WINDER - Think of it as Lance Armstrong meets "Full Metal Jacket."
Winder's Fort Yargo State Park will again play host this year to a budding type of racing known
to competitors as "Cyclocross" - a grueling endurance test that blends cycling with all the hazardous challenges of boot camp.
Enthusiasts say the racing hybrid is just beginning to gain a foothold in the South. In other areas, such as the Northeast, the events are televised weekly.
Fort Yargo will host the event for the fourth consecutive year Nov. 23. For the first time, however, the winners of pro races here will lay claim to the Georgia State Championship, said Dan Coy, president of Gwinnett Touring Club, the race promoter.
Entry is free for racers under 18; for pros it's $25, and $20 for everyone else.
All riders can register online or knock out the paperwork on site. The race hosts eight different divisions, from beginners to the "elite" class.
"Everyone is invited to race," Coy said. "All that's required is a bike and a helmet."
The Fort Yargo course is 1.7 miles of pavement, hills, grass, dirt, gravel and sandy beaches dotted with barriers obstacles. Over the course of a half-hour or so, most riders loop the course multiple times, dismounting and remounting the bike while trudging onward. The pros do it for more like an hour.
Races typically feature crowd-pleasing "spills and thrills," Coy said.
"(It's) pure, sweet suffering for the riders, but crazy fun to watch," he said.
The Gwinnett Touring Club, formed in 1982, claims more than 100 members, several with state and national championship titles. GTC riders favor the quieter roads of Gwinnett, Walton, Barrow and Jackson counties for leisure and competitive riding, according to the group's Web site.