Race Report: Heart of the South 200

April 1, 2012/ Jim Parker

I had planned to make the eight hour drive to Birmingham, Alabama to be the sole support “crew” for Maria and Cruzbike rider Ted Barnett. Then at the last minute, our friend Rob Redfearn offered to drive down with us so I could ride, too.

We didn’t get in to Birmingham until about 11:00 pm, and the race started at 5:00 am. We grabbed a few hours of sleep and went to the starting line in a light but warm rain. We had heard differing reports on how hilly the course was. We decided not to switch from a standard crankset to a compact, so we had a 53/39 up front. For the cassette, I had an 11x28t and Maria had an 11x32t. In retrospect, having more extreme gearing would have been better on the long steep grades.

My goal for the race was just to ride and support Maria. Drafting is allowed in the HOS 200. However, we quickly learned that it’s hard to draft when you are constantly going up and down hills. Many of the downhills were twisting with hairpin turns that had to be taken very carefully to avoid becoming a hood ornament. My top speed for the day was 49 mph. Several Alabama motorists told us to get off their roads in choice language that gives new meaning to the term “Southern Hospitality”. But foul-mouthed guys in pickup trucks would be the least of our trials. The first 1-2 hours was slowed by darkness, fog, and slippery wet roads.

{Once the sun came up, the beauty of the land was revealed.}


By about mile 40, Ted and I had taken off and left everyone else behind. Then at about mile 80, a DF rider, Birmingham native Chris Shelton, came flying past us. Ted decided to chase him down. I held back and just rode by myself. Then about ten mile later, on the approach to the peak at Cheaha, I came up on Ted pushing his bike up a steep hill. He’d taken a corner too fast and hit sand and skidded out, scraping himself up and bruising his hip. He had ridden a bit further, but it hurt his hip to pedal, so he was done for the day. While I was walking and talking with Ted, Team Bacchetta rider Steve Petty passed us. Then shortly behind him came Maria. I rode the rest of the way up the peak, where Rob was waiting with some food/water. I sent him to pick Ted up while Maria and I headed down the other side of the peak. About halfway down, Maria had a minor technical problem with her hydration system, and I stopped to help her. During that stop, Steve Petty flew by on his Carbon Aero 2.0. We would exchange the lead several times over the next 25 miles. Then at about mile 145, I was able to build a lead and hold it until the finish line, with Steve only about a minute behind me. And then about a minute behind Steve came Maria. Shelton, on his DF, came in 21 minutes ahead of me.

Maria’s time of 11 hours 59 minutes smashed the existing women’s recumbent record (15.4 hours). Team Bacchetta rider Peggy Petty was the second female recumbent finisher, with a time of 13 hours 47 minutes.

{Getting ready to make an uphill left turn. Not all the motorists were happy to have us there.}


{I’m all smiles as I pull into the finish zone after almost 12 hours and 12,000 feet of climbing.}



This is Maria’s Garmin data from the race. Note 12,867 ft elevation gain.


The top three recumbent finishers. Maria set the woman’s recumbent course record. That’s me in the Cruzbike jersey (still wearing my feed bag), Steve Petty in the Bacchetta jersey, and Tom Robertshaw, race director.


Overall, a beautiful day to be alive, riding and racing.


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