Remembering the recommendation from Jimmie at Tsali, we next placed ourselves at the site of the 1996 Olympics, ready to take on the Mountain Biking Course in Conyers, GA. The complimentary maps show “bike only”, “horse only” and “shared-use” trails, but don’t grab me by the shoulders and say “this is where the race course was”. I kept studying but to no avail, I really couldn’t see where the action of 1996 took place, so off we rode.
We started at the bike parking lot right near the steeplechase area. Incidentally, that’s where we camped, right on the fields of the steeplechase between a fork of two bike trails. I still don’t know where the start finish areas were for the races, but the moment we entered the woods the riding experience couldn’t have been clearer. There were “bike only” and “wrong way” signs to ensure you knew where
the course led! Despite traversing through all different terrain areas, it was always clear where to go. Riding open grasslands, looping through dense, balsam scented pine groves, old deciduous forests, beside a golf course, over solid granite domes and even through a logged area were all equally easy to follow portions of the race course. Afterward I looked at a YouTube of the men’s and women’s races from the Olympic Cross-Country races to refresh my memory too!
A smooth narrow line through a field led into the swerving, swooping portion of the woods. This side by the bike parking was slightly less hilly, switching back and forth providing the lovely adult playground that roller-coasters back and forth to create that big Mt Biker smile. Weathered camera platforms could be seen in a few technical and key places where I guess they hoped to catch riders passing or working their way to Olympic Fame. I could almost see Paola Pezzo or Thomas Frischknecht storming up one of those climbs out of the gullies. With just over 1000′ of elevation change per lap it was plenty fun.
The other side of the street started almost immediately on the Eastern version of slickrock. Though bumpier and with more steps, ledges and drops, there are acres of solid rock areas with fading painted arrows to direct your path. Lunging up those rock climbs offered no chance for rest, then blasting down them was a joyful, jarring, traction-fed feast! The only reservation was knowing that when the rock ended, you might have to be making a direction change onto a narrow, leaf strewn singletrack. The overall trail surface on both sides of the road was firm, dry clay with only occasional sprinklings of sand. Not deep sinking sand, just a dusting to keep you from relaxing too much.
The course was truly a joy to ride. Jane and I shared the first side nearest the parking, but I was afforded the chance to ride the whole course, “both sides” alone, at my own speed. No where near my old race-pace, I rode both loops in a little over an hour. I’ll check the Olympian’s times to see just how slow I was. Even in my racing days, 1987-93, I only raced expert, so I wouldn’t expect to be anywhere close to the “Gods of the Sport”. Nice to have ridden in the very same tracks though.