Tennessee-based nonprofit Friends of Great Smoky Mountains National Park raised $53,000 Sunday through its 2nd annual Gran Fondo Asheville cycling event presented by BorgWarner and Duke Energy. Money raised from Gran Fondo Asheville helps fund more than $850,000 of Park needs this year to protect black bears, educate school children, and preserve historic buildings in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Duke Energy cash purse winners of the 100-mile route were Team Nina, top female Nina Laughlin of Brevard, N.C., and top male John Murphy of Horse Shoe, N.C. Murphy rides with the United Health Care professional cycling team and was the winner of the final stage of the recent USA Pro Challenge. Gran Fondo Asheville brought in 392 registered riders from all over North America including Ontario, Colorado, Florida, New York, Vermont, Ohio and Texas.
This event would not have been possible without the 52 local volunteers that included BestBuy, Publix, and local bike shops supported aid stations. “The aid stations along the route were some of the best I have ever seen. They were excited to see us and were very organized,” said cyclist and Friends of the Smokies board director Meridith Powell.
Gran Fondo Asheville is a part of Gran Fondo National Championship Series (GFNCS), an organization dedicated to providing a quality event. “This was my first organized race and although I was a little nervous I knew I was going to get the support I needed riding with GFNCS,” said Appalachian State student Ben Gialenios.
Gran Fondo Asheville had courses covering 30-, 60- and 100-mile journeys. “Riders were rewarded after their challenging rides with a festive Gran Fondo atmosphere along with OrganicFest at Pack Square Park,” said Reuben Kline GFNCS President.
Gran Fondo Asheville featured timed sections, mechanic support, fully-stocked aid stations along the route, food and beverage at the finish, a $2,000 cash purse, and prizes for overall and age-group winners.
Gran Fondo Asheville was presented by BorgWarner and Duke Energy and received additional support from regional sponsors The Glass Foundation, Webb Investments, Asheville Dental Care, Roberts and Stevens, Beverly-Hanks, Fletcher Warehousing, Dixon Hughes Goodman, Biltmore Restorative Medicine, and Publix. Media sponsors were Smoky Mountain Living, ESPN Radio and 98.1 The River.
Money raised from Gran Fondo Asheville helps fund priority Park projects. Supporters of the Smokies can donate today by visiting Friendsofthesmokies.org.