In the early morning hours of July 27, just over 200 cycling enthusiasts set off from the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame through the rolling hills of Dawson County for the seventh annual Shine Pedalers’ Metric.
As the only cycling event hosted by the Dawson County Chamber of Commerce, Shine Pedalers’ attracts riders from across north Georgia and the southeastern United States with this year’s ride seeing participants from five different states.
Featuring two different routes, a grueling 68-mile full metric that includes climbing Blood Mountain and a slightly less demanding 31-mile half metric that crosses the rolling hills of Amicalola Park, the event attracts riders of all levels from first time riders to cross-country road warriors.
For Alpharetta native Mandy Schulz it was not only her first time participating in the annual ride, it was her first time in any cycling event. “Roped into” the event by her boyfriend, Schulz, a life-long athlete, was excited about the ride, but tempered her expectations with the reality that she was brand new to the sport.
“I just learned how to “snap-in” yesterday.” Schulz said. “I just have to be realistic about something new.”
Having recently completed a cross-country ride to the Atlantic coast and back, the lack of competition and the ability to choose between courses, is one of the primary reasons local resident Dave Louden has participated in the event year after year.
“I finally finished my big ride to the Atlantic at the beginning of summer, and I really haven’t ridden since,” Louden said. “Today, I woke up and thought I just want to go for a nice ride today.”
Safety is a prominent feature of the ride this year, and every year. Supply and Gear (SAG) stations are placed approximately every 12 miles along the route. Manned by volunteers and stocked by the event sponsors, each station features everything an exhausted, hot and thirsty cyclist could need to get back up to speed.
Items available included peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, orange slices, bananas, candy bars, granola bars and hard candies. Quick treatments for cramps, such as pickle juice and mustard, were prominently displayed along with the standard fare of cold water and energy drinks.
“Safety is the driving theme behind the event this year and every year,” Chamber of Commerce President Christie Moore said. “We have SAG stops all along the course, and a group of volunteers to help if anyone should break down along the way. It really is all about fun today.”
Carol Tyger and Larry Stephenson, who have volunteered at SAG stops for all seven years of the metric oversaw am Australian themed rest area decorated with memorabilia from Stephenson’s decade down under in his younger days.
“I had a kangaroo costume that I used to wear, but it got too hot” Tyger said. “So, I just have my kangaroo hat this year.”
As riders came and went during the course of the morning it was almost as if everyone got together to ride across Dawson County for a picnic. It was easy to see why the duo has won the Best SAG Stop Award for several years in a row as they passed out snacks and smiles to the tired cyclists.
While most riders took their time to enjoy the rest stops and scenery along the way a small handful of riders led by Juan Mencias made an effort to finish as fast as possible, completing the 68-mile loop in just under two hours.
“I averaged about 20 mph,” Mencias said. “Which is good for all the hills along the route.”
First-time rider, Schulz finished the half-metric in just over two hours, which fit in with her expectations, and looked forward to participating in future cycling events to include next year’s Shine Pedalers’.
“Going downhill was the scariest part, its not like you are in a car going that fast, people would fly by me on the downhills, but I would catch back up on the uphills,” Schulz said. “I really liked it, everyone was very friendly. It’s not a competition.”