Niwinski captures third win at Grizzly Bike Race
More than 100 cyclists geared up for the fifth annual Grizzly Bike Race Friday, July 8, the second leg of the extreme athletic challenges held as part of the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games.
Grizzly bikers pedaled through fog and drizzle throughout the 65-mile mountainous course to reach the finish line in MacRae Meadows at the foot of Grandfather Mountain.
The morning, however, was marked with tragedy when one of the participants lost control of his bicycle and was fatally hit by a vehicle.
"Our hearts go out to the families of all those involved in this morning's accident," said Grizzly bike ride coordinator Jim Deni.
For the third year in a row, Noah Niwinksi captured first place in the event. Niwinski, 26, from Asheville, finished the race with a time of 3:20:46.
"The Grizzly is a great race and lots of fun," said Niwinski. "I enjoy seeing the increase in participation each year."
Luke Winger, 30, from Banner Elk, finished second in the race with a time of 3:29:52. This was the third Grizzly for the Lees-McRae College cycling coach.
"I trained for the race over the last few weeks by biking steep inclines and trying to keep my stress levels down," Winger said.
The third place award went to Baker Perry, 36, of Old Beech Mountain. Perry, who was riding in the Grizzly for the second time, finished with a time of 3:31:57.
Hope Cooper, from Hickory, finished first for the women with a time of 4:05:17. This was Cooper's first Grizzly and her first race in 13 years.
"My husband and I stopped competing after we had our two children," Cooper said. "I signed him up for the ride so we could get back into shape."
Finishing second in the women's division was Amanda Sorrow from Banner Elk. Sorrow, 30, finished her first Grizzly with a time of 4:16:01. She also placed third in Thursday night's Bear footrace.
"The downhill portions of the race can be scary because such high speeds are reached," said Sorrow, referring to the quick descent off Beech Mountain after climbing 5,000 feet.
Beth Hancock, 36, from Raleigh, finished the race with a time of 4:23:22. Hancock placed second in the bike ride in 2010.
The 2011 Grizzly riders represented nine states and ranged in age from 18 to 68. The course ran 65 miles throughout Avery County.
A 30-mile Grizzly ride took place for the second time. The race is a shorter version of the Grizzly, without the Beech Mountain climb. The ride is a beautiful and challenging route that includes the Blue Ridge Parkway.
The winner of the 30-mile race was Angela Hamilton with a time of 2:35:31.6. Second place went to Daviana Winger with a time of 2:42:35 and Nicole Hiegl captured third place at 2:42:42.
The first place finisher for the men was John Beck with a time of 2:57:06.2. The second place male was Ron Lambeth with a time of 3:00:51.4 and Jeffery Nelson was third at 3:04:01.8.
For more information on the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games, visit http://www.gmhg.org or call (828) 733-1333.
See more images here: http://www.mtnsnapshots.smugmug.com/Sports/Bike-Racing/Highland-Games-Grizzly-Bike