Taking a ride through Tryon and the Foothills

Published 8:00 am Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Hundreds of cyclists expected to participate in event this weekend

TRYON — While the region prepares for the arrival of equestrians from across the globe for next month’s World Equestrian Games, a large group of athletes from a different outdoor sport will pedal their way through the Foothills area this weekend.

The community will host the fifth annual Cycle North Carolina Mountain Ride, which will take place Saturday and Sunday. More than 300 cyclists — hailing from 14 states and England — are expected to participate, where they will travel more than 300 miles of routes throughout the Foothills area, which take them through Tryon, Saluda, Columbus and other portions of the local region.

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Participants in the mountain ride — many of whom will set up camp at Harmon Field in Tryon during the weekend, while others will rest at different bed and breakfasts and inns in the area — will have the option of tackling their choice of five eastbound routes on Saturday and four westbound routes on Sunday, all of which have varying degrees of distance and difficulty, said Chip Hofler, vice president of North Carolina Amateur Sports, the nonprofit that oversees the Cycle North Carolina program.

“The area gives riders a bunch of different climbing options,” Hofler said. “Some will like the challenge of riding up the mountain, while others will like riding the flatter areas to just enjoy the local scenery.”

Cycle North Carolina will have support vehicles on standby to assist cyclists whose bikes suffer mechanical issues during the ride.

In addition, there will be rest stops every 10 to 20 miles on each of the routes, where riders can refill their water bottles, as well as enjoy some complementary sports drinks and PB&J sandwiches. The stops will be located at different landmarks throughout the county — for instance, two will be located in downtown Columbus and downtown Saluda, while others will be placed at locations such as Caitlyn Farms and Overmountain Vineyards, Hofler said.

“We wanted the stops to not only be interesting, but also provide some beautiful scenery,” he said.

Riders who arrive in the area on Friday will have a chance to enjoy a welcoming reception and wine tasting at Tryon’s Rogers Park, hosted by local nonprofit Our Carolina Foothills, which is partnering with Cycle North Carolina for the Mountain Ride. The event will include an appetizer and wine tasting — afterwards, the guests are invited to listen to a performance by The Paper Crowns Electric Band, as part of Tryon’s Summer Tracks concert series.

After a long day of riding on Saturday, cyclists will be treated to a farm-to-table-style dinner and beverage garden at Harmon Field Cabin, with food provided by different restaurants in the area. During the meal, musician Noah Proudfoot will perform for guests.

The Mountain Ride is one of three bicycle events organized by Cycle North Carolina, along with the Mountains to Coast Ride, which takes riders from North Carolina’s coast to the western portion of the state; and the Costal Ride, where riders travel along the Eastern Seaboard. While the Mountain Ride is the youngest and smallest of the three events, it continues to grow in popularity, and exposes hundreds of riders each year to western North Carolina communities they may have never visited before, Hofler said.

“We encourage all our riders to get off their bikes and experience the towns,” he said. “We want them to visit the shops, grab a bite to eat at the restaurants and experience the unique history of the communities.”

With between 300 to 400 riders expected to arrive in the Foothills area this weekend, the impact on the local economy should be tremendous, Hofler said.

The organizer is encouraging local cyclists to sign up and get in on the action this weekend as well.

“It’s a great way to showcase the area to those who have never heard of it before,” Hofler said. “If you come out, you can be a champion for Tryon and the Carolina Foothills area.”

People may sign up for the Mountain Ride by visiting cnc.ncsports.org/mountainCNCRide. Interested participants may also register at the Harmon Field campsite Friday or Saturday morning.