By Hailey Blevins
A 100-mile bike ride and a 50-mile bike ride will start off Blood Sweat and Gears (BSG) at Valle Crucis Elementary School early Saturday morning. The High Country can expect a change from routine this day as cyclers and their families and friends flood in for the ride. With so many people coming to the High Country, residents can expect the usual boost to the economy that the Blood Sweat and Gears bike ride brings each year.
Seven years ago, BSG turned into a freestanding non-profit that distributes money to 50+ organizations. Scott Nelson, Director of BSG, comments, “We’re not going to address every need, but we’re going to address as many as we can. We’re just the fundraiser. The organizations we’re donating to, they’re the ones doing the heavy lifting. We’re grateful to have them around. They do the kind of work we can’t do.”
What began in 1998 as a ride with about 100 participants has evolved into an event so big that preregistration fills up so quickly that it had to be capped at 1,250 cyclers.
So why is this event so popular?
What makes BSG so great is that it is a community effort. It’s about giving back to those in need. BSG has accepted the phrase “It’s more than a ride” as a description of the event. Their slogan says, “helping our community one revolution at a time.” BSG does this through donations to many different charities. Crystal Smith, Director of Retail Operations for Appalachian Mountain Brewing, says, “this event is unique in that it serves a purpose by directing 100% of its proceeds back into local organizations in Boone.”
This year, BSG also does this by supporting veterans in the process of healing from injuries. 14 veterans will be participating in the ride as part of their rehabilitation from injuries. Everyone rallied in support of these veterans, helping make it possible for them to participate. Other BSG riders donated their entry fees for these veterans while Hincapie Sportswear donated their riding apparel, KASK donated helmets, and Jerky Outpost in Valle Crucis donated gift bags. Panera Bread will be providing one of their meals.
A raffle was even held online to raise funds to help cover the veterans’ travel expenses. Artist Ryan Visingard painted a piece called “Valor in the Valle” last year at the Post Ride Celebration live as cyclers were coming in to eat their meals. “We wanted to create a name for the veteran experience here in the High Country. We came up with the phrase ‘Valor in the Valle.’”
This was a triptych piece of art, which they had made into one frame. “We got it printed onto an 18×36 canvas, which Blowing Rock Frameworks framed for us, and we raffled it off to help pay for travel expenses for the veterans,” says Nelson.
When asked about this raffle, Nelson described it as being “kind of like a snowball going downhill, gathering size and speed.” When raffle sales were lower than expected, Nelson sent out an email to BSG riders asking them to get the word out about the raffle and the cause. “Less than 24 hours later, I get an email from a BSG rider who said, ‘For your Valor in the Valle effort, I’m in for $1000.”
Nelson was shocked by this show of support. He followed this with a challenge for more people to match the amount and received several more emails from BSG riders who were also in for $1000, plus another $500 in tickets sold to add to the original $500 the raffle had brought in. Everyone’s efforts continued to make it possible for veterans to participate in BSG. “For five years, we’ve invited veterans to come ride with us. They’re veterans who use cycling as a way to rehabilitate mental and physical injuries.”
Following the ride will be a Post Ride Celebration at Appalachian Mountain Brewery in Boone at 6:30 p.m. Live music and food trucks will be at the after party. As part of the celebration of BSG’s 20th year, Appalachian Mountain Brewery will be selling a beer brewed specifically for BSG called 2nd Revolution. “100% of the proceeds on Saturday from 2nd Revolution will be donated to BSG.”
This is an important part of the event because it honors Co-Founder Sonny Sweet. Nelson says that in an interview Sweet once said, “I came back to the High Country because the mountains have a tradition of taking care of their own, and that’s all I’ve been trying to do.” In honor of this, the 2nd Revolution label will say “’Mountains have a tradition of taking care of their own,’ Sonny Sweet.”
At the Post Ride Celebration, BSG will re-announce this year’s recipient of a $50,000 grant, which will first be announced Friday at the high school when cyclers are picking up their packets. The veterans will be toasted at the celebration, thanking them for serving our country.
With an event that fills up so quickly, BSG has relied heavily on support from the community. “It’s quite a production in terms of the packet pickup at the high school on Friday,” said Nelson. About 90 percent of the 1,250 cyclers will come to the High Country on Friday to pick up their packets. “We have, between that, people out on the course, people getting riders ready and lined up, food servers and people at rest stops, around 300 volunteers.”
BSG prides itself on the impact these volunteers have made on the riders. Post-ride surveys are always taken. “We always score extremely high on these surveys. You’d almost think I made them up. We’re scoring 96, 97 percent.”
With 1,250 riders expected, the roads will be busy this Saturday, so residents should check here to learn more about the routes cyclers will be taking. Most importantly, drive carefully and watch out for cyclers.
Smith challenges the community with this event, “I challenge our local community to come out and support the riders, support the veterans, support the community and this special event.”
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