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May. 21, 2019
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BRAG, Tri the Parks coming to LLOP

By Jane Harrison
 
About this time of year, many folks drift into “lazy days of summer” mode, dreaming of sunning and cruising on Lake Lanier. But, for others, the warmer weather heats up the adrenalin. Lanier’s proximity to Atlanta and the mountains is drawing the latter in back-to-back athletic events the first two weekends of June. More than a thousand cyclists and hundreds of multisport athletes will stage their races and recoveries at Lake Lanier Olympic Park in the Bicycle Ride Across Georgia and Tri the Parks multisport races.
 
“When I think of Gainesville, I think of Lake Lanier, the crown jewel of the area,” said Franklin Johnson, BRAG Executive Director. When plotting routes for the event’s 40th anniversary ride, Johnson was lured by LLOP’s unique setting on a peninsula with an amphitheatre. Less traveled rural roads, ample space for camping, and a welcome from local tourism boosters put the venue on the BRAG map.
 
Ann Carr, co-owner of Tri the Parks, said “name recognition” drew a sell out crowd of cyclists, runners and swimmers to the organization’s first races at LLOP last year. The vast majority of participants come in from metro-Atlanta to hit the lakeside starting line. Spectators can view the entire swim portion from the grandstands, a perk rare to the sport. “The course is beautiful,” Carr said, and local support is ample to meet multisport athletes’ needs. She praised LLOP Executive Director Robyn Lynch. “She’s incredible. Whatever we needed, she was happy to help with.” She also commended local law enforcement and boat patrols for ensuring participants’ safety in sports set on open water and open roads.
 
BRAG returns to Gainesville
It’s been 13 years since the week-long bike tour has stopped in Gainesville, where in 2006 and 1998 cyclists set up camp on the grounds of Gainesville High School. On June 2, they’ll wheel to the lake for their first overnighter after a 70-mile hilly trek from Ellijay. Johnson expects between 1,200 and 1,300 bikes will roll in the anniversary ride that covers “the full breadth of Georgia, from the mountains to the coast.”
 
The route from Ellijay, where the tour kicks off, follows an in-direct route on back roads and state routes, heading into Hall County on Ga. 136 (Price Road), crossing through Murrayville, and traversing North Hall’s foothills en route to the Clarks Bridge venue. The elevation profile spikes and dips all the way to LLOP. Every 12-18 miles cyclists can refuel at SAG (support and gear) stops and hop on a SAG wagon if their legs give out.
 
“It’s not a race,” Johnson said. “We definitely want to stop and smell the roses.” When they roll into LLOP, cyclists can wash off the road dust and sweat in portable showers, take a splash in the lake, and mosey up to the BRAG Bar. Some will unpack carry-on tents; others will claim their gear from the baggage shuttle. A few, maybe 20 percent, will luxuriate in local hotels.
 
Like many BRAG stops, LLOP will throw a celebration at day’s end. After an afternoon of BRAG-activities (bike trivia, one legged bike races, yoga and massage), cyclists can chow down on food truck fare and shake a leg to favorite local rockers, The Fly Betty Band. The public’s invited to enjoy the concert and cycle-mania in the grandstands that night.
 
The cycling brigade departs en masse the next morning with police escort into downtown Gainesville before heading toward Covington. They’ll travel to Milledgeville, Swainsboro, and Hinesville until the spokes stop near the sea at Darien June 8.
 
BRAG’s a rite of summer for many of its participants, some of whom have pedaled it 30 consecutive years, Johnson said. “It’s quite a tradition for a lot of folks and families. Engagements have been made…and probably some divorces, too.”
 
“Everyone meets a BRAG friend on the ride. My mom’s been riding it for 17 years and has her BRAG friends,” he added.
 
Information: www.brag.org.

Tri the Parks
Last year’s inaugural Tri the Parks multisport event at LLOP was the first sell-out in years for the organization that puts on competitions at parks all over Georgia. “Lanier was an incredible event,” said Tri co-owner, Carr. About 400 athletes competed in the triathlon, duathlon or aquabike that started and ended on the Olympic plaza.
 
Carr expects the June 8 races to fill up again this year, possibly by mid-May. Registration deadline is June 1. As of late April, already about 100 participants had signed up, mainly for the triathlon. 
 
On race morning triathletes will wade in near the grandstand award circle and stroke toward the first of two buoys on a 600 meter course to the Clarks Bridge boat ramp. After a quick jaunt from the water to the transition area in the parking lot, they’ll strap on their cycling shoes, hop on their bikes and set off on a challenging North Hall 14.7 miler. They’ll spin back into transition and switch into their running shoes for a 3.1 mile trek through a neighborhood off Clarks Bridge Road. The finish line awaits – the light at the end of the LLOP pedestrian tunnel – near the channel where Olympian rowers and paddlers won gold.
 
Other racing options include a 3.1 mile run/14.7 mile bike/3.1 mile run duathlon and 600 meter swim/14.7 mile aquabike. Relay teams are welcome. Relay athletes can race their specialty and rely on team members to complete the course. Many of those registering early represent teams from metro-Atlanta and Forsyth County.
 
Tri the Parks management chose LLOP by chance a couple of years ago when a partner was driving on Clarks Bridge. “Anytime we go by a body of water on a road trip, we check it out” for tri suitability, Carr said. LLOP has it all: a lake for swimming, at least 400 parking places, a staging ground for transition, plus good roads for biking and running.
 
LLOP Executive Director Lynch described last year’s multisport races as “a really neat event to watch.” The transition area offers a glimpse at the athleticism, anxiety and skill involved in multisport.
Multisports athletes share a bond “because it’s so hard,” Carr said. “The triathletes coming out now are one of the most encouraging groups I’ve ever been around. It’s a big deal to do what they do.”
 
Two other multisport races return to Lake Lanier in September. Another Tri the Parks event is set at Don Carter State Park Sept. 14. The Sept. 29 Lake Lanier Islands Triathlon, put on by Georgia Multisports, is a long-standing tradition at the resort.
 
For information about other events at Lake Lanier Olympic Park >>>

Posted online 4/29/19 
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