The 2012 Blue Ridge Breakaway has rolled to a close. The signs are collected and, in the case of Russ Roca and Laura Crawford of The Path Less Pedaled, the wheels are up! As I type Russ and Laura should be winging their way home to Portland.
(Laura Crawford and Russ Roca entertain the Blue Ridge Breakaway participants!)
We said our goodbyes at the Greenville/Spartanburg, SC jetport after a brief stop…
at TTR Bikes in Greenville, who graciously agreed to ship their bikes home to Portland. It was great to see that TTR’s customer service was the same high quality as when I purchased my Salsa Fargo from them last fall.
The Blue Ridge Breakaway recap…
Our current best count is that 497 registered riders, representing another growth in attendance, enjoyed the four routes of the Breakaway. The ride started out under gray skies and cool temps, perfect for riding! After welcoming remarks and coverage of safety concerns by Ride Director Larry East and Waynesville Mayor Gavin Brown, the riders headed out with a shotgun start.
( Lots of smile and laughter at the start!)
(Rising sun accompanies riders through the Start/Finish line)
After seeing riders off, it was time for me, as this year’s Route/Safety Director to head for command central. Again this year, the local amateur radio operators group provided outstanding technical assistance and communications.
(Command Central being setup on Friday prior to the ride)
Thanks to the radio operators group and the local Best Buy store, we were able to follow the riders along all 4 routes by watching GPS signals from our eight Moto-Sag riders on a large screen TV. Additionally, each of the rest areas had a site located radio operator and a mobile car/truck with a radio operator attached. This enabled us to move supplies, resources, and support quickly to needed locations along the routes. We were able to see the motorcycles on Google maps with an overlay specific to our ride.
Action kicks off quick!
It wasn’t long before the reports starting coming in fast and furious. The first climb that all riders must tackle is Coleman Mountain Road. A relatively long climb above I-40 leads to series of quick “S-curves” on the descent. This road has captured and spit out a number of riders in the past and the 2012 edition was to be no exception as we had two quick crashes requiring EMS services. Probably the most significant injury of the day occurred at this point as a rider unfortunately took a header resulting in some 18 stitches across the forehead.
A previous rider had just gone down according to witnesses and essentially shredded his kit. He did not require medical attention and continued his ride. We also had reports of mechanicals requiring assistance in this same period of time and location.
Things settled down significantly after these events were cleared. We soon became aware of rider 185, who was scorching the Trout route. His reported times between rest stops were quite impressive.
The remainder of my day was spent monitoring activity and working with the other on-site volunteers as we watched the groups progress around the course. The first riders of the 25 mile Rabbit route were back in and finished in what seemed like a blink of an eye. Russ and Laura enjoyed the 40 mile Panther route, which included the aforementioned Coleman Mountain climb, a climb out of Panther Creek along I-40, and a long grind up the backside of Rush Fork. (Check out their Facebook pages for some images.) After a great descent, riders on the Panther came to the first and only rest stop on their route. After a refreshing stop at Crabtree United Methodist Church and some attention from our “world class” rest stop volunteers, riders returned to NC 209 south to climb up the backside of Hyder Mountain and then on into Lake Junaluska.
Meanwhile, Hawk and Trout participants were making their way to Clyde and then over Stamey Cove. An approximate 8 mile ride from the Mountain View Church of God rest stop brought them to Burnette Siding Baptist Church for the final rest stop before the serious climbing starting. At this point, Century riders had accomplished about 2500’ of vertical climb and were now facing the remaining 7500’ of climb to complete the course.
This year we made special efforts to make riders aware that this is not a first time Century to undertake. Despite signs warning of the remaining 7500’ of climbing to go and having exceeded the 4.5 hours time limit to get to this point, a few riders continued on with the climb to the Blue Ridge Parkway. All riders were rewarded with a smooth ride as the road was paved the day before and a great smooth surface awaited them. Last week at the same time it was a “chip and seal” covered road that would have been one massive rattle up the mountain. Kudos to NC DOT and their paving crew for finishing up the job in time for the Breakaway.
Our final riders made it back to Lake Junaluska just after 6:00 p.m. There were some mighty tired folks at the end – riders and volunteers! A post ride meal awaited all riders upon their return. The first raindrops began falling as the SAG vehicles brought in a few riders, who abandoned on the final climb up to Water Rock Knob.
It’s the people that make the event!
Whether we’re talking about the volunteers…
(Arriving at 5:30 a.m., Larry Leatherwood provided parking assistance)
(Rotarian Stephanie Strickland painted turn directions on Friday)
(Sunrise Rotarians served up Friday night supper!)
… Or the riders
(Bob Clark preps for the ride…)
(Heather and Luyba smiling before the ride!)
(Blues Bro Don Kostelec full of energy and ready to go!)
it’s the people that make this such an enjoyable event in which to participate!
Tomorrow: Reflections on the words and ideas from Russ and Laura…