7,000 feet of climbing ... in Alabama?

If you thought the only reason to go to Alabama was to watch college football or NASCAR races, then you havent ridden the Cheaha Challenge. The May 6 century is billed the "toughest ride in the south," a moniker it's 500 riders will attest to heartily.

The ride follows an out-and-back route that starts and ends in Piedmont, a scenic town nestled in the Appalachian foothills. The 102-mile ride features a 7,000-foot cumulative elevation gain mainly focused during a 46-mile stretch of the ride (between miles 22-80).

But the good news is that riders also get 7,000 feet of screaming downhills. According to the race organizers, there are 10 descents where top speeds can approach 55 mph.

But at that speed it's hard to appreciate the natural beauty along the course a feature that brings riders back year-after-year according to Cheaha Challenge Event Director, Mike Poe.

"The road is on a ridgeback of the Talledega Mountains, with a panoramic valley on both sides," Poe said. "A lot of riders come for the climbing, but they can't believe the scenery.

Traffic is minimal as most of the ride takes place along the seldom-traveled Talladega Scenic Drive. The ride is fully supported with SAG vehicles, water and aid stations.

According to Poe, aid stations are set up every ten miles and feature peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, fig newtons, fresh fruit, and potato chips in addition to the usual water and energy drinks.

All told, you get a lot for your $27 entry fee, including a pre-ride pancake breakfast and post ride spaghetti dinner.

Register for the Cheaha Challenge Century online

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