Last weekend, I rode the Fried Green Tomato 200K with my homie Damon. Damon rode all 159 counties in Georgia in 2014 and is doing it all over again this year for FB4KATL to give bikes to Atlanta kids who need them . Check out the initiative here and follow his adventures on Instagram @damonelmore.
A note about riding with Damon… He’ll start out telling you how slow he is, and that he hopes he can keep up. Then he’ll go in with the jokes. Good jokes, so that you’re laughing on the bike. It’s all fun and games until you realize that it’s hard to hold his wheel all of a sudden.
Baguettes & Biscuits
The tiniest bit of French here; I didn’t actually get any baguettes. Randonnee is a French word that means riding a bike along a predefined route against the clock, but obviously sounds way better than the English. A brevet is a ride of a set distance from 200 to 1200 kilometers with a time limit.
You get a brevet card, which is signed at checkpoints along the way to prove you’ve actually ridden the route. We set off from a Kroger parking lot in McDonough, GA after a super easy sign in and giving our rad organizer, Wayne King of Atlanta Audax, $5 in exchange for the brevet card and a cue sheet I lost immediately.
I was imagining a Bicycle Quarterly come to life; waxed canvas and wool for days. Turns out I didn’t see a single Rivendell, and folks seemed divided between team kits and Assos. I’ve never seen so much Assos in the wild. The team kit men and women must have been motor doping because they dropped us like something very, very heavy after the first checkpoint and I never saw them again.
Far more importantly, this checkpoint, a gas station around Jackson Lake (first checkpoint) had just put out homemade bacon, egg, and cheese biscuits. I bought 2, ate one, and shoved one in my pocket for later. Later turned out to be about 7 minutes after I left the gas station. They were serious biscuits.
The lost cue sheet wasn’t too much of a difficulty; Damon is allergic to hills so I waited for him at the top of a climb and got our route sorted. We had gone almost 30 miles in the first 90 minutes, it wasn’t hot yet (the forecast called for 94 degrees), and everyone I was riding with seemed in good spirits. I passed a ton of horses, but none were impressed by my awesome display of raw speed and I tried to play it cool in return.
The course started getting hillier, and Damon wanted to hang back a bit, so I rode up to the super cool MACC guys as the hills turned up. The roads, to this point, were so freshly paved that orange pylons remained at their shoulders, canopies of trees shielded us from the sun, and I felt guilty for pressing on instead of taking more pictures.
Nice While it Lasted
The trees soon became selfish with their shade, and the roads got increasingly rougher. Not holes, so much as a generally awful surface melting in the heat. I was beyond grateful for my big old 35 width tires at ~42psi. I felt good and was able to keep eating and drinking without issue (except opening a bottle of Soylent while riding no handed on a tank trail. I had issues then) and was only melting when we’d come to a stop to check the route or hit a checkpoint.
I rode alone for an hour or so, feeling strong enough on the hills to press on, and while I missed the company, I had Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge and SO MANY GOATS and generally perfect scenery.
When I got to Juliet, GA, it seemed right to honor the name of the brevet (The Movie Fried Green Tomatoes was filmed here and the general store they converted to a restaurant for filming remains as such today). It’s real touristy, but cute, and they have fried green tomato sandwiches.
I sent Damon a text telling him I’d get him a sandwich and wait for him. I did. And waited. And waited. Until he wrote back that he hadn’t noticed the message and had actually gone ahead of me to the next control.
See the bag in the top pic, bottom left? I rode with that for five miles until I got to Damon and cold melon at the next checkpoint. A huge time suck, but when we ate those sandwiches instead of Snickers bars from the gas station, no corn dogs, it seemed well worth it.
We had about 85km to go at this point. The guy who organized the event, Wayne, was handing out melon and water and telling us the rest of the way was “pretty much flat.” I saw Wayne’s legs and knew that he was spouting dirty, damn lies. You can’t fool me with melon and a smile if your legs look like an Eastern European track sprinter. Indeed, we climbed a ton from there to the finish.
We stopped to check out a mural in Jackson, GA, but weren’t hungry enough to eat at the Big Chic we rode past.
So we stopped at the last checkpoint, drank even more water, and headed back to the start. I was able to run in to the supermarket, grab a pair of cold, banquet-flavored, oat sodas and a chocolate milk, and other riders started rolling in just a few minutes later.
We all hung out and talked bikes and when Cav would drop out and whether Froome was more boring than Indurain and about the “flat” second half of the course until the sweat mostly dried up, and then we thanked Wayne (in spite of his lies!) and headed home.
Not quite the Roubaix showers, but I still felt pretty epic.