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Blood, Sweat and Gears: A Jersey Tale

Article Published: Jun. 24, 2010 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011
Blood, Sweat and Gears: A Jersey Tale

It took a few thousand miles, but Randy Feimster, left, and Fred Germann were able to get Christian Vande Velde's autograph, just in time for Blood Sweat and Gears this weekend.

Photo by Lauren K. Ohnesorge

Bicyclists aren't the only ones making the mileage at the 12th annual Blood Sweat and Gears (BSG) Bike Ride.

A collection of jerseys has already made the trek, about a hundred times over. Just ask BSG emcee Fred Germann.

"The jerseys went from Holland to Spain to Italy," he said, and that's not all.

It's a story worthy of big screen slapstick. Except, in this case, it's not Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, it's Fred Germann's Jerseys Go Around the World.

A chance encounter put Germann in touch with a relative of one of the greats: cyclist Christian Vande Velde, two-time member of the Tour de France team that brought fellow great Lance Armstrong to victory in 1999 and 2001.

A long time supporter of BSG, Germann knew what he had to do with his new found contact.
"I said, 'Do you think it's possible for me to get some autographs or something, so we could have them and use them for Blood Sweat and Gears?'" Germann said. "He said, 'Absolutely.'"

The misadventure began with BSG's Randy Feimster. He decided jerseys would be the perfect autograph palette, and shipped them to Germann. The U.S. Postal Service delivered the package to the wrong address, so some time later, they wound up back in Boone.

"He re-sent them, but by that time we lost a little time," Germann said.

Vande Velde's mother, who was going to bring the jerseys to her son personally, had already left the country, so she had to tag in Vande Velde's father, champ John Vande Velde, to take her place in the jersey relay. That's when Mother Nature intervened.

"He was going to meet [Christian] in Europe ... and then the volcano [in Iceland] shut the airlines down," Germann said. "So, now John ... has got the jerseys, wondering, 'How the heck am I going to get them there?'"

When the ash cleared, John made it to Holland, but Christian suffered a serious fall, which put the jerseys at the bottom of his priorities.

"He broke his collar bone, so now he's sort of incapacitated," Germann said. "So, the jerseys went from Holland to Spain to Italy, and he finally signed them in Italy, and his dad met him in Italy and brought them back to the United States and sent them to me."

From there, they could go straight to your display case. After all that work, the American Red Cross, the beneficiary of BSG's proceeds, is raffling them off for just $5 a ticket (three tickets for $10), with tickets available at the ride and at all local bike shops.

Was the calamity worth it? Definitely, Germann said.

"Because of the significance of the signature and how important this guy is in the cycling industry, these are collectible and framaeble," he said.

So, don't wear one for a ride on the town.

"I'd hate to wear it and sweat [the autograph] out of it," Feimster said.
After all, it took a little effort to get them to the ride.

One-hundred percent of the proceeds raised at Blood Sweat and Gears stays in Watauga and Avery counties, Feimster said, going directly to the Jeremy Dale Fisher Fund and the Russell Fund, established by the Watauga County Chapter of the American Red Cross to provides assistance to local families displaced by flood, fire or similar disasters.

"It's a huge fundraiser for the local Red Cross," he said.

Last year's $60,000 proceeds went directly to ice and storm victims over a harsh winter.

This year, 1,250 riders are slated for the event, a particularly treacherous, but beautiful, 100-mile trek that includes Tennessee, Watauga and Ashe counties and starts at Valle Crucis Elementary School.

"It's very difficult. It's over 12,000 feet of climbing," Feimster said, but, after all, the jerseys made it farther than that, and they're just fabric.

Packet pickup is Friday, June 25, at Valle Crucis Elementary School from 3 to 9 p.m. and Saturday from 6 to 7 a.m. The race starts 7:30 a.m. Saturday at Valle Crucis Elementary School. Parking is in the grass area off of Broadstone Road next to the school. The community is encouraged to come out and support its riders.

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