GRANDFATHER MOUNTAIN, NC – The Bridge-to-Bridge Incredible Challenge Bike Ride brought over 600 cyclists from 17 states and four countries on a 101-mile journey from Lenoir, N.C. to Grandfather Mountain on Sunday, September 18.  This marks the 23rd year for the ride and the second year that proceeds benefit the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation.

The cyclists, ranging from age 17-73, departed downtown Lenoir at 8 a.m. following a course that wound through three counties and rose over 4,000 feet in elevation.

The riders met thick fog once they climbed to the High Country and only 332 completed the ride.  A portion of the Blue Ridge Parkway was closed during the event due to the low visibility and riders were taken on a US 221 detour.  Those cyclists that did make it to the top of Grandfather Mountain were greeted with sunshine and a light breeze just as they reached the final switchbacks.

Bruce Humphries from Gaffney, S.C. was the first male finisher, with a time of 4:51:47.  This was the third Bridge to Bridge for Humphries who trains for the climb in Greenville, S.C. and Asheville, N.C.

“The ride is awesome,” said Humphries.  “This is the only time that cyclists get to come to the top of Grandfather and that makes it very special.”

The second male to cross the finish line, Keith Gerarden, from Chapel Hill, N.C. has participated in the ride for the last two years.  This was one of the first rides for the 32-year-old since breaking his neck last March.  He finished with a time of 4:54:08.

“In most races you have to be smart to do well, here you also have to be strong,” said Gerarden.

Third place finisher Charlie Brown, 45, from Salisbury, N.C. completed the ride in 4:54:09.  This was the first Bridge to Bridge finish for Brown, who has attempted the ride three other times in the past.

Allison Arensman, 17, was the first female finisher and 27th overall.   This was the first Bridge to Bridge ride for Arensman who finished with a time of 5:37:07

“The route ending up on Grandfather Mountain makes the ride epic,” said Arensman.  “There are great hills for the first 98 miles and then the trip up the Mountain takes it to a whole other level.”

The ride was also a first time experience for Rachel Monderer, the second female to cross the finish line.  Monderer, 49, finished with a time of 6:03:43.  She attributed her finish to the great crowd and the cheering that they provided.

Aryn Schlowmer, from High Point, N.C., a newcomer to the sport of cycling finished third.  Schlowmer finished the race in 6:32:23 and credited the ride as one of the hardest things she’s ever done.

Proceeds from the Bridge to Bridge benefit the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation and will go toward renovations on the Mountain’s eagle habitat.

For more information on the Bridge to Bridge Bike Ride visit www.caldwellcochamber.org.

Grandfather Mountain is a globally recognized nature preserve famous for its 360-degree vistas, native wildlife habitats and Mile High Swinging Bridge. The attraction is located on US Highway 221, two miles north of Linville, NC, and one mile south of the Blue Ridge Parkway at milepost 305.

The Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation is a not-for-profit corporation established to preserve Grandfather Mountain, operate the nature park in the public interest and participate in educational research activities.  For more information phone 800-468-7325 or plan a trip at www.grandfathermtn-staging.v38mw8dg-liquidwebsites.com.