ASHE COUNTY — Cyclists from across the state traversed the roads of Ashe County for the 30th annual Blue Ridge Brutal, sponsored by the Ashe County Arts Council, on Saturday, Aug. 10.
More than 330 riders lined Mount Jefferson Road early Saturday morning before the start of the challenge at 8 a.m. Cyclists chose between three different ride lengths — 56, 72 and 102 miles, meandering through some of the toughest roads and most scenic locations in the county.
Six rest stops were placed along the routes for riders to catch their breath and refuel, providing water, fruit and other snacks. Rest stops were sponsored by organizations and businesses in the community, such as Ashe Memorial Hospital, Glendale Springs Volunteer Fire Department, Screen Specialty Shop and more.
For the third year, Chuck Mantooth was first to finish the 56-mile ride with his quickest time yet, crossing the finish line in front of the Ashe Civic Center with a time of 2:44:22.54.
“It was smooth from the beginning,” Mantooth said. “The weather was absolutely perfect, so it was a good ride.”
Despite the addition of a new road to the 56-mile route and having to deal with a broken gear during the ride, Mantooth said he was excited to beat his two previous times.
“It was great,” Mantooth said.
Earning first place in the women’s 56-mile ride and second place overall was Laura Calvin. Calvin said this year was her second time participating in the Blue Ridge Brutal, and she was excited to finish first out of the other women participating in the 56-mile ride.
Calvin said she had planned to participate in last year’s challenge, but encountered an unexpected turn in the months leading up to the event.
“Last year while I was training I got hit by a car and was badly injured, but I came through, and everything worked out,” Calvin said. “This was such an awesome ride.”
In third place overall for the 56-mile ride was Mike Grabiec. This year marked his first time tackling the Brutal, and after catching his breath, he headed back out on the road to begin his ascent of Mount Jefferson for the post-ride challenge.
As cyclists whizzed across the finish line, they were met with music from the Appalachian Mountain Girls, catering provided by Sweet Aromas Bakery and Cafe and craft beer from Boondocks Brewing.
“I thought everything was really nicely done,” Arts Council Executive Director Jeff Fissel said. “The entire event was pretty exemplary on all fronts.”
Fissel added that he was impressed with the distance riders covered and how quickly they completed the challenge, and said he was pleased with the amount of help the event received from volunteers. In total, Arts Council Program Director Rebecca Williams said 150 volunteers helped with the event.
“What a cool way to showcase the county,” Fissel said. “There were so many people from the community who came together — from companies to volunteers and committee members — without that collaboration, the whole thing really can’t happen.”
Proceeds from the event went directly to the support of the Ashe Civic Center, which hosts fundraisers, benefits, beauty pageants, dance recitals, musicals, theater shows and a number of other events for the community.
Fissel said the total amount of funds raised should be made available by next week.