1,000 cyclists expected to roll through Jackson Co. June 18
THE JACKSON County Brevet is back – and bigger.
The 100-mile, non-competitive, charity bike ride is set for June 18 at 7:30 a.m., starting near Braselton, and the event numbers are expected to grow in year two.
Over 600 cyclists showed up for last year’s inaugural ride, but organizer Robert Wilhite expects at least 1,000 riders this year. Sponsorships are also up as well. Improvements this year include adding a band, “August Rain,” for the festivities. Over 500 people, as of last week, have already signed up for the bike ride, representing four different states.
Wilhite – an avid cyclist with 99,000-plus miles logged and the proprietor of mycyclecoach.com – started the Jackson County Brevet (pronounced BRU-VAAY) last year to help raise awareness for aplastic anemia, a rare bone marrow disease from which his wife, Kelly, suffers.
Aplastic Anemia occurs when bone marrow stops making enough blood-
forming stem cells. Because it is so rare, Wilhite said aplastic anemia receives almost no funding for research and its treatment has gone unchanged for 25 years.
“This disease could take my wife at any time without notice,” Wilhite wrote in a message on the Jackson County Brevet web page. “I can’t sit around and let that happen. I need your help to change this... not just for Kelly, but for everyone fighting this disease.”
And the word is getting around nationally as organizers have circulated 20,000 fliers and created 80 Facebook pages to promote the event. Last year’s Brevet was such a hit, that John Huber, executive director at Aplastic Anemia and MDS International Foundation in Washington, D.C., will be in attendance this year.
“He’s coming down just to be at the event,” Wilhite said.
The Brevet is also drawing those dealing with the disease. For example, Wilhite noted that a girl from South Carolina diagnosed with aplastic anemia two years ago discovered the Brevet and is making a special trip June 18 just to be part of this.
“Somehow they came across our ride and they’re coming from South Carolina just to ride in it,” Wilhite said.
Due to the expected increase in a participants, Wilhite wants Jackson County residents and motorists to know what they’re in store for come June 18. There will be cyclists on some of the more-traveled county highways for some stretches.
Highways 335, 332, 82 and Old Pendergrass Road will be some of the more major roads affected.
“We want to get the word out and educate the people about the roads, that, hey, there’s going to be 1,000 cyclists out on the roads,” said Wilhite, who noted that there have been a number of cycling fatalities in the past year. “We hope they can practice some extra patience.”
Like last year, the event will start at Zion Baptist Church in Braselton. Wilhite expressed his gratitude toward the church for again being part of the Brevet.
“We would not be able to do this event without the use of their facility,” Wilhite said. “It’s an absolute perfect facility.”
In addition to the 100-mile route, there are 64, 39 and five-mile options. Wilhite said all routes have changed this year. All routes except the five-mile course pass through downtown Jefferson, which is a new wrinkle to this year’s event.
In the case of the 100-mile route, there are only 3,500 feet of climbing now. Wilhite reworked the course in hopes that some cyclists can complete it in less than four hours. Only one other century ride in the Atlanta area – Convington’s – can boast that kind of speed.
“My goal is to get a fast route that riders can do the century in less than four hours,” said Wilhite, who’s also the head cycling coach for the Atlanta Triathlon Club. “That’s a huge milestone.”
Wilhite said the fastest time he heard last year was 4:25, accomplished by a local Jackson County rider. The Jackson County Brevet having a sub-four hour reputation would be huge.
“That’s a buzz in the cycling community,” Wilhite said. “That gets a lot of guys’ attention.”
Wilhite hopes to create a buzz in the fundraising department as well.
If the Jackson County Brevet can sell out all 1,200 of its slots, it would raise an estimated $50,000 for aplastic anemia research. The Brevet generated $25,000 last year.
Volunteers are needed, too, to pull off the event. Over 80 helped out last year.
“If I could get it to about 100, that would make this a whole lot smoother,” Wilhite said.
For more information about the Jackson County Brevet, go to www.jacksonbrevet.com. To volunteer, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.