Outdoors: March movie madness

Punxsutawney Phil, the famous prognosticating groundhog, spotted his shadow this year, and everybody knows what that means: six more weeks of winter.

Get set, ready, ride! The Mars Hill Cycling Team hopes to send most of its riders to the national championship this year. A March 11 film fest will help them raise the money to go. Photo courtesy of MHC Cycling Team

This is bad news for outdoors enthusiasts. Although a few hard-core adrenaline junkies do risk frostbitten lungs so they can get some fresh air even in a winter like this one, most settle for safe cardio and weight-machine workouts at the local gym. At this point, though, the prospect of still more cold days to come has even the most patient outdoors lover feeling caged.

But fear not, SAD ones: It's March movie madness to the rescue.

On Thursday, March 11, Mars Hill College Cycling will present a double bill of cycling documentaries to benefit the school's program (see details below).

First up will be Race Across the Sky, featuring dramatic footage from the August 2009 Leadville Trail 100 Mountain Bike Race. More than 1,200 cyclists nudged the starting line for the grueling event, which is set amid the 10,000-foot-plus peaks around the former Colorado mining town. Racers have just 12 hours to master about 14,000 feet of elevation gain, often in extreme weather conditions. Some, such as renowned champion Lance Armstrong, come to win (which he did in 2009), but most competitors merely hope to emerge from the fire alive. The film is being screened in cooperation with Citizen Pictures.

The second film, A Ride with George Hincapie, spotlights another of the nation's most respected cyclists. Presented in conjunction with Plan A Films and Hincapie Sports, A Ride was directed by Chusy Jardine, whose film Anywhere, USA (based on and filmed in Asheville) won a special jury prize at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival.

Mars Hill coach Hugh Moran hopes to see all 150 theater seats filled for this fundraiser, which would mean another $1,500 to help the team offset the costs of competing nationally.

"We are a relatively new program, this being our second full year, but we've already attended three national championships in road, mountain bike and cyclocross," Moran reports, adding, "We've found some quick success and are aiming high."

The team will host the Southeastern Collegiate Cycling Conference Championships Saturday and Sunday, April 17 and 18. After that, the next big event is the Collegiate Road National Championships in Madison, Wis., slated for May 7-9, he explains. "Currently, we are leading the team standings in the Southeastern Cycling Conference, which we hope to continue so we can qualify all of our team to compete at the nationals."

Mars Hill freshman Klara Rossouw of South Africa is currently leading the individual women's standings in the Southeastern Conference, and teammate Paul Webb is ranked third in the men's individual standings, Moran notes.

Asheville Pizza & Brewing Co. will screen Race Across the Sky and A Ride with George Hincapie Thursday, March 11, starting at 9:30 p.m. With organizers anticipating a sold-out show, they'll begin accepting $10 donations at the door at 8:30 p.m. A silent auction featuring gear and gifts donated by local businesses, as well as DVD sales, will also help raise money for the team.

For more information, contact Hugh Moran at hamoran@gmail.com,or visit www.raceacrossthesky.com/ to view the trailer for the film.

[Freelance writer Jonathan Poston lives in Asheville.]

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