Over the last several years, I have ridden many centuries in the Atlanta area, and the following are my favorites in chronological order. As you map out your 2015 schedule, you may consider riding a few!
Wheels o’ Fire Century
April 4, 2015
The Wheels o’ Fire Century takes in the roads around Callaway Gardens. Some of the rest stops are staffed by enthusiastic firemen whose companies are supported by the ride. There’s a giant hill in the first two miles, and a good climb around halfway. Overall, it’s a nice early season century ride.
The Tony Serrano Century
April 11, 2015
In recent years, the Tony Serrano Century has become the unofficial kickoff of the cycling and multisport season. There are numerous ride options, great rest stops, and a fairly flat course. You’re certain to see a lot of people you know there.
3 State, 3 Mountain Challenge
May 2, 2015
As the name implies, this ride goes over three climbs (Suck Creek, Sand Mountain, and Lookout Mountain via Burkhalter Gap) in three states (Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia). An ITL crew did this ride in 2014, but for 2015, the course has returned to the original—and in my opinion, much better—course for 2015. The three climbs get steadily shorter but steadily steeper throughout the ride.
Tour de Cashiers
May 2, 2015
The Tour de Cashiers is a difficult ride in early May just across the GA/NC line. The ride features several climbs, including a final one that comes after the 95-mile mark. In years past, the ToC has been paired with Issaqueena’s Last Ride (http://www.ilrsc.com/) in Walhalla, SC, which is staged one week prior. The “IQLR” is also a great ride, but it appears that the two rides have ended their partnership.
Burnt Mountain Century
http://www.cummingkiwanis.org/Page/14069 (link to last year’s ride)
Date TBA (likely May 2, 2015)
Closer to home, the Burnt Mountain century takes in a hilly course that includes a climb and descent of Burnt Mountain. It’s a challenging century, but it is well-supported and popular among triathletes. The course follows a lot of the semi-rural roads of north Fulton County, Forsyth County, and the surrounding areas.
Cheaha Challenge Gran Fondo
May 17, 2015
Billed as the “Toughest Ride in the South,” the Cheaha Challenge is an out-and-back century that climbs up and over the highest mountain in Alabama—meaning that you have to scale the mountain twice. The Challenge is a timed century, and the results are published in the local paper. A certain ITL coach won the Challenge a few years ago and has twice won the King of the Mountain competition for the fastest ascent of Mount Cheaha.
Challenge of the Centuries
If one century is not enough for you, you may be interested in the Challenge of the Centuries, which offers two centuries on successive days. Impressively, the two centuries are on completely different courses. Riders can sign up for only one of the rides, or they may mix Saturday’s century with Sunday’s metric. As you might guess, Day Two is far more sparsely attended than Day One! (And if back-to-back centuries aren’t enough for you, check out the Athens to Savannah Double Century—i.e. 200 miles—on May 2nd.)
Hot Doggett Century
July 11, 2015
Mars Hill, NC
The “Hot” in this century’s title comes from the weather, which is, of course, blazing in the middle of the summer. The “Doggett” is for Dogget Gap, the longest climb on this ride that features three major climbs and several small ones.
Date TBA (likely August 8, 2015)
The Chattooga Century is my wife’s favorite century in Georgia. The course has a little bit of everything: flats, country roads, small towns, and even a short climb up Lookout Mountain. The course joins up with the Ironman Chattanooga course at IMChatt’s southern tip, and they follow the same roads for about twenty miles.
Blue Ridge Breakaway
August 15, 2015
The Blue Ridge Breakaway is one of the best rides in the south. The organizers have mapped out a fantastic route that features a long and difficult climb from Lake Logan up to the Blue Ridge Parkway. The course continues to climb into the clouds on the Parkway until you cross the highest point on the Blue Ridge Parkway at over 6000 feet. After one more big climb around mile 80, you descend back into Lake Junaluska. Like the Cheaha Challenge, the Blue Ridge Breakaway is timed.
MACC One Love
Date TBA (likely August 30, 2015)
College Park, GA
The MACC One Love Century is my favorite century in Georgia and is the best supported century I’ve ever ridden. The Metro Atlanta Cycling Club goes out of their way to be hospitable to riders, offering multiple rest stops and water breaks along the way. The course itself follows a lot of the same roads that the famed “Silk Sheets” course in south Fulton follows.
There are, of course, several other centuries in Georgia and throughout the southeast. Notably not on this list are the Six Gap Century (September 27th in Dahlongega), the Beautiful Backroads Century (September 20th in Cartersville), the Georgia 400 Hospitality Highway Century (July 12th in Roswell), and the Cartersville Century (June 27th in Cartersville). While these centuries are popular and solid, I’ve ridden each of them, and they are not among my favorites. I also left off the popular Covington Century (August 1st in Covington) and the Wilson 100 (likely September 7th in Senoia). I don’t recommend these centuries because of how poorly they are managed. I’ve resolved never to ride them again given the parking nightmares, the long lines at registration, the inadequate rest stops, and the tolerance of bad behavior by cyclists.
With so many options, you will definitely have the chance to experience some great rides this year! Talk to your ITL coach about adding a few of these great rides, and let’s see if we can get a solid ITL crew at each!