Afflicted by permanent wanderlust, I’ve opted to spend the three weeks between the end of Speedweek and the US Professional Cycling Championships in Greenville, SC at the welcoming abode of one of our team’s gracious supporters just outside of Athens, GA (home of the University of Georgia, the infamous Athens Twilight Criterium, and launchpad for numerous American cyclists).
Having never been to this part of the country before (read: The Deep & Dirty South), I’m still taking it all in and gulping it all down, like a UGA freshman frat pledge doing a manhood-validating kegstand.
First on my list of dispensable observations to expound to the outside world: The riding itself. I’ve never trained anywhere with population so spread out, and so my road choice has always been pretty limited. Here, though, there are roads FOREVER. I could easily create a 300 mile loop on twisty backroads that all look the same from the front door of my temporary domicile. Of course, this necessitates a cue sheet a mile long (yeah, that one was front AND back for a 4.5 hour jaunt) to keep from ending up bassackwards 200 miles away on the coast. While there’s no sustained climbing near Athens, the rollers of the Piedmont offer up spots for good, punchy accelerations on endless repetition of 500 meter-long Murs. Roads are fairly narrow and without the wide shoulders I’m used to, but they’re in really good condition (thanks to the lack of freezing temps in the winter, I’d guess) and typically devoid of traffic. The dirt roads are a blast! Well-packed, and not moondusty or gravel-strewn like the ones near my home in Utah.
The “store stops” here are nearly always entertaining - it seems the locals aren’t as used to seeing cyclists on long rides as they are in the West. I can always count on getting into an amiable conversation with store proprietors about expensive bikes, bike racing, the insanity of spending five hours perched on two wheels, and suspicious questions when informed of my Utah residence.
Speaking of, the church marquees in front of Baptist houses of worship on the backroads are nothing short of comedic gold. I think I might start photographing all of them and making a nice leather-bound photo essay when I get back to the Wasatch.