Lifetime Achievement Awarded to Brooke Nelson
Gran Fondo Guide is pleased to name Brooke Nelson as the recipient of the Gran Fondo Guide Lifetime Achievement Award for 2023
There are numerous candidates that pour countless hours into making the sport of cycling grow through amazing events. These selfless individuals are not always recognized for their work, but we hope to bring their names to the forefront with this award.
Brooke took over the ride director duties for the Cheaha Challenge in 2015 on behalf of the Northeast Alabama Bicycling Association. The Cheaha Challenge had existed for over 20 years by the time she took over in the capacity of ride director. The previous ride directors had done a great job to build the event to be a mainstay on the calendar of most cyclists in the Southeast, but the club knew it needed a new voice if it was to grow and be relevant for years to come.
Brooke was no stranger to event production prior to the Cheaha Challenge, but it would be her first attempt at organizing a bike ride. She had been the race director for the Woodstock 5K on behalf of the Anniston Runners Club, which started as a local 5K and eventually become one of the best attended 5K’s in the country and a host of the 5K National Championship. It was clear to everyone serving on the NEABA Board of Directors at the time that Brooke had a knack for taking events and making them better than one could imagine. One of the best things the NEABA Board has done in its history was convincing Brooke to take on the Cheaha Challenge.
Brooke immediately made a difference with the ride, and put it in a position to grow, but never lose sight of engaging cyclists at all levels. The Cheaha Challenge course is held on a championship worthy course with over 9,000 feet of climbing for the 100 mile option. As a result, Brooke looked to build on the growing phenomenon of Gran Fondo’s in the United States and was successful in getting the ride to be a part of the UCI Gran Fondo World Series. This instantly helped the ride grow and expand to areas of the US and the World that were not imagined before.
The next significant development was the introduction of the ULTRA. Brooke loves tough, hard events, and she decided to create a 126-mile monster that features close to 13,000 feet of climbing for riders who needed a new challenge. This ride has been an extremely popular edition, and it is known for the finisher shirts that are awarded, or the bag of ashes you receive from your finisher shirt being burned when you do not finish. No matter what, the ride will leave an impression.
Brooke also added the Chief Ladiga Cruise ride for riders of all levels to participate on the Chief Ladiga Trail, a paved, rails to trails route that offers a flatter option for riders looking for something a little easier to tackle. With this addition, Brooke truly put together a ride for all levels of cyclist.
After handing over the ride directorship to the capable hands of Stuart Lamp in 2021, Brooke rode the 100 mile Cheaha Challenge Century in 2022 and said afterwards, “The weather was cool at the start and for the first 20-30 miles. Warmed up a bit after that, but not bad. NO WIND! I was so happy to get to ride it, and had so much fun the whole time. I rode most of the first half with my oldest son, and the second half with my middle son. I could not have asked for more fun for 100 miles.”
Brooke has without question earned this award, and thankfully is still giving back to the sport each and every day.
Thank you Brooke!
Photo Above: Brooke Nelson on the left sporting the fabulous Hincapie made for 2021 Velocity Cheaha Challenge Kit in Blue, with Jessie Nelson in the Raspberry Pink edition (middle) and Drew Nelson (right) in blue, out training on the Cheaha Challenge course