Participants of the second annual Greenwood Gravel Grind bike ride enjoyed the varied terrain of the courses while also powering through the muddy conditions created by rainfall days prior to Saturday’s event.
“They all came back a little muddy,” Beth Stevens, executive director of the Greenwood-Leflore County Chamber of Commerce, the organizer of the event, said, referring to the cyclists.
Of the approximately 120 people who had registered for the event, about 80 people actually participated in either the 50K or 100K bike rides.
About 98% of the participating cyclists came from out of town, Stevens said. Since many of the out-of-towners had previously rode in past Bikes, Blues & Bayous bike rides, they were familiar with the city of Greenwood and events hosted by the Chamber of Commerce.
Both courses of the Greenwood Gravel Grind began and ended at the Rail Spike Park Pavilion in downtown Greenwood and went through varied terrain — from the flat Delta plains in Leflore County to the rolling hills in Carroll County — which served as a draw for many riders.
That was the reason why Bill King of Collierville, Tennessee, a suburb of Memphis, said he preferred the Greenwood Gravel Grind bike ride over Bikes, Blues & Bayous, which he had participated in before.
“It’s more challenging,” King said. “You have Delta and hills — the change of terrain — it’s not so monotonous.”
King had signed up for the 100K bike ride but ended up riding the 50K route.
Or, a little more than 50 kilometers, as he laughed and said, “I made a wrong turn and added 3 miles.”
John Willis of Southaven had also signed up for the 100K bike ride but also ultimately opted instead for the 50K route the day of the event.
“It’s wonderful,” Willis said of the course. “The Delta is beautiful.”
A challenge of the course, Willis noted, was riding through the muddy levees.
The rain a few days before Saturday had softened the ground on the levee, causing bikes to sink into the mud.
Ronda Qualls of Jonesboro, Arkansas, who participated in the 50K bike ride, said one stretch of the course on one of the levees was “super, duper muddy.”
So muddy, in fact, that Qualls said she and some of her friends from Jonesboro ended up having to walk while pushing their bikes for 3 miles.
“That sand, it’s like the devil himself pulls us down,” she said to some of her friends.
“The course was fine. It was just muddy but that’s part of gravel riding,” she added.
Qualls had participated in the Bikes, Blues & Bayous bike ride before and said she preferred that bike ride since “the stops at BBB are just top notch.”
Still, however, she said of the Greenwood Gravel Grind that “the 50K is really good.”
King also said that he and some other nearby cyclists ended up having to walk between 1 to 2 miles while they were on the levee.
Like, Qualls, however, he said the hardships are just “part of gravel riding.”
For Andrew Kellum of Tupelo, one hard part of the course, besides the muddy levees, was near the Greenwood-Leflore Airport, where bicyclists had to trek up a large hill that marked the end of the Delta terrain and the beginning of hilly land in Carroll County.
“It’s kind of a shock to your legs after being on the flatland,” Kellum said.
Though the bicyclists were of different ages and came from different towns, one thing tied them all together — just about all said they’re excited to come back next year.
That’s the case for Qualls and her friends, as well as King.
Willis also said he intends to come back for next year’s Greenwood Gravel Grind bike ride, in addition to Bikes, Blues & Bayous.
“I really, really enjoy the city here,” Willis said, explaining, “it’s very welcoming for the people to be happy to see the cyclists.”
He noted how the Bikes, Blues & Bayous bike ride has become the state’s biggest bike ride and hopes that the Greenwood Gravel Grind will soon share that accolade.
“It’s good for the town, and it’s good for the cyclists, too.”
• Contact Gerard Edic at 581-7239 or email@example.com.