By Greg Hince
June 19, 2012. The 14th annual Blood Sweat & Gears (BSG) bicycle ride, presented by Mast General Store, will take place Saturday June 23 at the Valle Crucis Elementary School, approximately 5 miles south of Boone.
The ride benefits the Jeremy Dale Fisher Fund and The Russell Fund, established by the Watauga County Chapter of the American Red Cross, which provide assistance to local families that are displaced by fire, flood or similar disasters. It includes a challenging full “English Century” 100-mile loop ride and a 50-mile “Half Century” ride.
Bonnie Hiatt will serve as Honorary Starter for this year’s ride. Her widow, Mark Hiatt, was a lifetime bike rider and long-time BSG participant. Last year Mark was diagnosed with kidney disease, and passed away after receiving a kidney transplant and treatment for melanoma.
“Mark wanted people to know that you don’t hold back and not live your life to the fullest. You keep living until you just can’t anymore,” Bonnie said. “Being on the bike was certainly a large part of Mark’s life and not something he ever gave up.”
Mark was determined to continue riding throughout his prognosis.
“Last year, Mark was in a clinical trial for melanoma and exhausted all the time due to anemia yet still working full time – his goal was to finish the 50 mile ride,” Bonnie said. “When it took him almost seven hours to do so, he felt disappointed in his performance. I reminded him he did meet his goal, he did finish…and with a huge grin on his face at that,” she said.
BSG’s website, www.bloodsweatandgears.org, describes the “Half Century” ride as a race for those “who prefer the sanity of a challenging but shorter route.”
The 100-mile route, which begins and ends at the Elementary School, circles Boone through the outskirts of Watauga County in the heart of The High Country. The terrain constantly changes and features hills with curves too numerous to count.
The cumulative climbing elevation is over 13,000 feet. The climb up to the gap at Snake Mountain, mile point 63, reaches an 18-20% grade near the top.
The Western North Carolina Mountains are world-renowned in mountain biking circles.
“It’s a great area for riding, very hilly, but I’d say it’s the best area for training in the whole of the United States,” Lance Armstrong said, when asked about Boone in the June 1998 edition of NC Cycle Sport.
BSG offers a demanding and strenuous route, which showcases the mountain communities of Watauga County. Highlights of the route include a 21-mile section of the Blue Ridge Parkway, a strenuous climb over the 4,500-foot gap at Snake Mountain, and a 10-mile “flat” on old US 421.
Both rides are fully supported with aide stations and SAG support.
Both of this year’s rides sold out in record time, within 10 hours. The event has ballooned in size from 200 participants the first year, to 1,250 this year.
Custom gear is available on the BSG website. Although registration in closed at this time, a waiting list is available on the website. Both rides cost $50.
BSG also encourages readers to check out The Watauga County Red Cross Run 4 The Red Marathon and Half Marathon September 15th in Valle Crucis. It is a fundraising run for the Watauga County Red Cross. More information is available at www.run4thered.com.
Anyone who wishes to volunteer for the 2012 BSG race can visit www.racesonline.com to register.