WEST JEFFERSON — Each summer, hundreds of cyclists stop in Ashe County for the annual Blue Ridge Brutal, a race that tests even the strongest of riders.
Riders will begin their race at 8 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 13 at the Ashe Civic Center. Racers have an option to choose between the 57, 75 or the 100-mile ride.
“This is a fundraiser for the Ashe Civic Center. It helps us especially with the maintenance of the building,” said volunteer coordinator Rebecca Williams.
The Ashe Civic Center is managed by the Ashe County Arts Council that features over 20 performance events each year and is planning on presenting four theatre productions from the Ashe County Little Theater in the upcoming year.
Williams said that they are expecting to have about 350 riders this year.
Not much of the route has changed over last year and riders will not have to be on Highway 221 battling the ongoing road construction. Once the riders come off of Highway 194, they will race down Beaver Creek School Road, turn right at the intersection of Business 221 and then head down Highway 163 until taking a left turn onto Mt. Jefferson Road heading to the finish line.
Other parts of the route include a 20-mile ride on the Blue Ridge Parkway, trips through Laurel Springs, Shatley Springs and Phoenix Mountain.
Eventually, riders will go through Warrensville and Smethport before heading up to Three Top and out Highway 194 before heading back to the Civic Center.
Riders will be supported by the Ashe County Amateur Radio Club, Ashe County Rescue Squad and volunteers all along the route. The race will also have six rest stops.
Riders will receive a hot meal after the race, a hat as well as a free beer featuring Boondocks Brewing’s Brutal Brew. Riders get to keep the Blue Ridge Brutal pint glass.
If the grueling race across the county isn’t enough, riders have the chance to take on the Assault on Mount Jefferson. Riders will climb all the way to the top of Mount Jefferson right after crossing the finish line completing the Blue Ridge Brutal. So far, over 50 riders have already registered for the mountain climb.
This race would be impossible without the help of numerous volunteers, and there is still time to volunteer if you would like to help out.
“We need lots of volunteers. We have people out for two or three hours with flags and signs. We don’t stop traffic but we like to have a lot of ‘caution ahead’ signs,” said Williams.
Volunteers also provide snacks and drinks at rest stops and are out on the roads in SAG wagons checking on the riders.
If you are interested in volunteering, please call Rebecca Williams at the Arts Council at 336-846-2787 or email her at [email protected] .
Race registration is still open online at www.blueridgebrutal.org or cyclists can register on Friday, Aug. 12 from 5-8 p.m. at the civic center or the following morning of the race, beginning at 6 a.m.
Nathan Ham can be reached at 336-489-3062.