Close finish

Blood, Sweat and Gears bike ride winner Michael Bissette, right, edges second-place William Harrison while crossing the finish line June 22.

VALLE CRUCIS — Winning the Blood, Sweat and Gears bike ride is becoming a tradition for Michael Bissette.

Bissette, 28, made it two straight victories in the event by edging William Harrison at the 21st running of the BS&G on June 22. Bissette won the ride with an elapsed time of four hours, 22 minutes and 53.39 seconds.

He held off Harrison, who was second with an elapsed time of 4:23:02.76. It was a close top five as Devin Clancy was third with a time of 4:24:48.64, Christopher Blake was fourth with a 4:25:01.63 and Travis Fender was fifth with a time of 4:25:02.61.

Bissette, who won the 2018 ride with a time of 4:38:20.63, said he and Harrison were battling each other for most of the ride. Harrison led the ride while climbing Snake Mountain, but Bissette managed to retake the lead on the other side.

“Will Harrison and I know each other from the Charlotte area and he’s super strong and I have a lot of respect for him,” Bissette, who lives in Belmont, said. “He actually did beat me to the top of Snake Mountain and I can’t hold that dude’s wheel going up that steep, steep hill. It was our gentlemen’s agreement going in that we were trying to put as much time as possible on the other guys, so we have good riding chemistry and are compatible riders and we were just having fun with it because it was such a perfect day to ride a bike.”

The course was just 95 miles instead of the usual 100 miles because some sections of the 100-mile route had undergone construction. Bissette said the course was still a challenge.

“The route was a little bit different from last year,” Bissette said. “It was odd not having George’s Gap not to contend with after Snake Mountain. That’s always a stinger after a snakebite. This year, it was just all down hill with just a couple of bumps on the way back after snake.”

Bissette has done the BS&G four times and also participated in the 2019 High Country Classic in April 27-28. He said the BS&G did the H.C. Classic road course backwards between Zionville and Amantha near Sugar Grove.

“There is like a 10-mile loop of beautiful roads,” Bissette said.

The women’s winner in the 95-mile ride was Florence Howden, who clocked a time of 4:53:46.23. She edged Sarah Matchett, who was second with a time of 4:54:53.89. Matchett was second in 2018 and was the first woman to cross the finish line in 2017.

Lesley McCormack was third with a time of 5:02:12.51. Christy Daniel was fourth with a time of 5:05:32.84 and Laura Calvin was fifth with a time of 5:06:19.26.

A total of 564 men and 86 women participated in the 95-mile ride. A total of 481 men and 132 women participated in the 50-mile ride.

John Martin won the 50-mile course ride with a time of 2:08:09.95, which was less than a second faster than second-place finisher Keith Mrochek, who finished with a time of 2:08:12.21.

Jeff Brandenburg was third with a time of 2:17:05.14. Anthony Ferringno was fourth with a time of 2:17:57.01 and Joe Hathcock was fifth with a time of 2:17:59.22.

Laura Cline was the first woman to cross the finish line in the 50-mile ride. Cline finished with a time of 2:34.34.10. Heather Mills was second with a time of 2:35:48.59, and April Nichols was third with a time of 2:39:39.33.

Jean St. John was fourth with a time of 2:39:29.90 and Lisa Beard was fifth with a time of 2:30:30.99.

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