As more than 100 cyclists ride in Wednesday for one of the nation’s premier cycling events, area motorists will have to pump the brakes — or at least take a detour.
Local authorities have announced a "rolling road closure" in parts of Hall County that will make way for cyclists competing in the Tour de Georgia, the third leg of which will finish Wednesday afternoon in Gainesville.
Roads on the cyclists’ tour of Hall County will be closed 30 minutes prior to their arrival in each particular area, and those roadblocks will "stay in place until after the last rider goes past," said Gainesville police Lt. Keith Lingerfelt.
The road closures should begin at about 2 p.m. Wednesday, when the cyclists are expected to enter the county on Ga. 52 in Gillsville.
The road closures will start there, following the cyclists as they turn left onto Joe Chandler Road and continue to Old Cornelia Highway, passing through Rabbittown toward Gainesville, said Hall County Sheriff’s Office Maj. Jeff Strickland.
The race is expected to affect traffic on Interstate 985 for about half an hour as bicycle traffic passes under the Exit 24 overpass on Old Cornelia Highway, said Teri Pope, a Georgia Department of Transportation spokeswoman.
Motorists will not be able to exit or enter the interstate on the north or south side between about 2:30 to 3 p.m. Wednesday, Pope said. However, the time of the closing will depend on the time the race moves into the county, she added.
Pope advises interstate motorists who normally use Exit 24 around this time of day to use Exit 22 on Wednesday.
She explained that those who try to get off the interstate on Exit 24 during the roadblock may be stuck on the ramp for up to 45 minutes while the race passes through Old Cornelia Highway.
"Make yourself a Post-It note," she said.
The race then will make a turn onto White Sulphur Road, and for that portion of the race, White Sulphur will be blocked off to traffic between Jesse Jewell Parkway and Pine Valley Road, said Lingerfelt.
When the race nears Pine Valley Road, that thoroughfare will be closed to traffic until the cyclists near Clarks Bridge Road, and then Clarks Bridge is expected to be shut down from its intersection with Pine Valley Road to U.S. 129.
The race is expected to enter the Gainesville city limits at about 2:30 p.m., crossing Limestone Parkway and turning left onto Park Hill Drive at the Cleveland Highway intersection, Lingerfelt said.
From there, road closures will roll to Park Hill Place, affecting two major intersections in the city at Lakeview Drive and South Enota, Lingerfelt said.
Once the race reaches Park Hill Place, cyclists will make three laps in the Longstreet Hills subdivision, traveling down Springdale Road, Park Street, Park Street Place, Prior Street, Candler Street, Glenwood Drive, Memorial Drive and "anything in between," Lingerfelt said.
Lingerfelt said officials expect cyclists to be circling the neighborhood for about 20 minutes before the race finishes in front of the Martha Hope Cabin on Green Street by about 3 p.m.
Until the time of the race is very near, officials will not know exactly what time and for how long each Hall County road will close on Wednesday afternoon, Lingerfelt said.
"It’s very difficult to tell everybody what’s going to happen," Lingerfelt said of exact times for road closures during the race.
To make it simpler, Strickland advises that anyone who travels these roads during the 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. time frame use an alternate route in order to avoid delays.
As cyclists and their team cars pass through each section of the course, intersections and roads will reopen, said Lingerfelt.
"We’ll make it as brief as possible," he promised.