The second annual Surviving the Snake 100K and 50K Bicycle Ride Sept. 8 provided riders with a scenic route, a tough cycling test and a good way to support the local hospital — all in all, a great experience.
The event, which started and finished at Ralph Stout Park, took more than 50 cyclists on a road tour that showcased the rugged beauty of Johnson County. Riders did either a 50-kilometer (31-mile) or 100-kilometer route (62 miles), and the 100K included much of the legendary, winding and mountainous route known as “The Snake.”
Combining the money from the entrants as well as sponsor donations, the event raised about $15,000 for the Johnson County Community Hospital Foundation. Proceeds will go toward enhancing the mammography exam and waiting room area at Johnson County Community Hospital (JCCH), giving privacy for patients seeking breast cancer screening.
Riders came from as far away as Florida for the event. An ominous weather forecast may have kept away some riders, but the event dodged any inclement weather, getting only a few minutes of rain in the morning.
“It was a successful event,” said Karen Clark, Corporate Director of Fund Development for Mountain States Foundation. “We had a great response from the community stepping forward to volunteer. It takes a lot of people to put on an event like this — board members, community volunteers, the Johnson County Amateur Radio Club, the police and sheriff’s department — but they came together and pulled it off.”
Johnson County Community Hospital is a member of Mountain States Health Alliance (MSHA).
Last year’s inaugural ride raised about $9,000 for JCCH digital mammography equipment. This year’s proceeds carry on that mission by helping upgrade the exam and waiting rooms.
The star of the event was, of course, the cycling route. “The Snake” has become well-known to motorcyclists for its beauty and its many curves, giving it a serpentine appearance on the map. For bicyclists, it’s equally scenic but immeasurably harder.
After an opening ceremony, riders started out beneath a colorful balloon arch and received a police escort out of town. Both 100K and 50K entrants rode down to Watauga Lake before heading back to town, about a 31-mile loop, where the 50K riders finished. The 100K route continued on SR 421 along “The Snake,” filled with hundreds of curves and switchbacks.
They made the 4.5-mile ascent of Shady Mountain to nearly 3,000 feet in elevation, descended into picturesque Shady Valley and then rode under Backbone Rock to Damascus, Va., before returning to Mountain City via Highway 91. Several rest stops were stationed along the way.
“It’s a strenuous but gorgeous ride,” Clark said. “It really is a great community event that raises money for their community hospital. We look for Surviving the Snake to grow next year as more people find out about it.”