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.