January 5, 2012

Riders will try to tame the Snake again

In less than a decade, the Snake Creek Gap Time Trial Series has grown from a mountain biking competition with two dozen local enthusiasts looking for a challenge into one of the Southeast’s premier cycling events.

“It started out with just a couple of the guys wanting to improve their own times, and it just sort of grew from there,” said Matt Smith, vice president of the Northwest Georgia Southern Off-Road Bicycle Association (NWGA-SORBA), which sponsors the event.

“We had 460 riders last year and had people from Colorado, Ohio, New York and all over the nation.”

Some past time trials have even included riders from Canada making the visit to the Dalton area.

This year marks the eighth year of the Snake Creek Gap races, and with more than 300 racers pre-registered for this year’s competition, NWGA-SORBA is hoping to top 500 individuals in the trials, which will take place the first Saturday of January, February and March.

The time trials will take place on the Pinhoti Trail, with riders able to choose a 17-mile or 34-mile course over Hurricane Mountain and across Rocky Face Ridge.

“It is a race against the clock,” Smith said. “You start on your own time, and maybe it takes you 4 1/2 hours, and you are pushing yourself to achieve the best time that you can possibly achieve.”

Completing the distance trial will earn participants a traditional belt buckle award. Also, in conjunction with the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, the competition will include a North vs. South-themed challenge with teams divided by region.

Mike Cornelia has been part of NWGA-SORBA for the past three years, and he said the annual time trial is one of his most anticipated events.

“I really love it,” Cornelia said. “One, is the challenge. It is a very challenging course and very diverse — everything from a technical challenge to a cardiovascular workout. And the other thing is that it is just a well-run event. It is fun, with a lot of camaraderie.”

The event has grown in recent years thanks in large part to the International Mountain Bicycling Association naming the trail as one of its “epic trails,” drawing dedicated riders from across the country to test the area’s slopes.

“Even the experienced riders will be doing some hike-a-bike,” Cornelia said. “My first time out, it was really hard, but I got through and still had so much fun. I’ve already ridden the course three times in the last month. Intermediate riders and above would have a blast.”

According to the Dalton Convention and Visitors Bureau, the event is expected to bring in more than $90,000 in tourism and economic impact.

Registration and the finish line are at the Northwest Georgia Trade and Convention Center. For more information on the event, visit nwgasorba.org.

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