By Brent McDaniel
Tennessee based nonprofit Friends of Great Smoky Mountains National Park raised $53,000 Sunday through its second annual Gran Fondo Asheville cycling event presented by BorgWarner and Duke Energy. Money raised from the event 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, NC and top male John Murphy of Horse Shoe, NC. Gran Fondo Asheville brought in 392 registered riders from all over North America, including Ontario, Colorado, Florida, New York, Vermont, Ohio and Texas.
The 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 Meredith Powell.
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. There were courses covering 30, 60 and 100 mile journeys.
Money raised from the event helps fund priority Park projects. Supporters of the Smokies can donate today by visiting FriendsOfTheSmokies.org.