Cheaha Challenge Gran Fondo takes place May 20, despite last months Tornando

26th Annual event on Sunday, May 20 is the United States UCI qualifying event for the 2018 UCI Gran Fondo World Championships in Italy

Organizer Brooke Nelson stated "On March 19, 2018 Jacksonville State University and the surrounding area were hit by an EF-3 tornado, severely damaging 23 buildings and impacting 50 more. Thankfully, the  tornado did not result in any loss of life. This is a strong, close-knit community, and in a remarkably short time, much progress has been made, but there is still a lot of construction to be done."

"We met with JSU recently, and I am very excited to announce that at this time, the Cheaha Challenge/ULTRA/Cruise will take place as planned from Pete Mathews Coliseum on Sunday, May 20. We are forever grateful to our hosts for allowing our event to go on with as little disruption as possible. Thank you to all who have contacted us over the last few weeks to ask how to help and to offer support at this time."

"Many riders have asked how they can donate. Here is a link:

"I am proud to also announce that our bike club, Northeast Alabama Bicycle Association, turned a planned social into a fundraising event, clearing more than $2,000, donated to the JSU Foundation for tornado relief."

The Northeast Alabama Bicycle Association (NEABA) is thrilled that the club’s signature event – the Cheaha Challenge Gran Fondo Century – was again chosen as the only USA qualifier for the Union Cycliste International’s Gran Fondo World Championship to be held in Italy in August 2018. Cyclists from all over the world will compete for the qualification to attend the world championship. The century distance was the only qualifier in the USA at the 2017 event, too.

26th Annual event on Sunday, May 20, 2018 is the United States UCI Qualifying event for the 2018 UCI Gran Fondo World Championships in Italy

What the heck is a Gran Fondo?

Basically, it’s a huge party after a grueling bike ride. There are three essentials for a good fondo – great ride, great timing, great food and beverages. We have those and more.

Cheaha Challenge Gran Fondo Century & ULTRA ride announced

In 2017, NEABA hosted riders from 26 states and nine countries, who came to compete in the “Toughest Ride in the South.” As if the original century course was not challenging enough, three years ago the ride organizers added an ULTRA to the event, 124 miles/200K. The ULTRA encompasses all the major climbs in the area totaling more than 12, 835 feet of climbing. The Challenge offers distance options of 24, 44, 62, 84, and 100 miles, plus the ULTRA, with 11 options for Rest Stops on the courses. The Challenge is part of the Alabama Backroads Century Series, and only the century (100 mile) distance is the UCI qualifier.

Cheaha Challenge Gran Fondo Century & ULTRA ride announced

The 84 and 100 mile options offer a KOM/QOM section – 3-Mile Climb to Bunker Tower, Cheaha State Park. The ULTRA offers two KOM/QOM sections – in addition to the 3-Mile Climb KOM/QOM, there is also a KOM/QOM up to Chimney Peak. Awards are available for all KOM/QOM sections, as well as for the 1st/2nd/3rd Place Overall Winners (Male/Female) for both the Cheaha Challenge century distance and the ULTRA. Overall and Age Group winners of the century distance will be awarded UCI medals, and 1st place winners will receive UCI jerseys.

If riders are not quite up for the challenge of the Challenge, they can opt to do the Chief Ladiga Cruise family ride, a kinder, gentler ride on the paved rails-to-trail, Chief Ladiga Trail. The Cruise has distance options of 12, 25, and 50.

Event venue: Pete Mathews Coliseum, Jacksonville State University, Jacksonville, AL


Challenge/ULTRA start at 7:30 a.m.
Chief Ladiga Cruise starts at 8 a.m.

For more information, please visit:

The Cheaha Challenge – Your Chance to Wear the Rainbow Stripes
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