Chain Buster Racing put on their inaugural gravel grinder race called The Assault on Mt. Currahee on February 28th, and it was a fun one. We started and ended in downtown Cornelia, GA, which seemed to be a working class semi-rural town with a few neat older buildings downtown.
Scott Lusk and I drove over to Gainesville, GA the night before, which took way too long thanks to Atlanta traffic and the redlight-infested suburb of Buford where we ate dinner (after an obligatory stop at REI). By the time we got to our hotel and had unloaded our gear and bikes it was 10:30 at night and we didn’t waste much time falling asleep. We woke early and stopped by Starbucks for coffee and oatmeal before heading out of town towards the race.
As we started at 10am, it was probably sitting right around 32 degrees or so. I was wearing a long sleeve baselayer, short sleeve baselayer, short sleeve jersey, thin arm warmers, and a jacket on my torso. My legs were covered up with thermal bib knickers, leg warmers, and thick wool socks. Aside from my toes, I never really felt cold during the race even though it remained in the 30s the entire time.
The race started out with a cop car leadout, along with a drone camera flying above that captured some great footage throughout the day. We rode a few miles on pavement to loosen up the legs and get to the edge of Cornelia, then hopped on the dirt Lake Russell Road for some fast riding and descending for around 2 miles. From there we had close to 11 miles or rollercoaster fire roads and some singletrack, including a frigid creek crossing, before hitting the signature climb up Currahee.
Currahee is famous as the training site for the Band of Brothers back in the old days, and consists of a really steep dirt road leading up to a few radio/cell towers. Once at the top, we hit the only aid station of the day so I refilled one of my bottles with Gatorade and downed a few pretzels. At this point we were roughly 1.5 hours into the race/ride and feeling pretty good. Scott led my back down the mountain with his bad-ass Industry Nine wheels holding steady through the ice, snow, and mud.
At the bottom of Currahee, we hopped onto another doubletrack trail, which would become singletrack in a few areas. It was a really nice trail system, though it seemed like we could never make much progress because we were constantly climbing in between short downhill sections. This was the first time we would realize we should have studied the elevation profile more.
After finally exiting the trail system, we hit pavement again at Old Lake Russell Road, somewhere around 29 or so miles into the race. Believing we pretty much had all of the hard stuff behind we booked in on along trying to get back with a decent time. This would be the second time we wished we studied the elevation profile better, because we began what was a paved climb of close to 800′ in elevation gain and lasting 3 miles. We followed the road along the hillside for what seemed like much more than 3 miles before finally topping out and heading down to town.
We finished up officially around 3:16, though the Strava link before shows a little less time due to stoppage. Overall it was a really fun race, and really well put together by Chain Buster Racing. The post-race meal at Natalie Jane’s in Cornelia was top-notch (I had shrimp and grits), as was the Terrapin beer on tap. Leaving town we were already talking about doing it in 2016.
Strava link: https://www.strava.com/activities/261139089