Bikes and beer.
It's a perfect recipe for fun in downtown Dahlonega this weekend as the ninth-annual Dahlonega Gold Criterium will return to the Public Square.
Chamber President Robb Nichols hopes the public will enjoy the new aspect of this year's event.
"This will be the first year we have had a beer tent on the square," he said.
Spectators will be able to enjoy beer from the official sponsor Tantrum Brewery, as well as food from local restaurant Shenanigans.
The "beer-garden" will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and will be located on the south side of the square in front of the General Store and will allow spectators to watch the bike race a the same time, Nichols said.
On Saturday, cycling enthusiasts will fill the downtown area beginning at 9 a.m. as the Bike Expo kicks off. Six Gap riders can also pick up their race packets and T-shirts. Racers can also register for the Criterium race at the booth near the Holly Theater. Races begin at 10:30 a.m.
The Expo is expected to include at least 12 bike vendors, a merchandise tent and will cover the north and south sides of the square, according to Chamber Communications Coordinator Courtney Randolph.
When race time comes, professional and amateur riders will speed their way around the historic Gold Museum and down West Main Street to win a share of thousands of dollars in prize money.
"The prize money for each race will be determined by the number of participants in the race," Randolph added.
This style of racing is spectator-friendly similar to car racing on a track where the audience can see much of the race-course at all times.
The start/finish line will be across from the Holly Theater.
With brand new pavement, speeds could reach above 35 miles per hour on the straightaways.
The general public is invited to register for the race in the appropriate experience category. Visit 6gap.com for specific information on categories and start times.
The price ranges by category from $15 to $45, according to Randolph. If riders register for the Criterium before the day of the ride they can save up to $15.
Roads will be closed from 9:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. on the square on Saturday.
However, the criterium race is just one part of the upcoming weekend in Dahlonega packed with bicycle-related events.
A distance of 104 miles is the difference between most people and a cyclist able to claim the title of Six Gap Century finisher.
It's a grueling test of endurance and determination that will take place on Sunday and begins at Lumpkin County High School at 7:30 a.m.
"Six Gap attracts riders from all over the U.S. and even some international cyclists," Nichols said, "but mostly from the southeast."
"It's a bucket-list ride for many cyclists because of the difficulty," he added.
No major changes were made to the 104-mile route for the 31st year, which includes 11,200 vertical feet of climbing, according to Randolph.
In addition, many riders opt to participate in the 56-mile Three Gap ride or a shorter Valley ride, which both take off at 8:30 a.m.
If locals want to test their legs against the mountain roads, last minute registration is available Saturday and Sunday for $86, Randolph said, although T-shirts aren't guaranteed.
All riders are eligible for the post-ride spaghetti dinner at the finish line 11 a.m.-6 p.m.
WORTH THE EFFORT
The effort to pull off such an event gets a boost from many local clubs and organizations, such as the Woman's Club, The Torch church, as well as others.
A total of nine rest stops maintained by volunteer groups will be set up along the Century route to assist riders with water, food, and other assistance.
Randolph said over 200 volunteers will have a hand in making the event happen.
And it's a long day for many, Nichols said, who begins his day at 4 a.m. with his team of volunteers.
But the Six Gap Century and Criterium mean more to Dahlonega than a weekend of bike activities.
The registration fees for Six Gap allow the Chamber of Commerce to raise almost one-third of it's annual budget, said Nichols.
It helps pay for Chamber events, programs and salaries.
The event also helps many local establishments in the hospitality business.
Tourism Director Sam McDuffie said much of the local lodging requires a four-night stay during the bike weekend.
"It brings a different group of people to town," McDuffie said. "And many cyclists return to Dahlonega throughout the year to ride the course again and again."
Nichols added that they hope to grow the Saturday/Sunday events to be an attractive spectator event similar to the Twilight Criterium in Athens.
Visit 6gap.com for more information on the weekend events.