By Nathan Ham
Even the most avid cyclists will have their skill and endurance tested on the road in the annual High Country Cycling Classic. The date for the two-day event is set for April 7-8.
This year’s event features two races, the Cove Creek Road Race on Saturday and the Mountaineer Criterium in downtown Boone on Sunday. The Appalachian State Cycling Team and Boone Area Cyclists, a non-profit organization that promotes cycling in the High Country, teamed up to help organize this event.
“We’ve been working pretty hard the past four months to put this thing together,” said Clinton Marsh, who is a former president of the Boone Area Cyclists and played a big part in getting this event off the ground. “We’ve had a lot of support. The Boone TDA has been helpful for us. We’ve been amazed at the support from the restaurants on the course. A lot of them have donated money for us to give away during the race.”
The road race will begin at the Old Cove Creek School and travel through some hilly terrains and picturesque mountain landscapes. The terrain of the ride will feature numerous elevation changes, challenging the riders with steep climbs and quick descents.
There will be different competition divisions and start times, but the course will be the same for everyone. The first race starts at 8:30 a.m. while the last one begins at 2:40 p.m. The only difference will be how many “laps” riders will have to complete in their respective divisions. Distances in the race range from 26 miles up to 66 miles, which will be anywhere from between two laps to six laps. All riders will travel the first 2.7-mile section of straight road before the riders begin doing laps around the course. After the riders finish their laps, they head back up the first section of straight road to the finish line.
On Sunday, competition heats up with the Mountaineer Crit that will send racers doing laps through downtown Boone on Rivers Street, Depot Street, Howard Street and Water Street, racing in a timed event. The time ranges from 20 minutes to 60 minutes, depending on what race division is on the course. Crit races are some of the most popular and thrilling cycling races around, with riders reaching high speeds and cutting sharp corners. Crit races have been billed as “NASCAR on two wheels.”
Schools from the Atlantic Collegiate Cycling Conference, the conference Appalachian State is a member of, as well as teams from the Southeastern Collegiate Cycling Conference will be competing in the races. For App State, this will be a nice change for them to get to have a “home” race, so to say. In previous years, App State has had to travel to Ashe County, Wilkes County, Burke County and Caldwell County for their home race. This is the first time in over 10 years that Appalachian State has gotten a chance to race in Boone.
This event could also play a key role in educating people in the area on everything from cycling as a sport to how to go about passing a bicycle riders on the highway.
“We see this as a huge opportunity to increase bicycle awareness across the board,” Marsh said. “It has been a community effort and I can’t thank all these entities enough for making it happen.”
Organizing this event would not have been possible without the help and dedication from the App State cycling team, especially team president Annie Pharr and vice presidents David Burstein and Matt Jones.
More information on the races, including how to enter, where to park and sponsor information can be found at the High Country Cycling Classic website.