Cheaha Challenge Draws Record Numbers this Year
Larger number of Cyclists took part in the UCI Gran Fondo World Championship Time Trial, ahead of Sunday's Gran Fondo with over 1,200 riders expected at the start line
After an eight month layoff due to Coronavirus, the UCI Gran Fondo World Series racing resumed this weekend in the USA at the Cheaha Challenge Gran Fondo.
Riders finishing in the top 20% of their age category on the 12 mile course automatically qualified to race in the 2021 UCI Gran Fondo World Championship time trials in Sarejevo, Bosnia in October.
Bicyclists are a tight-knit group, something simple to see at an international competition's time trials Saturday.
Around 9:30 a.m. 151 riders had finished qualifying for the UCI Gran Fondo World Series, a ride from Eubanks Welcome Center in Piedmont to Pete Mathews Coliseum in Jacksonville. Organizers of the Cheaha Challenge were running the qualifier, and cyclists were being called up for top placements in various divisions of gender and age. Most any audience will offer applause, but every time a name was called the cyclists cheered like their own kids were winning trophies.
For most of them, the time trials were the first chance to ride competitively in more than a year, with Sunday's Cheaha Challenge to follow.
Former George State Time Trial Champion Brock Mason from Athens, GA completed the course in 24m 31s in the 19-34 year-old category. Leigh Ruston from Arlington, TN was the fastest women with a time of 29m 52s.
Here is a link to the full Cheaha UCI Time Trial Results.
Cyclist Diane Schleicher, of Dahlonega, GA, who placed in the women's 60-64 category, said there was a lot of excitement in the crowd to perform and reconnect after so long.
"It's been well over a year with no training rides," Schleicher said. "It's good to see people again."
Cheaha Challenge ride director Brooke Nelson said this year's registration had been record-breaking, and a sign that cyclists are no less excited to get outside after a year of pandemic lockdown.
The race group began hosting UCI time trials in 2019 and had about 80 registrants, she said, but this year there were 154 cyclists to register for the event.
The Cheaha Challenge, meanwhile, had already broken its registration record as of Friday afternoon, with more than 1,300 people planning to participate in the Sunday race. The previous record had topped out at about 1,100 registrants, Nelson said. Registration would carry on until the start of the race Sunday morning, leaving the door open to even more cyclists.
"The pandemic has made all of us so ready and so thankful to have something to do," Nelson said.
Nadia Pavlova, a triathlete from Florida who placed in the women's 19-34 category, said she had spent the last year cycling by herself and training for marathons. The pandemic slowing down might mean she can return to traveling for competitions and have more opportunities as an athlete.
"Everything was canceled; I couldn't even plan anything, so I decided just to do it for myself," Pavlova said. "This year looks much better already."
Here is a link to the full 2021 Cheaha Challenge Results.