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Race Report: Atlanta AlleyCross

A guest blog from Laura Colbert of Loose Nuts Cycles in Atlanta, GA.

Saturday was a beautiful day in Atlanta, one of those occasional Southern winter days when it feels like spring–the opposite of what cyclocross weather should be.  Other parts of the country have muddy, sloppy, cold cyclocross races.  In Georgia, the weather always seems to provide us with boring, but beautiful race days.  This pattern held true for Saturday’s 4th Annual AlleyCross race.  It was 70 degrees and sunny, the kind of weather that’s perfectly suited for looking cute while riding your city commuter, but not so much for cyclocross.  Luckily the 2 days before the race had been pretty rainy, so the course was sufficiently sloppy, even if the weather was behaving itself.

AlleyCross is organized by No Hipster Left Behind and is a fun combination of cyclocross and alley cat races.

The event started with mandatory parade lap to familiarize everyone with the route.  That turned out to be fortunate, because it took the better part of an hour to complete (8.5 mile route…so slow) and included a couple wrecks.  Parade laps are not usually that eventful.  However, the extra time also gave us spectators plenty of opportunity to find a good spot for photos and get a head start on beer drinking.  When the racers returned from the parade lap, they left their bikes at the mouth of an alley and were sent down a gravel hill for a Le Mans start.

AlleyCross

The race consisted of two laps along the 8.5 mile race course, and it started and ended at Loose Nuts Cycles.  The route sent cyclists through city parks, gravel and cobblestone alleys, grass run-ups, the relatively new Atlanta Beltline, and regular city streets.  There were several notable obstacles/stops along the way:

  1. The cobblestone alley—I’ve ridden and run up and down this hill.  It’s steep and cobblestone-y, and there’s no visibility to check for cars at the bottom of the alley.  One Saturday, it was also extra slippery from the previous days’ rain.  It’s no joke.Atlanta AlleyCross
  2. The whiskey stop—Down an alley in Grant Park, the racers had a choice: 1. Take a whiskey shot and be on your way; 2. Shoulder your bike and run through a 30-second pine straw section.  I know which choice I would have taken… (whiskey!)

Atlanta AlleyCross

            3.  Barriers—traditional cyclocross barriers (made out of PVC instead of wood planks
4. The Beltline—a neutral zone for the race.  Racers were not allowed to attack in this section.  The Beltline is full of children on bicycles, dogs on and off leashes, roller bladers, skateboarders, and a woman who walks her dog while playing violin.  Even if it wasn’t against the rules, the Beltline is so crowded on nice days that usually it takes most of a cyclist’s attention to just avoid hitting anyone.

The race brought out a great mix of people–serious cyclocross racers, cyclists who have never raced before, and everyone in between.  The 49 race entrants (including 6 women) showed up in everything from full race kits to jeans and tshirts. The spectators were just as diverse–Grant Park and Inman Park residents, other cyclists, friends of cyclists, and future cyclists.

Atlanta AlleyCross

The race went smoothly for the most part, with relatively little drama (only one emergency room visit).   There were comments from experienced riders and new racers alike about how challenging the course was.  It was a well-designed course that really pushed everyone. Even cyclists who just rode the parade route commented on how much effort the route required. Race organizer, Dustin Morado said, “After organizing most of the city races in Atlanta for the last year and a half it was so rewarding to see so many people come out to really push themselves, go fast, and get competitive.”

At the end of the 2 laps, Gary Gomez (male winner), Elizabeth Lee (female winner) and Tim Barrett (single speed winner) beat out everyone else to earn the $40 payout for first place. (Second and third places earned $30 and $10 respectively in all categories.)  Their success was celebrated by everyone by emptying a keg’s worth of Fat Tire beer cans (Thanks Chip!) and then floating another keg in addition.  Needless to say, at the end of the day, lots of bicycle fun was had and everyone needed a beer recovery nap.

Atlanta AlleyCross

Luckily we don’t have to wait too long for another great event like this.  Here are the next race events from the  two race organizers.:

Kyle is running another, easier alleycross in March alongside SoPo’s BHBP 9 weekend.
NHLB will be hosting a fixed course road race in April.
Photo credit to Wil Hughes.  Thanks to Dustin of NHLB for providing me with some extra details about the race.