Participants in the 24th annual Blue Ridge Brutal bicycle event had a day of pleasant temperatures and mostly overcast skies Saturday to make the challenging rides just a bit easier.
Several hundred cyclists took on the 57-mile, 76-mile, or 102-mile rides and a few hardy souls challenged themselves even further with the “Assault on Mount Jefferson.”
Winning the 102-mile ride were Ryan Jenkins and Charlie Brown of Salisbury, veterans of the Blue Ridge Brutal, who came in together clocking about four hours and 36 minutes on the grueling route.
“It's always a fun ride and a challenging course,” said Jenkins. “It's one of the best rides, if not the best, in the area.”
Brown said of the ride, “Beautifully brutal.”
Both said they do a “fair amount” of cycling, and Brown (with his fanny pack stuffed with cookies) said they come mostly for the desserts offered after the ride.
The toughest part of this tough course? “Buffalo hump,” said Brown of the long steep hill in the Buffalo community. “It comes at a critical time on the ride, 75 miles in,” he said, when the riders' legs are getting a bit tired.
Volunteers were located at critical junctions to help direct the cyclists through traffic and intersections, they handed out water and snacks along the routes and followed the cyclists to provide aid if needed.
Riders are supported by the Ashe County Amateur Radio Club, rescue squads from all over the county, and SAG wagons. They receive a hot meal, tee shirt, water and support of many volunteers. This year the Brutal featured six rest stops sponsored by American Emergency Vehicles (AEV), GE Aviation, Gates, Mt. Jefferson Presbyterian Church Women’s Fellowship, SSSink, and United Chemi-Con.
Sponsors include Blue Ridge Electric, Boone Bike and Touring, LifeStore Bank, Ashe County Amateur Radio Club, GE Aviation and Real Living Carolina Property.
This event is an annual fundraiser for the Ashe County Arts Council, and the rides begin and end at the Ashe Civic Center in West Jefferson.
For more information, go online to www.blueridgebrutal.org