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Cheaha Challenge weekend

Jean D'alessandro | Published on 5/23/2021

They don’t call it "the toughest ride in the South," for nothing, as the Cheaha Challenge goes over the highest point in Alabama and back again, for a total of 100 up and down miles and almost 10,000 ft of climbing! Sorellas totally dominated both days, taking women's podiums in the time trial on Saturday as well podiums on Sunday for the Gran Fondo, all qualifying for Gran Fondo Worlds in Sarajevo this fall. Maybe more impressive is these women were in the top 10-20% of all age group finishers, men and women. As someone yelled out, “Sorellas in the house!” 

Cheaha Challenge 2021
Sorella race team members headed to Alabama over the weekend to participate in the Georgia State Time Trial and the Cheaha Challenge Century. Karen, Diane and Katie tackled the State Championship and UCI World's Time Trial on Saturday. It was a cool morning for the 7:00AM start. Racers exited a time trial podium down a ramp onto the closed 12 mile course.

Age group 1st Place: Karen (avg 23.9mi/hr), Diane (avg 23 mi/hr).
Age group 2nd Place: Katie (23.7 mi/hr).

Cheaha Challenge 2021
On Sunday, I woke up early for the 2 hour drive to Jacksonville, Alabama. It helped that Alabama is on Central Time so I had an extra hour! This would be my first organized century in 32 years! Not only would we be riding 100 miles, but it would include 9,500+ feet of climbing!

I found my teammates near our starting line, Jennifer, Kim, Diane and Karen. Barbara started with her age group ahead of us and Katie opted to ride the 44 mile route finishing first overall. By overall, I mean over ALL, male or female! (I see the 100 mile route in Katie's future!)

The start gun sounded and we quickly began the out-and-back course. We averaged over 20 mph for the first 20 miles and then started to separate with smaller groups forming as we reached the "smaller" climbing sections.  Kim and I were able to stay together with a few others for the next 30 miles.

Cheaha Challenge 2021
At mile 38, we began our climb up Cheaha Mountain to Bunker Tower, the highest point in Alabama, and then continued down and up to Adam's Gap for the turnaround. At mile 53, we had to climb BACK UP Cheaha Mountain to Bunker Tower from the opposite direction to head back to the start/finish area. The last 20 miles seemed like it took FOREVER! I felt like I was pedaling squares! Finally, the finish line was in sight and I was so happy to see teammates, dismount and sit down while watching for other teammates and finishers.

Food was provided in an outdoor tent near the finish line and it was SO NICE to be able to just hang out with other people again, especially with my sisters!!

Age group 1st Place: Jennifer, Jean
Age group 2nd Place: Kim, Diane, Karen
Age group 3rd Place: Barbara