New Climbing Categories Up for Grabs at Six Gap Century and Three Gap Fifty
KOM and QOM Recognition Part of Sept. 27 Bicycle Ride. Six Gap has become one of the most popular bucket-list rides in the U.S., distinguished by the 11,200 vertical feet of elevation gain on the 104-mile route.
DAHLONEGA, GA. (July 30, 2020) - Just like the summer temperatures, training is heating up for individuals who want to complete the Six Gap Century & Three Gap Fifty bicycle ride on Sept. 27. For the ultra-competitive group, the race within the ride offers new categories for King of the Mountain and Queen of the Mountain recognition. Organizers have expanded the age divisions from three to five KOM & QOM categories on each of the Six Gap and Three Gap routes. There will be 20 total award winners.
The KOM and QOM divisions are:
- 29 years and under
- 60 years and over
Six Gap has become one of the most popular bucket-list rides in the U.S., distinguished by the 11,200 vertical feet of elevation gain on the 104-mile route. It takes riders across the six steepest climbs in the North Georgia mountains. The Three Gap Fifty (58 miles) offers 6,385 vertical feet of pain, sharing Neels, Wolfpen and Woody Gaps with the longer route.
These same climbs have been conquered by top professional riders throughout the years, most notably at the former Tour de Georgia men’s UCI stage race. For some, it is a goal to just make it over the monster Hog Pen Gap before the cut-off time. Many pedal up each summit to enjoy the descents. And some attack each rise in elevation for a race against the clock.
For the Three Gap Fifty, the KOM and QOM honors will be awarded based on lowest climb times on Wolfpen Gap. For the Six Gap Century, honors will be given for the lowest combined climb times on two climbs - Hogpen Gap and Wolf Pen Gap. Each winner receives a custom kit, jersey and bib shorts.
Some of the top climbers in the 2019 Six Gap Century included elite cyclists Lauren De Crescenzo (Atlanta, Ga.), formerly with DNA Pro Cycling, Debbie Milne (Greenville, S.C.), racing for Supra Functional Food Bars, and Tom Danielson (Boulder, Colo.), a former 15-year pro who won stages at the Tour de France and Vuelta a España.
De Crescenzo set a world record on May 31, 2020 for “Everesting,” riding one bicycle route in a repeated pattern to accumulate elevation gain that is equal to the height of Mount Everest, 29,029 vertical feet. De Crescenzo, joined by her fiancee, used a straight section of the menacing Hogpen Gap climb for the then-record ride - 9 hours, 57 minutes, 29 seconds. She rode 24 laps of the 2.1-mile climb, which averages 9.8 percent grade. She was the first woman to record a sub 10-hour time. Since then, her record has been beaten twice in Europe (down to 8 hours, 53 minutes, 36 seconds).
“I’ve never ridden for 10 hours or done that much climbing. It was twice as much climbing as I’ve ever done,” said De Crescenzo, who now works in the Department of Injury Prevention for the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta. “In the past 10 years, I imagine I’ve ridden up in the Gaps at least 100-plus times. It’s a great way to get out of Atlanta on the weekend! My favorite gap is Hogpen, but in reverse for its 9.8% average gradient. In May, I went up in 24 times and set the World Record for Everesting and had (the record) for almost an entire week!”
Her first half century was the Three Gap Fifty in 2010, when she was 20 years old. Her goal that year was to simply finish. Fast forward to 2019 and De Crescenzo used the Six Gap Century for a different reason, as she had retired from racing.
“Last year I decided to make a comeback, but this time I had a different goal - 100 miles and win the Queen of the Mountain for my age group. And take a sweet polka-dot jersey, making young Lauren proud,” said De Crescenzo, who took the 2019 QOM in the Female 34 & under category for Six Gap.
If someone looks at her ride and says it is just too hard, De Crescenzo offers that anyone can ride Three Gap or Six Gap, and “you do you.”
“First, I would show them a picture of me from 2010 and say everyone has to start somewhere. The journey is the destination, just have fun. Cycling never gets easier. You just go faster.”
Photo: De Crescenzo set a world record on May 31, 2020 for “Everesting,”
Rachel Burke of Atlanta won the QOM crown on Three Gap Fifty in the former 35-54 category for women. Having turned 36 in June, Burke is happy to have a smaller competition pool and open a new group of women for QOM recognition.
“I think it’s wonderful to have more opportunities for people to be recognized. This is a tough ride, and people train really hard to be able to get up the gaps. It’s a wonderful feeling to PR and then to find out that your effort was also broadly competitive,” said Burke, who has twice ridden the Three Gap Fifty. “I love it. It’s challenging and fun to ride the gaps in a small group, but it’s even more motivating to do it in a larger group of riders. I find myself reaching deeper and pushing harder when there are more people to try to pass. The natural beauty adds a special touch and serves as its own reward.”
Photo: Rachel Burke of Atlanta won the QOM crown on Three Gap Fifty in the former 35-54 category for women
Kristine Kester, who moved from Duluth, Ga. to Santa Rosa Beach, Fla. last year, won the QOM title on the Three Gap Fifty in the 55+ category for women. She was surprised to win the designation, but had been training a lot in the mountains of Georgia and was using a new road bike.
“Once in 2017 on an old heavy triple chain road bike and in 2019 on a new road bike. When I did it the first time in 2017, I did ok, but was on an old, heavy, triple-chair road bike. In 2019 I had a new road bike and trained for it, so I knew I could have a shot at it,” said Kester, who used rides in north Georgia and upstate of South Carolina to train for the 70.3 World Championships with her husband. She is a member of the All3 Sports/Podium triathlon team and a USAT/Ironman certified coach.
“I love the little towns in North Georgia, the people are so friendly and the atmosphere is relaxed,” added Kester, who rode her first Three Gap Fifty in 2000. “The air is cleaner up there and you can’t beat the views from the tops of the climbs! That is my favorite part about the course. I would say Three Gap, Six Gap is the toughest one-day cycling event I have done.”
There is one standard fee, $86, for all three ride options at the Six Gap Century & Three Gap Fifty. A Summer Special offers a $10 discount through August 31. Each registration includes a custom T-shirt, snacks and beverages at rest stops, showers, and a post-ride meal. Online registration will close when the 2,500 rider limit is reached. If spots are available, on-site registration will take place Sept. 26-27 at the Expo, with an additional $10 late fee. The rides will take place rain or shine. Visit the web site for details - https://bit.ly/3giw5yX.
Six Gap By the Numbers: (* also part of Three Gap route)
2,500 registered riders
104 miles for Six Gap/ 54 miles for Three Gap
Neels Gap – 3,139 feet (957 meters) *
Jack’s Gap – 2960 feet (902 meters)
Unicoi Gap – 2,949 feet (899 meters)
Hogpen Gap – 3,480 feet (1,061 meters)
Wolf Pen Gap – 3,345 feet (1,019 meters) *
Woody Gap – 3,200 feet (975 meters) *