The TNGA is one of the premier bikepacking grand departs in the eastern United States and this year’s event attracted nearly 120 participants. Because of the high number, and regulations put in place by the National Forest Service, riders will be starting at several different times over the weekend. Read on to find out how to follow the event.
To sum it up, the TNGA follows a 358-mile route through the mountains of northern Georgia on a mix of trails, forest roads, and paved roads. Because there are some stretches of Rooty singletrack and other chunky bits along the way, it’s considered a mountain bike route. However, many choose to ride it on “Divide” style bikes (like the Salsa Cutthroat) as the course is mostly gravel with a fair bit of paved backroads.
The longstanding record on the TNGA was set by Eddie O’dea in 2013 when he finished it in 1 day, 14 hours, and 57 minutes (1:14:57) during the grand depart. However, the course has changed a little bit since then with a new stretch to the finish. According to Race Organizer Jeff Williams, James Dunaway just set a new FKT on it two weeks ago and will be the one to beat. James finished in 1 day, 16 hours, and 54 minutes (1d:16:54). That being said, there are a handful of folks that are insistent that TNGA records should only be able to be set during the grand depart since there are a few factors that make it a little different than other bikepacking races. In short, the TNGA event is held during one of the most inhospitable times of the year in the Southern Appalachians. Mid-August can be punishingly hot, muggy, and afternoon thunderstorms are almost guaranteed. Additionally, it’s spider season, which you’ll only understand if you’ve ridden the route this time of year. All these factors add up and make it a more difficult route than it would be if you rode it in April or early October (which are probably ideal times). All this compounds when you take into account that the TNGA features nearly 50,000 feet of climbing.
To follow the event this year, make sure to check our Tracker page regularly. It will be linked on our home page under Dispatch for the duration of the event and we’ll be posting a few updates from photographers at the event. To follow rider’s locations, you’ll need to be familiar with the color-coding on Trackleaders. Essentially, the starting times are coded as follows. And if you forget, hit the “Legend” tab on the Trackleaders window.
As far as who to follow this year, Eddie O’dea will start today, although he claims that he’s not racing (but Eddie always keeps his cards close). 16-year-old PJ Terry also starts today. A few other names to watch include Linda Sledge who’s ITTing the course right now. Linda is 73 years-young. Go Linda! Additionally, Chris Joice and Joe Rinehart will likely be slugging it out on singlespeeds, and Kristen Girts should be fun to watch, too. Kristen, Chris, and Joe all start on Saturday morning. Stay tuned for more…
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