Sept. 17, 2013. Weather conditions could not have been more perfect for the 25th occurrence of the BRIDGE Incredible Challenge Century Bike Ride. Riders left downtown Lenoir at 8 a.m. Sept. 15 and experienced sunshine and comfortable temperatures throughout the race.
They climbed 101.2 miles before finishing at the Swinging Bridge parking lot atop Grandfather Mountain. As the afternoon went on, the finish line temperature became a bit chilly and many riders were seen wrapped up in towels and blankets while cheering on the rest of the riders yet to finish.
Joe Carpaissai from Winston Salem was the first male finisher, with a time of 04:53:47. Carpisassi, along with all the other top finishers, noted that the weather was perfect for the ride. The 36-year-old is the director of a professional cycling team and has participated in this event before.
Carpisassi in a North Carolina State University alumnus and said that his favorite part of the ride was working together with the second place finisher Steven Boehm, a current senior at the school.
“I enjoyed working and talking with Steven throughout the ride,” said Carpaisassi. “My fiancee got lost and Steven’s dad even gave me an extra bottle of water.”
Steven Boehm, a 21-year-old electrical engineering major from Asheville, finished with a time of 4:54:53. This was Boehm’s third BRIDGE and he said that he most enjoyed riding with Carpisassi on the “fun and really curvy” U.S. 221.
Third place finisher Patrick Beeson, 33, from Winston Salem completed the ride in 4:59:25. Beeson works in web communications at Wake Forest UNiversity. After participating in the ride once before he had a personal goal to finish in less than five hours.
“It feels pretty good to meet my goal,” said Beeson. “But honestly, when I was climbing those hills I just wanted to be done, no matter how long it took.”
Aryn Schloemer, 34, was the first female finisher and 59th overall. Schloemer only started biking three years ago and placed as the third female in 2011, 2nd in 2012 and first this year on a bike that she has only been riding for a week. Her time was 5:46:56.
The second female to cross the finish line was Amy Cernava, a marathon runner who has only recently taken up biking. She finished 81st overall with a time of 5:59:58. Cernava, 45, is a safety manager in Asheboro.
Melissa McDonald Rounded out the female top three with a 84th overall finish and a time of 5:01:34. McDonald, 54, is a commercial real estate broker from Charlotte. She described the weather as “very positive, not hot or rainy” and finished with her best time yet after participating in the ride or approximately five years.
The BRIDGE Bike Ride brought 283 riders from 23 states, Australia and the United Kingdom. The cyclists, ranging in ages from 15-75, followed a course that rose over 4,000 feet in elevation.
Three notable riders this year were Stan Brooks, George Meyer and Phillip Mousley. Brooks, from Monroe has participated in the ride all 25 years and was greeted at the finish line by friends with signs and banners. Meyer, originally from Switzerland but now living in Spartanburg placed 7th this year. Meyer placed second in 1989 and then finished first each year from 1990-1995.
This was the first BRIDGE for Mousley, 62, from Lymington in Hampshire, England. He decided to participate because he was fed up with people wearing BRIDGE shirts and asking if he had participated or not during his visits to western North Carolina. Mousley said that the last climb up the mountain was the worst but he was determined to cycle it.
“Riding this race is definitely a challenge in a cyclist’s life,” said Mousley.
The Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation is a not-for-profit corporation established to preserve Grandfather Mountain, operate the nature park sustainably in the public interest, provide an exceptional experience for guests and inspire them to be good stewards of the earth’s resources. For more information, visit www.grandfather.com or call 800-468-7325.