The Snake Creek Gap Series is a classic mountain bike race time trial held the first weekend of January, February and March, at the IMBA Epic Georgia Pinhoti Trail with 17- or 34-mile options, both point to point. The 17-mile event starts at the halfway point of the 34-mile route, which is right in the middle of Snake Creek Gap. More than 90 percent of both races are on sweet singletrack trails; the shorter option features two mountains, the longer, four. The course gets progressively more technical over the last eight miles on Hurricane Mountain and Rocky Face Ridge, with the trail hugging the razor back edge of these mountains and offering views off both sides.
Riders and their bikes are shuttled to their designated starting lines and timed individually in true time trial format, with the best time counting out of the three events. The entry fee for the series varies, as you can ride in one, two, or all three trials. The awards are given out during a big post-race party after the final event in March.
We talked to Simril Multisport coach Lee Simril of Chattanooga for suggestions on participating in one, two, or all three parts of the series.
For competitors with their eye on all three events, Simril suggests using the first two as training and going for a solid finish at the third. “You will often see your best weather and a chance for a fast time in March," he explains. "You can learn a lot doing the first two races so chances are the last race will give you your best finish. The key is to stick with your training and focus over the months and have fun while you’re riding.”
Those looking to improve from race to race have a couple of options, according to Simril. For example, if you’ve never raced the course, you’ll be challenged the first time out and probably won’t have your best run. With the next two events, you’ll have some experience and will probably race better simply because you’ll be more relaxed. “The course is so uniquely technical that each time you race the course you are likely to go a little faster," he says. "You will also learn about prepping for the shuttle, what to wear, when to eat and drink, etc. These will all add up to faster and faster times."
For someone coming into the event in January well trained and wanting to race all three trials well, Simril suggests striving for at least one strong finish. “Because Snake Creek is so technical and demanding, and the weather can be quite adverse at that time of year, there are lots of factors that could keep you from hitting your time goals, or even finishing for that matter,” Simril notes.
Mechanical issues such as flat tires, broken chains, broken derailleurs and the like are very common, and it could also be snowing, cold and rainy, or even sunny and hot. Or all of the above. “You just have to adapt and be ready for whatever the day may bring,” Simril says.
Simril also notes that the Pinhoti trails of the Snake Creek course are unique and very technical; the only Chattanooga MTB trail that really compares is Livewire Phase 2 on Raccoon Mountain. Still, the best advice for competitors is to ride the course. “The whole course is ridable, but it's hard to believe that your first time doing the race,” Simril adds. “If you drive down to pre-ride the course, be willing to stop and figure out sections by riding them a few times.”
For those using the event to prepare for a race later in the season, Simril suggests completing each race at an effort harder than training pace. “Try not to get too wrapped up in the race day buzz if your goals are later in the year. Use the event as a chance to get in a big workout,” he says.
A final bit of advice from Simril: Don't worry about the notable creek crossing near Dry Creek. “Your feet will be cold, but you will ride hard and they will warm up later in the day,” Simril says. And although the race director put up a bridge last year, it may or may not be there this year, "so ride through the creek.”
Sounds like a great plan for getting your mountain biking feet (and pedals) wet in 2015.