After a year of waiting I can finally say that I finished the 3-State 3-Mountain Challenge in Chattanooga, TN. Last year, after driving down there, a few of us decided not to even start the ride based on the pouring rain and forecast of hail and dangerous lightening. So, this ride has been on the “I will finish this ride” list since then.

The ride advertises 3 tough climbs over 100 miles, with one climb in Tennessee, one in Alabama and one in Georgia.

The weather forecast wasn’t great, but it was at least tolerable. It was also very wrong. A group of 8 of us drove down on Friday, checked in, ate plenty of Italian food and awoke on Saturday to cloudy skies and dry roads.

At 8:00, 2500 riders gathered for a mass start.  That’s when the rain started.  It was a light drizzle as we left town, but it rained harder and harder as we approached the first climb – Suck Creek Mountain.  This climb is 5 miles long at 4-6% grade.  If it hadn’t been for  the pouring rain, I’m sure it would have been a beautiful climb.  But, it wasn’t too tough and I hooked up with 3 other riders as we made quick work of the 1st mountain.  The descent was a white-knuckle fear fest in the rain.  My hands cramped from being on the brakes so hard and I was still doing 28-30 mph.  I usually like flying down a mountain, but the bottom of this one could not come soon enough.  The 1st food stop was packed with riders trying to get out of the rain, many of whom were discussing the shortest route back to the start.  Ned Williams and I continued to ride and the rain quickly began to decrease.  In the 20 miles of flat to rolling road between the 1st and 2nd food stops the rain stopped enough for me to remove my rain jacket for the rest of the day.

The climb up Sand Mountain in Alabama was 2.5 miles long and averaged 8-10%.  It was tree covered with a few switchbacks and ended with a long ride along a beautiful ridge.  After the 3rd food stop we eventually dropped off the ridge and headed into Georgia.

The last climb was certainly the most difficult, but it never lived up to the image the ride organizers painted of a leg breaking ordeal.  It was 2.4 miles long with the first 2 miles being a steady, wide open 10% climb.  As we got near the top we made a turn and saw a short but steep 16-18% wall.  It reminded me a lot of Chicken Coop Rd. in SE Ohio.

The ride finished with a rolling ride along the ridge into the town of Lookout Mountain, followed by a windy decent back into Chattanooga.  On a drier day it would have been a fun descent, but at least we didn’t have to have a death grip on the brake levers all of the way down.  The ride organizers had a full lane blocked off all of the way through town back to the finish.  With police at every intersection stopping traffic, Ned and I had a quick trip back to the stadium.  We finished in 7:01

After all of the talk about how beautiful and difficult this ride is, I have to admit that I was a little disappointed.  I’m sure that it is a very scenic route on a sunny day, but very little about the ride is all that difficult.  The last climb on Mountains of Misery is much tougher and Mountain Mama is, overall, a much tougher ride.  But, I had a great day and enjoyed myself, in spite of the hard rain early in the ride

Filed under: Ride Notes