Roan Groan set to roll this Saturday

John Thompson • May 30, 2017 at 3:38 PM

ROAN MOUNTAIN — Carter County's premier bicycle race, the Carter County Roan Groan, and the 12th edition of the Johnson City Omnium will take place this weekend.

The first event of the Omnium is the Roan Groan. It begins at 9 a.m. on Saturday June 3 at Cat Island Park

Race director Reneau Dubberley is expecting a great event.

"With less than two weeks to go, registration for the Johnson City Omnium is 76 percent above last year,” he said. “So far, cyclists are coming from eight states. The international competition includes the Colombian Women's National Team. This should guarantee another year of exciting competition, with photo finishes and omnium leader changes.”

The Roan Groan has been going on for over 35 years. Nor-Well mechanical contractors and owner Greg Nave have sponsored the Groan since it began. Nor-Well continues to be a sponsor in the event, while Carter County Tourism has become the lead sponsor. Dubberley said the race is divided into six categories, each starting five minutes after the group in front of them.

The finish line at Carver’s Gap is at 5,512 feet and is reached after some 7 percent grades test the endurance of the racers.

The professional men's competition will start at 9 a.m. The race covers 6,846 feet of climbing and is one of the hardest races in professional bicycle racing in the U.S.A. After starting at Cat Island, the group heads for the Veterans Monument and then heads south on U.S., Highway 19E until reaching Simerly Creek Road. The group travels Simerly Creek two times, before heading back to 19E. The riders then turn right onto Tenn. Highway 143 for the steep climb to Carvers Gap. Brent Bookwalter, who finished fourth overall in the 2017 Tour of California, finished second on the Roan Groan his first year on the BMC professional team.

The pro women will start second and race for 55 miles. The difference is the women will take only one lap of Simerly Creek Road. Though going a shorter distance they will still climb 5443 feet. Competitors to watch in this race will include the renown climbers of the Colombian Women's National Team; Steph Nave, a Milligan collegiate Team champion who finished third in the Omnium last year,; Karen Ostergaard, who finished second on the Roan Groan in 2016; and this year's Ohio Road Race Champion, Lori Nedescu.

The Elite Masters men's race and the Category Three racers will also use the 55-mile route. Bryan Hoy of Hendersonville, N.C. won the Elite Masters race last year by one second. His time was 2 hours, 50 minutes and 54 seconds.

One record that won't be broken is Elizabethton Mayor Curt Alexander's time back when the race finished up at the Cloudland Gardens. Since the finish line is now down at Carver's Gap, Alexander's time is safe for another year.

The remaining three categories don’t turn onto Simerly Creek Road. They remain on U.S. Highway 19E for a 30-mile race to Carver’s Gap.

The action moves to Erwin on Saturday afternoon for the Tupleo Honey Time Trial and to Johnson City on Sunday for the Franklin Woods Community Hospital Criterium Course.

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