The massive run/walk-up at the start stretched the field apart. Photo by Greg Heil
By Adam Newman
It’s probably not a wise move to start one of the hardest races in the Southeast on a bike you’ve never even seen, let alone ridden, but that’s the kind of sadism we practice here at Dirt Rag—all for you, dear readers.
Some friends and I made the 11-hour drive from Pittsburgh for the spring thaw known as Southern Cross, a 50-mile ultracross endurance race through the mountains of North Georgia. The first race of the newly formed American Ultracross Championship Series, Southern Cross climbs 6,500 feet, consisting mostly of two long climbs followed by knuckle-whitening fire road descents.
The 2010 edition of Southern Cross had to be cancelled when it was snowed out (I was in the car and on the way when I got word), but this year we were far more fortunate with sunny skies and temperatures in the 50s. The wind was didn’t get the nice-day memo, however, and destroyed our pop-up tent and racers’ morale when fighting it head-on.
What about the bike? Newly minted Foundry Cycles was on hand with some samples of their carbon-fiber cyclocross, road, and mountain bikes. Somehow I talked my way into borrowing an Auger cyclocross model with disc brakes. Suh-weet! One of many brands under the umbrella of wholesaler Quality Bicycle Products, Foundry was… founded (ha!) on the ethos that bikes are tools, not trophies. Their look is as understated as possible too, with only a few gray-on-black logos.
Set up with a SRAM Rival drivetrain and NoTubes rims laced to SRAM X9 hubs, the bike was as light as anyone could need. If I sucked, it certainly wasn’t going to be the bike’s fault. The Clement LAS 700x33c file-tread tires were a perfect choice for the day, providing plenty of float over the rough stuff and were smooth enough to glide along the paved sections.
The frame is stiff but not unfomfortably so. I’ve ridden stiffer carbon bikes, but I’ve also ridden some carbon noodles. I’m not normally a carbon-fiber fan, but this bike changed my mind, especially since it sports fender mounts for year-round use.
Evidently I make some pretty awkward faces while racing. Photos by Weldon Weaver.
The race begins with lap of a cyclocross course set up on the grounds of the Montaluce Winery followed by a torturous climb that quickly shreds the field. Several riders, especially the singlespeeds, were forced to walk the steepest pitch. Here the Auger’s stiff bottom bracket and low weight helped me continue moving up the field and up the mountain.
When we finally reached the top, I started to question my decision to doff my arm and knee warmers before the start. The temperature dropped even further on the long descent; luckily the Auger’s disc brakes meant my frozen fingers could still keep me from sailing off the mountainside.
At the bottom, the course turns into a lush pine forest along the banks of a picturesque creek in the Chattahoochee National Forest. Campers must have been surprised to see so many funny-dressed folks on skinny-tire bikes so far back in the woods.
The beauty would be short-lived, however, as the road quickly turned back uphill for the second major climb. This one wasn’t nearly as long or painful and the final SAG stop appeared before I expected it.
The final descent was rip-roaring fast from gravel down to paved road where a small group formed, asking me several questions about the bike.
“Yes, it rides great."
"Yes, the disc brakes are awesome."
"It’s a Foundry, a new brand.”
As we sped along towards the finish at the winery I was in full road-race mode, eagerly anticipating a sprint finish, but it was not to be: awaiting us was one of the longest, steepest walk-ups I’ve ever seen. Grudgingly we dismounted and began the hike, though thankfully refreshed by PBR handups at the bottom.
The final lap around the cyclocross course was a real kick in the shin at the end of a long ride, and much more challenging than at the start. Fortunately the final 100 yards in on a paved road, so we still got to sprint over the line.
Finishing at the winery. Photo by Weldon Weaver.
Afterwards, racers were treated to delicious food and a complimentary glass of the vineyard’s own wine, and many of us purchased a few extra of our own, or even a bottle or two.
Though the race was bookmarked by a full day in the car each way, I’m really glad we made the trip south and I’m really impressed with the Auger. Next up: Barry Roubaix in Michigan. Special thanks goes out to 55Nine Performance for putting on such a great event and Foundry Cycles for the sweet ride.
Foundry Auger Disc
Bike photos by Adam Newman.