Breakaway breezes into year five
More than 400 riders will push off from Lake Junaluska Aug. 16 for the fifth year of the Blue Ridge Breakaway ride, their routes winding through the curvy, rural roads of Haywood County, with the two longer routes even venturing up to the Blue Ridge Parkway.
One of those routes, the Trout, is new this year. Previously, the 106-mile Hawk distance had been the only ride offering a 33-mile jaunt on the Parkway, but this year bikers wanting a shorter 76-mile distance will also be able to ride 33 miles atop the Blue Ridge.
“There are very few rides on the whole length of the whole Parkway that have a ride up there,” said George Ferguson, media consultant for the Haywood County Chamber of Commerce, which sponsors the ride. “We’re one of the few that has it and we have two, so it’s a pretty big deal.”
The views from the parkway are certainly spectacular, but the road’s curves and lack of shoulder make riding it a dangerous proposition on most days. The same goes for the bulk of the roads in Haywood County, making the Breakaway a welcome opportunity for bikers to enjoy the scenery of country roads without worrying about colliding with a car.
“This area is not known for having safe places to ride, so whether you’re a big heavy-duty rider that wants to ride the century or you just want to have a family ride and do the Rabbit, you know that for that one ride you’re going to be safe,” Ferguson said.
Though out-of-towners make up the majority of Breakaway riders, Ferguson said, there’s also a substantial force of locals, and he’s encouraging Haywood County residents to get out and take advantage of this opportunity to explore their community from a bicycle seat.
“We absolutely want to encourage locals to ride it,” Ferguson said, “because it’s something we don’t get to do any other time.”
Though visiting bikers are important, too. Each one comes with several hundred dollars in spending on hotels, meals and entertainment. Multiply that by 400 or 500, and it’s a pretty large dollar figure.
And no numbers are needed to quantify the parkway views that come with the ride as a valuable dose of scenery.
“It is something pretty spectacular,” Ferguson said.
Still time to register
The Blue Bridge Breakaway offers four rides, with distances ranging from 25.8 miles to 105.7. Online registration is open through Aug. 14, with in-person registration 5 to 8 p.m. Friday and 6 to 7 a.m. Saturday.