Three credit union teams representing Team Little Guy strapped on the helmets and slapped on the biking shoes this past Saturday, completing the Black & Blue Relay. The race, a 200-mile, three state relay held in the mountains, happened amid temperatures that were just about perfect for biking.
The race weekend began Friday evening, as two of the three participating teams stayed at Bubba Gelly’s cabin in Fancy Gap, VA. Bubba, always the impeccable host, made sure the six bikers representing the two teams were fed and entertained throughout the evening on Friday. Meanwhile, the third team of CUNA Mutual riders spent a fun evening together at the cabin of a First Carolina Corporate Credit Union staffer.
Saturday – race day – got an all-too-early start after a late night. A 3:00 am wake-up call was just enough time to hit the road at 4:00 and head to Grayson Highlands State Park for the start of the race.
Grayson Highlands lies above 5,000 feet in elevation and with a turn to unusually cool July weather the afternoon before, the race started out rather chilly - it was 52 degrees with a 10-15 mph wind at 6:00 am when the race began. With a sharp downhill to begin stage one and bike speeds approaching 30-40 mph in some spots, the bikers were plenty chilled through the early stages of the race!
The weather gradually warmed through the morning and into the afternoon as the sun poked through, but the temperatures never got above about 75 degrees. So the bikers enjoyed just about perfect weather for the long relay.
The three teams made steady progress during the relay, paced by the two-person gazelles otherwise known as Tom Heyden and Eric Gelly. Heyden & Gelly each rode 100 miles in two 50-mile increments, and completed the relay in 11 hours and 39 minutes. Their average speed of just under 17 mph and finishing time was good enough for a fourth place finish in the 20 team relay!
Heyden & Gelly were relaxing with family and friends when the second team finished up at 6:22 pm. The four-person team of John Radebaugh, Ed Agnoli, Josh Chavez and Jeff Hardin completed the relay in 12 hours and 22 minutes, or a little more than 16 mph for the entire course. Three of the four riders competed on the same team last year and completed the relay in 13 hours and 37 minutes. “We had a goal of finishing in 12 and a half hours this year,” said Radebaugh, “so it felt nice to see all the hard training we did the past few months pay off.”
The four-person CUNA Mutual Group team came in soon after at 6:44 pm, completing the relay successfully in 12 hours and 44 minutes. Randy Coleman gets special mention for doing arguably the two toughest stages of the race – stage three has two monster climbs including Grandfather Mountain, and stage eight is an even worse ascent over the Black Mountains and into Asheville at the end of the race. Robin Kolvek, Tim Gardner and Scott Binder completed the CUNA Mutual team, riding hard from start to finish.
A little later in the week, we’ll post some video highlights of the race (thanks for manning the camera, Bubba!). In the meantime, Team Little Guy thanks each and every one of you for your words of encouragement and support. As we mentioned last week, we”ll be sharing details soon about how you can be a part of Team Little Guy at future events, as we continue to raise money for the Carolinas Credit Union Foundation – and show that the credit union cooperative spirit lives on in this 100th anniversary of the credit union movement in America!