Among the most highly touted events at this year’s Mountain Sports Festival is the new Wheel Ride for Food. The metric century (64.5 miles) and half-century charity rides offer beginner, intermediate and advanced cyclists a scenic tour of Weaverville, Marshall and Asheville.
Both rides are scheduled for Saturday, May 31, at Carrier Park. Starting time is 8:30 a.m.
The century ride winds through Asheville’s River District, continues through Leicester to Marshall, then cuts over to Weaverville, down through Woodfin, up Ox Creek and back down Town Mountain to downtown Asheville. The century features more than 5,180 feet of climbing.
“It’s a challenging climb up Ox Creek, but then you get to roll back down through downtown and finish at the river,” says BioWheels founder Matt Johnson, an organizer/sponsor of the ride.
Amateur riders and those looking for less of a challenge can enjoy the half-century, which hits some hills through Leicester but then rolls out along the French Broad River Valley and Marshall farmland.
“The half-metric is about as easy a ride as anyone could put together in this area,” says Johnson. “We really want to bring in beginner riders.”
The organizers call the ride a tour, not a race, and they’re most excited that all money raised will benefit Meals On Wheels of Asheville and Buncombe County.
“We’ve already raked in over $30,000 for Meals On Wheels” in sponsorship money, notes Johnson. The entry fees ($40 in advance, $55 that day) will also benefit the nonprofit.
“What people don’t realize is that the entry fee for every bike rider will feed a senior for a week,” says Meals On Wheels Development Director Terri Bowman. The group currently delivers regular meals to 550 area residents.
David Hall, an avid cyclist who is president of Deltec Homes, came up with the idea for the ride. Deltec also sponsors the BioWheels cycling team.
“David wanted to think of a creative way to reduce the deficit of Meals On Wheels,” says Lela Stephens, a BioWheels team member who works as a green-building consultant for Deltec. “We’ve almost met our goal already, and it’s just the first year. If it becomes really popular, we could raise a lot more money for Meals On Wheels.”
“We felt people wanted an event where we’d keep all the money in this community,” adds Johnson.
Riders will receive a free lunch, event T-shirt and water bottle, raffle ticket and festival beverage coupon. There’ll also be five rest stops with refreshments along the route, so riders don’t have to carry extra food and water.
Organizers say they hope to attract between 300 and 500 cyclists this year—and more in the future.
“One, we’re going to give back to the community with this event, and two, the event has tremendous potential for growth,” says festival board chair Chad Morgan. “Century and half-century rides are some of the up-and-coming events that more and more people are interested in,” he notes.
More than 30 members of the BioWheels’ cycling team will take part in the event as technical support and ride ambassadors. They’ll be carrying basic first-aid and bike-repair kits plus cell phones, so they can help anyone having problems along the course. Three support vehicles will also be in motion, offering succor to riders in need.
For more information or to register, go to www.wheelrideforfood.org.
Friday, May 30
• Velosports Road Racing, 5-8:30 p.m., Festival Village
Saturday, May 31
• Youngblood’s Bicycle Track Racing Clinic, noon-12:30 p.m., 2-2:30 p.m.,
• Velosports Road Racing, 5-9 p.m., Festival Village
Sunday, June 1
• Youngblood’s Bicycle Track Cycling Clinic, 1-1:30 p.m., Festival Village