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Riders draft off of the leader of the pack during the 100-mile ride for Blood, Sweat and Gears Saturday. This moment in the ride was taken on the Blue Ridge Parkway close to Parkway Elementary School.

PhotoS BY ROB MOORE



Originally published: 2014-06-28 16:40:56
Last modified: 2014-07-01 10:14:37

BSG sets participation record

by Gerrit Van Genderen

The 16th annual Blood Sweat and Gears cycling event started as planned Saturday morning, as 1,120 cyclists began their respective 100- and 50-mile rides.

BSG set a new record for rider participation with the number. About 1,250 cyclists registered for the event, meaning approximately 90 percent actually participated.

Scott Nelson, BSG ride director, said that the participation percentage was close to BSG's average, but that the record number was something to be proud of.

"Through strong volunteers and a year-around work ethic, BSG has remained a consistent success," Nelson said.

Cyclists participating in the 100-mile ride started at 7:30 a.m. and cyclists participating in the 50-mile ride started at 7:45 a.m. Both rides start and end at Valle Crucis Elementary School.

"As a philosophy and the way we approach (the ride), we are in the 'yes business' and we will do anything we can to make it the best ride, bar none," Nelson said. "That's why we have 80 percent return rates and why we sell out in 16 minutes."

Nina Laughlin, who is originally from Maryville, Tenn., but recently graduated from Appalachian State, was the first woman to cross the finish line. Laughlin, 23, praised how the ride was organized and for the reason for the event.

"I think BSG does a great job with the entire event; most importantly, they raise all of this money for charity," Laughlin said.

Cyclists travel from multiple states in the Southeast to participate, sometimes reaching out even farther into the country.

Jason Isenberg, 36, traveled from South Grafton, Mass., to participate in the 50-mile ride. Isenberg finished 70th with a posted time of 2:51:40.5.

"My friend and I tried out a few events and races down in this area a couple years back and we found that we really enjoyed BSG," said Simpson, who has participated in BSG once before. "It is a great atmosphere overall here. The volunteers are great, it's for a good cause and the area is beautiful."

Ron Forster, a BSG volunteer from Boone, said that it is truly amazing how many cyclists the event draws to the High Country.

"We have probably got guys from five states over," Forster said. "People make a family trip out of it. They come for the ride, stay in our area and spend money. It is great for our economy."

This is Forster's second year as a volunteer at BSG. Forster, an exercise science professor at Appalachian State University, has been cycling for 10 years now and has participated in the BSG ride twice.

Nelson said that a key to success for BSG is that it takes the same principles as the cyclists do in their training.

"It takes focus, it takes discipline and it takes sacrifice," Nelson said. "Basically, we take that same approach every year with the rides."

The event's net proceeds are donated to local charities in the High Country, Nelson said. BSG is a nonprofit organization and is donating money to more than 20 charities this year.

Nelson said that through the Sonny Sweet Honorary Grant, BSG donated $17,500 to the Western Youth Network and $2,500 to Christian Outreach Center for a weekend backpack food program that benefits underprivileged children.

Through the Jim Harmon Honorary Grant, BSG also donated $10,000 to the Hunger and Health Coalition, which is located in Boone.

Past donations have gone to volunteer fire departments, rescue squads and sheriff's departments, as well as organizations such as Boone Area Cyclists to thank them for their contributions.   
 
Clarification: This story was modified June 30 to reflect the correct amount of donations made by BSG.