800 cyclists from across the country turned out for the sold-out 45th edition of one of America’s oldest and toughest gran fondo events, The Assault on Mount Mitchell, a grueling point-to-point 102.7 mile road ride with almost 11,000 feet of climbing to the summit of the highest peak in the eastern USA. But it was Jefferey Case, a first time Assaulter, racing in his first gran fondo (and longest ride ever) that reached the summit of Mount Mitchell first.
Before sunrise on Monday 16 May, cyclists started from downtown Spartanburg, South Carolina, rolled 75 miles through the beautiful Carolina countryside to Marion, North Carolina and then began a leg breaking 25 mile ascent straight up the Blue Ridge Parkway to finish atop Mount Mitchell at 6684 feet in elevation.
Jefferey Case, had enough strength in his legs after the final two hour climb to sprint across the summit finish line in 5:23:13, one second ahead of Thomas Gibson (5:23:14) and one minute up on third place finisher Michael Roseberry (5:24:16).
Valentina Cuellar won the women’s race with a time of 5:53:19. Luz Adriana Cardona Munoz was second (6:03:25) with Julie Durkee third (6:17:40).
“I didn’t know what to expect because this is my first race ever and longest, obviously, race, too,” newly crowned Assault champion Jeff Case told WLOS. “So, tried to keep it in check. Went pretty hard the start of the climb for about 30 minutes and then it was in survival mode for the next hour, hour 15 after that. But had enough left to finish first. So, it was awesome.”
Although coming up a bike length short of victory, Thomas Gibson was happy to survive and make it to the finish. “Our group of about 20 kind of split up coming up Highway 80 and it started raining on us. Cleared up once we got to the parkway, and Jeff, the guy who won, he and I worked together the rest of the way, and we made it. We survived,” Gibson added. “Yeah, it was awesome!”
The Assault on Mount Mitchell last occurred in 2019, but was cancelled in 2020 and 2021 due to COVID-19. The annual event traditionally takes place on the third Monday in May, with the 46th edition expected 15 May 2023.
Complete Assault on Mount Mitchell results HERE.
Photos: WLOS, The Assaults