section of the road just before the 2K to go marker.  It runs about 200-300m and it runs in the 18% to 21% gradient range. Tom heard another guy mention a slope of 27%.  The hardest road I’ve climbed is the last few hundred feet of Mt Washington, which is 23%, but the wall was a killer. I made it most of the way though cursing sometimes under my breath and sometime out loud. I did have to dismount the bike just a few 10’s of feet form the leveling of the slope as all the chaos from riders zigging and zagging in their suffering caused me to veer into a small section of dirt.  There were people walking their bikes because it was too large. 

After the wall, the climb became much easier and Tom passed me on his descent when I was rounding the last turn before getting to the top.  When I reached the parking lot, it was clear that they were not letting bikes ride to the finish line, so I returned to the bottom.

We saw Santa Claus climbing! This guy helped push Santa up the climb and as a reward, Santa said he’d bring him a new bike. Cool!

We walked for a while and ended up at the wall where we decided to watch the race. Watching the antics of people trying to climb was a riot.


The crowds were very big and impressive for an American cycling event. It looked a lot like Europe. 

There was one group from Atlanta who was having fun. One guy was having a hard time, so they gave him a flask to take a drink from while he was climbing. Another guys crashed and they ran over to offer him a shot to help his recovery.


Things got exciting when the riders started to come by.

Alexander Moos from BMC was first up the road. Once again, we were able to get real close to the riders and see how bad they were suffering on the climb.

Next came Levi Leipheimer who looked great and showed no signs of suffering. He ended up winning the stage

Tommy Danielson came by followed by Gilberto Simoni. Tommy didn’t look great, but he was riding strong. Tom was holding Gretchen’s sign again and hopefully that helped Tommy D get inspired to ride hard for the rest of  the climb.

Next came Brachovich and Vandervelt riding for the yellow jersey.

Big George Hincapie looked good, but he was obviously out of contention for winning the stage.

Dave Zabriskie was working hard ro recover form a broken chain early in the climb

Everyone was struggling up this hill ...

After this point the crowd really got into helping the riders … literally helping the riders. The crowd started pushing those who were struggling up the mountain. It was crazy and a lot of fun.

Tyler Hamilton was very far down the road from the leaders. He was suffering badly and really got a kick out of getting a push here.  I read later that he has a tooth infection and needs a root canal, which was affecting his riding. He didn’t want to drop out since it was his only opportunity to race in front of his family. Notice the dog bone around his neck for his dog Tugboat who passed away a few years ago.

Ivan Domingues being pushed. These sprinters cant climb!

They even got into it so much they pushed a car!

The broom wagon!

Back on the main road walking to our van for the ride home after the race.